Wealhtheow's Reviews > Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
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Mar 14, 11

bookshelves: sci-fi

I read this book in 7th grade. I remember it so exactly because still, to this day, I distinctly remember sprinting up the stairs to get to the bookshelf to read the next chapter. It is an absolutely engrossing tale of a small boy involved in a big war, filled with heartache and camaraderie and betrayal and cleverness.

The problem is that Orson Scott Card hates queer people and liberals so much that he's written a number of novels entirely about how awful they are. He posts screeds about how gay people should be put into camps. He is a hateful bigot, and I can no longer read his books without remembering that. And almost as bad, now that I'm older, it's all too easy to see how manipulative the story of Ender's Game is. Time and time again Ender commits a horrible act, but is forgiven (both textually and authorially) because he was innocent of mind, and because he was driven to it by the constant, unremitting abuse and neglect he suffers from those in authority. Looking through the book as an adult, I realized that Ender's doctrine (which Card and the characters he speaks through, like Valentine or Graff, repeatedly tell us is morally righteous) is to destroy his enemies, and then be pitied because his victims "forced" him kill them. It's pretty creepy. John Kessel talks about the problem of Ender-as-innocent-scapegoat much better than I over here: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/Killer_0... (it's an excellent essay, and I highly recommend taking the time to read it).

Ender's Game is a book that's really satisfying while you still feel that the whole world is against you. But once you grow up, it's too easy to see Card behind the scenes, pulling the strings.
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message 1: by Panagiotis G. (new)

Panagiotis G. Dear Wealhtheow although you seem to have a point on what you write above.
I have to disagree with you on some points.
I think that if we looked at the everyday profiles of fantasy and sci-fi authors (modern and classic ones) and what their beliefs are or were on any matter,
we wouldn't read anything from anyone at all.
Moreover, every time we would think about buying a certain book we would feel a bit obliged to ask for a fully analytical bio of the author and his beliefs
on 'hot potato' social issues. Which would, of course, be ridiculous..
If you 're (not personally you) to judge a book of fiction, judge it for what it is and nothing more.-
All else are off-topic and serve only to pass along bad energy and unneeded info (bad talk)...
Know this >> Noone in modern society is a saint and not everyone's opinion-s on social matters agree fully.

Finally, on how Ender is presented as innocent scapegoat by Card. Yes, that's where we fully agrree.-
Hope you don't misunderstand my talk as English is not my native language.


Wealhtheow No worries Panagiotis G, you are very clear!

I don't seek out author's opinions before I read them--the work should stand on its own. But, if I find out someone has particularly hateful views then I don't buy their books--I see no reason to support authors with whom I vociferously politically disagree. And in some cases (like this one or Terry Goodkind's) I find that the author is trying to push their own political and personal feelings--it's all too clear in the text. Writing that is so preachy or manipulative just isn't that enjoyable to me.


Princessjay Yes, the "O poor me, how I feel such guilt because I was unknowingly manipulated into obliterating an entire species" aspect of Ender always annoyed me no end, even while reading it. It bothered me so much that I never moved on to the next books in the series.


Wealhtheow Princessjay, I'm really glad to hear you say that. I loved this book when I first read it, but later rereads were really disappointing. I felt like I needed to say something about it in my review, but I feared people would think I was way off-base. And I didn't want to seem like I was trying to ruin the book for everyone else. Thank you for weighing in!


Jamie Panagiotis G. wrote: "I think that if we looked at the everyday profiles of fantasy and sci-fi authors (modern and classic ones) and what their beliefs are or were on any matter, we wouldn't read anything from anyone at all. Moreover, every time we would think about buying a certain book we would feel a bit obliged to ask for a fully analytical bio of the author and his beliefs on 'hot potato' social issues..."

Kinda how I feel about music. I like listening to Dave Matthews, the Eagles, and others whose politics drive me NUTS! Same for the lifestyles some others advocate by their actions. (And, occasionally, I will stop listening to them, for fear of "subliminal influence", but I always end up singing along in the car anyway.)

That said, it almost comes down to a form of self-imposed censorship, i.e., prejudice. It's one thing to read something and not like it because of what it is. It's another to not want to read, listen to, watch something by some artist simply because of who they are.

If you don't like their style, then don't read anything else by them. If you like one book, but not another... fine! But if you like their style, the genre they write in, and have heard good reviews from others you trust, but refuse to read/listen to/watch anything by them, are you really being fair to the work?

Let's face it: artists are an odd lot, especially the really good ones! But the world needs them as reminders of our humanity and emotions (good & bad) as much as it needs scientists and philosophers to remind us of our intellects and reason.

Not condemning you or your review (in fact, your review was excellent). Just saying I see where you're coming from, because I struggle with the same things (not necessarily with Card, but with others who work in the various arts). I have to remind myself that the value of reading even those whom we disagree with politically/socially/religiously helps us make better arguments against that position and refine or maybe even revise our own views. (Hence the value of freedom of speech and freedom of the press - I may disagree with what you say or write, but I want to know what it is you truly believe, rather than be duped by something you felt compelled to write.)


message 6: by Wealhtheow (last edited Apr 10, 2012 02:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wealhtheow Interesting points, Jamie!
The struggle of how to deal with disagreeing with a creator and appreciating their work seems age-old. Polanski is another example of this--I've heard so many people try to reconcile their hatred of rapists with their love of his movies. I think it's a balancing act every person has to work out for themselves.
I do think there are several different aspects of the issue.

First is whether there’s value in reading the perspectives of those we disagree with—and of course there is! It would be a very narrow and limited world indeed if I could only read books by people who agreed with me on every single issue. I’m not sure there even are any books I could read, at that point! But the thing is, I come across viewpoints just like Card's every day. Viewpoints like that dominate our political landscape and news. They've shaped our history and society for hundreds of years. And half the fantasy and sf ideas he uses in his fiction are so common as to be cliches. I don't need to read him in order to get a great big dose of homophobia, gender essentialism, and Abused Chosen Hero tropes. I'd rather read something new, that helps me see with different eyes and understand concepts alien to me. There are more books available in English than I could ever read in a lifetime; I prefer reading ones that have something interesting or useful to say.

Second is whether to give money to someone who lives or acts in a way antithetical to one’s beliefs. And this, for me, is the easiest question to answer, because of course I don’t want to give money to OSC, because I know he funds political lobbyists with his earnings. So if I’m going to read something by him, it’ll be via the library, a friend’s loan, or a used book. (Whereas if an artist is dead, I don’t have to feel like I’m fiscally supporting a cause I don’t believe in just by buying and reading a book.)

Choosing not to read works by authors I think are bigoted, or whose politics taint their work and make it not read like reality (for example, where all the women are hot babes begging to have sex with the sad sack protagonist, or where all the people of color are stupid) doesn’t mean I’m censoring them. They’re still free to write whatever they please! They have the right to write and speak, but I don’t have to listen to them, and I certainly don’t need to give them money.


Jamie Wealhtheow wrote: "...doesn’t mean I’m censoring them. They’re still free to write whatever they please!"

Sorry - not what I meant. I meant censoring in the sense that you would be imposing a censorship on yourself.

FWIW, I agree that I couldn't really see the big deal about Ender's Game, but his most recent book,
Pastwatch, I found to be thoroughly enjoyable. Just wanted to say that sometimes authors grow out of their more immature ideas. (Sadly, most don't because they think a paycheck = validation of their views.)

BTW, thanks for friending me. Looking forward to your suggestions for me (based on my reads and ratings).


Sarah I love Card's books and know I wouldn't agree with his politics, so I go out of my way to not to know much about him. Like Panagiotis, I really believe in separating the author from the work, as much as possible anyway (maybe for some, say Ayn Rand, it's not so possible). I'm just not especially interested in writers or actors or any artists outside of what they produce. Racist, rapist, Republican....If I like your books, I really just don't want to know what you get up to in your free time. Obviously, this isn't possible if you find the works themselves to be propaganda for their social views, but I have never been able to discern this in Card's books. And I'm glad, because I love the hell out of this book (and Pastwatch, and Ender's Shadow) and would hate it if something as peripheral as author's politics got in the way.

You write very good reviews, by the way.


Stephen Batuk I have a problem with levying ostracism on anyone that feels strongly about controversial issues. For example you obviously feel strongly about LGB individuals, at lest enough to be offended. Just because their lifestyle is distasteful to me doesn't mean that every point you have ever made should all be flushed down the toilet. People that are bigoted in some way are still people even if they are the often whipped white male. To discount them is bigoted.
Also, on the thin plot line that is mentioned so much. Soldiers tend to simplify their enemies. I know this as a matter of experience. Just because they tell themselves whatever they need to in order to do what they need to, doesn't mean they don't feel conflicted or horrible in the afterglow.


Wealhtheow Hi Stephen,

OSC clearly wants to share his opinions (hence his polemic blog posts, newspaper articles, homophobic rewrite of Hamlet, etc), so I don't think it's unfair of me to acknowledge his opinions. Nor do I think it's bigoted to disagree with someone else's opinions.

I think you've misunderstood my misgivings about the book. I don't think that the characters have mindsets that are too simplified or black-and-white--actually, I think a strength of this series is that it shows the power and positive and negative points of empathizing with other view points. Ender's role as Speaker for the Dead showcases his multifaceted mindset. He's able to defeat the Buggers because he does *not* simplify them, or try to understand them with a human way of thinking. And later, he's able to craft an elegy for a wife-beating asshole because he's able to see his "enemies" from their own point of view.

So my problem with this series is not that I thought the soldiers simplified their enemies. My problem is that the books are written as though Ender's actions are always the right ones, and that his intentions matter more than his actual deeds. It's creepy to read a book in which the character I identify with repeatedly kills kids, and feel that the narrative wants me to feel sorry for the *murderer*. It's not creepy in a "ooh, what a cool storytelling trick you've used!" sort of way, but in a way that makes me a little scared of OSC's way of looking at the world.


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