Play Book Tag discussion

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)
This topic is about Ender's Game
33 views
December 2018: Geek Reads > Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - 3 stars

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Nikki | 661 comments This book was easier to read than to review! I found it to be a quick & fun read, so I thought it would be similarly easy to jot down my impressions of it, but things got complicated pretty quickly when I looked at other people’s reviews. I’ll get back to that shortly – for now, here are my thoughts on the experience of reading the book.

My husband picked it up because he was looking for a science fiction book that was a bit different from the space operas he usually reads, and he enjoyed it so I thought I’d give it a go. (I don’t read a lot of sci-fi these days, but I did grow up in a house full of it, and was quite a fan of Asimov as a child.) The book’s main focus is a program to breed & train gifted children to become military leaders in humanity’s fight against bug-like aliens. I found it to be a real page turner – it was hard to put down and I got through it in a few hours – and very enjoyable. I thought it was remarkably prescient: although it was published in 1985, the author had already grasped the power of the “nets” to allow anonymous commentators to create their own identities and influence political opinion. In fact, the only point I noticed where his predictions missed the mark was his rather sweet assumption that public online comments would be less vitriolic than personal correspondence.

My initial impression was that gender was handled surprisingly well too – there may have only been two female characters, but they were both strong, positive, and interesting, especially Ender’s sister. After reading some of the other reviews I went back and checked, and I must admit that I’d somehow misread a sentence – in my mind, the scarcity of women at the Battle School was explained as a product of societal conditioning, but what is actually written is “Too many centuries of evolution are working against them” which I was a lot less comfortable with! However, I suppose that my frame of reference for “classic” scifi is the overtly disturbing gender relations in books like Planets For Sale that I grew up reading, and by that standard this does come across as pretty progressive. (For example, one of the ways that Ender shows his intelligence is with the insight that having different rules for interacting with a girl is “stupid” because “It set her apart, made her different, split the army”.)

The voices and actions of the gifted children (particularly Ender’s private thoughts) seemed a little too adult to me in places, and at the start of the Battle School section I forgot for a while just how young Ender was supposed to be, but on reflection I think this was reasonable. I know from experience (having been a fairly “adult-sounding” only child myself, and more recently moving between three countries with very different expectations about children’s behaviour) that to a certain extent children do perform at the level we demand of them, and these children certainly were under unusual pressure. There are “childlike” moments too: the characters bond by trading playground insults, and Ender’s naïve expectation that real life will follow a standard movie script trajectory is sweet.

The most thought-provoking theme for me was the ongoing reflection on whether the end justifies the means. (“We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools.”) There’s a recurring device where chapters begin with adults discussing the progress of the training and their views on the morality of it. I was reading quickly and found the voices hard to distinguish, although I felt I could have identified them with a bit of thought, but for me, leaving them semi-anonymous added to the Greek chorus effect. I also liked the questions raised by how the character’s strengths allow them to bring about surprising impacts: (view spoiler).

Anyway, back to the complexity: Once I’d read and formed my own opinion about this, I did take a look at some of the other reviews, and I stumbled across a heated controversy around how to judge this work in the light of the author’s personal views and public profile. I read an article he’d written on Obama’s presidency & found it a) a fascinating dip into the world outside my filter bubble, & b) pretty disturbing. (In particular, I agreed with those who detected dog whistles in the “urban gangs” section.) In general, I’m of the opinion that a work of fiction should be judged on merit and not based on the author’s political persuasions, and I did enjoy reading this book, but I do feel that my interpretation of the messages he was trying to convey has been coloured by what I’ve learned about him since.


Elise (ellinou) | 525 comments Awesome review of one of my favourite books!


message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan | 16 comments I read that disturbing article you referenced at the end of your review. Consider the irony of the following description of "Obama" in light of recent events...

"Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. He hates the very idea of compromise; he demonizes his critics and despises even his own toadies in the liberal press. He circumvented Congress as soon as he got into office by appointing "czars" who didn't need Senate approval. His own party hasn't passed a budget ever in the Senate.

In other words, Obama already acts as if the Constitution were just for show. Like Augustus, he pretends to govern within its framework, but in fact he treats it with contempt."

Nikki: You are correct--judge a work on its merit and not "based on the author's political persuasions." Good art has a tendency to rise above even provincial minds. I try to steer clear of Card's personal perspective.

ENDER'S GAME is a good science-fiction read, ushering in, in a sense, the plethora of YA novels about young protagonists becoming sand in the cogs of major government machines. I see HUNGER GAMES as a variation on the ENDER GAME riff.


AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments Great review Nikki! You and I had a pretty similar take on this overall.

I definitely get why people were upset from the feminist side, because that is a pretty inflammatory line. However, I did give the author the benefit of the doubt on that one, considering he did have some pretty badass female characters. I interpreted it more as something that was just supposed to point out some legitimate physical differences that may influence the trend, not as a sweeping generalization about female abilities. Because there are certainly some legitimate differences that could explain the trend, without being insulting.

For example, men have bigger hearts and lungs, while women tend to have bigger kidneys and livers. Men tend to have slightly thicker skin covering their backs. Women tend to have stronger legs, men stronger arms. Women have better sight for objects that are closer to them and better peripheral vision and tend to be able to take in and remember more objects at a glance. While men see better when it comes to distance and are more likely to be able to tell you the entire layout of someone's house and how to direct someone to get through the maze of neighborhood streets. The study on that last one was really interesting, actually.

Entertainingly, this last one might also explain an age old argument between male and female partners/family members:

"Where is the mustard?"
"In the fridge."
"Where?"
"Top shelf."
"I don't see it."
"Right side."
"No, it's not."
"Fine. I'll come look."
"IT'S RIGHT THERE! RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR DAMN NOSE! IT COULD NOT BE EASIER TO FIND... IT IS LITERALLY IN THE FRONT ROW! WHY DON'T YOU EVER LOOK?! ARE YOU BLIND?!"
"...But... I was looking!"
*head explodes*


message 5: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2323 comments Love it, Literary Mania! Pitch perfect for some of the conversations in our household, lol


AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments KateNZ wrote: "Love it, Literary Mania! Pitch perfect for some of the conversations in our household, lol"

Ha! Yeah. I clearly didn't have to draw on my imagination to write that little scene, eh?


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow, what a wonderful review! I agree an author's work should be judged on merit. I always try to ignore what an author says about the political realm. Especially since I hate politics with the intensity of a thousand suns.:)


message 8: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7476 comments LiteraryMania wrote: "Great review Nikki! You and I had a pretty similar take on this overall.

I definitely get why people were upset from the feminist side, because that is a pretty inflammatory line. However, I did ..."


Sounds like my house-🤣🤣


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments If you liked Ender's Game, I recommend Speaker for the Dead but I must warn, these books are very different. Never have I read a sequel that feels so different than the original work. I like the original series but the quality has really suffered in the spin-off series.


message 10: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 8519 comments Hated Enders Game - was deeply disturbed, but I am in the minority. Digressive thought - whatever happened to Jenny Elyse?

Now as I was saying, That’s the one good thing about our group. We get to try things we never would have tried. Once in a while they just don’t work, but for the majority of the time it really does. But I tried this for the space opera month, and nothing was truly going to fly for me there - lol. But this one was beloved by many. If you want to know why I hated it, check my review from August. I suspect it has something to do with the treatment of children.


message 11: by Joi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3809 comments Great review. I read this for the 'space opera' tag when we had that, and was surprised that I liked it. I was very glad that I read, finished, and wrote the review- all before knowing/looking into the author himself.

It's a tough game- do we judge a book on it's author. For this, ignorance was bliss. But it doesn't seem fair to judge Orson Scott Card for his homophobia- and not judge Rohl Dahl on his racism? Tough line to teeter on, with no real "right answer".


Nikki | 661 comments Thanks for your comments everyone!

Dan – I agree that it was pretty surreal reading that Obama article in the current context – I tried hard to read it with an open mind but couldn’t quite manage it – it did give me a small insight into how ridiculous “we” might sound to Trump supporters though, which I think was useful! I hadn’t thought of the Hunger Games connection, you’re right that there are some interesting parallels.

LiteraryMania – I agree about the physical gender differences (although I’m not sure how relevant they’d be in a military where combat resembles a computer game…) but I’m ambivalent about some of the more psychological explanations. I’ve been sceptical about how innate these differences really are since reading Living Dolls, but I now have a daughter and a son, and they both conform strongly to their gender stereotypes despite our efforts to treat them the same… (I have at least made sure that my daughter understands that since visitors arrived at the hospital with a bag of pink toys & clothes the day she was born, we can never really know how much her preferences are socially influenced!) Your fridge-inspection dialogue could have been an unedited recording from our house, too, although I tend to attribute it to me being the one who spends most time at home, so I’m most likely to have noticed something / been the last to put it away.

Jason – Speaker for the Dead sounds interesting, I’ll look out for it.

Amy – thanks for your feedback, I agree that one of the best things about a group like this is that it opens you up to books & viewpoints that you wouldn’t see otherwise. I certainly see what you mean about the children’s experiences, but I think that for me the fact that the morality (or otherwise!) of this was explicitly referenced and debated throughout the book made it a more palatable read.


Nikki | 661 comments Joi - thanks! I was also glad that I finished the book before finding out about the controversy. I really enjoy reading Dahl to my children but was quite happy that the UK's Royal Mint recently dropped a plan to commemorate him on a coin, so I guess I'm teetering on that line too! I do think knowing about these debates sensitises us to "problematic" themes in the books though, for better or worse...


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments This might be a good conversation topic.

Does knowledge of the authors viewpoints change your opinion of their works? Does it change it after you have already read their book and enjoyed it? Does it change your view of their book before you read it? Does this also apply to other artistic professions such as movies, painters, poets, dancers, singers and more?


Elise (ellinou) | 525 comments Jason wrote: "If you liked Ender's Game, I recommend Speaker for the Dead but I must warn, these books are very different. Never have I read a sequel that feels so different than the original work. I..."

I remember reading somewhere that Speaker (and Xenocide) were the ones he originally wanted to write, but he couldn't do it without setting up the character Ender first, and his backstory turned out to be too long for a novella, and so Ender's Game was born. He never expected/wanted it to become as popular as it did, more so than the original story he was planning on telling with that character. That's probably why the sequels feel so different from the first novel.


message 16: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments Jason wrote: "This might be a good conversation topic.

Does knowledge of the authors viewpoints change your opinion of their works? Does it change it after you have already read their book and enjoyed it? Does..."


I think my short answer as I get ready for work is yes!


AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments Nikki wrote: "Thanks for your comments everyone!

Dan – I agree that it was pretty surreal reading that Obama article in the current context – I tried hard to read it with an open mind but couldn’t quite manage ..."


I haven't read that book, Nikki but yeah, absolutely, I wasn't saying it was enough to completely explain that big of a gap, I just think that may have been what he was going for. It doesn't mean he's right, but since sci-fi writers are often really interested in science itself, I could easily see that being an easy idea to latch onto. Which may be misguided, but not something I find particularly offensive. I just think we also don't know how much weight to give to each explanation, but that there are physical differences which could have some small influence. I should have clarified.

I do think there definitely is a mix of factors going on with people. Social, environmental, hormonal, genetic ect. I think it would be a mistake to take one as an explanation without looking at the others, or put too much stock in one set of factors over another, until we know more.

Personal anecdote following, so of course, take with a grain of salt, but I have always acted more stereotypically male, though I was born and identify as female. My parents were a little ahead of their time, in that I was given plenty of toys meant for boys as well as those marketed to girls. (Though I will say - they overlooked the science experiment toys, which give boys an early advantage in that regard.)

Anyway, I've always found myself more comfortable with men. To this day, I have more male friends than female. Not on purpose, I just find my interests and sense of humor tend to go down better in male dominated circles. Well, as of this year, my doctors found out that I have WAAAAAY more testosterone than a woman should. Which is not to say I completely conform to a male stereotype either, I don't. However, it is interesting information that might, in part, explain some of my behavioral tendencies, as well as some medical abnormalities that have been confusing them. Apparently this isn't a new development, I've been told I was born producing more testosterone and no one ever noticed, until looking for the cause of an unrelated problem. Come to find out, my mother, grandmother and sister, also all women who have never had particularly feminine qualities, also produce way more testosterone.

Like I said, personal anecdote, small sample size, which isn't proof of anything, but it does bring up interesting questions to explore about gender and behavior, that I've been thinking about a lot lately.


AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments Jason wrote: "This might be a good conversation topic.

Does knowledge of the authors viewpoints change your opinion of their works? Does it change it after you have already read their book and enjoyed it? Does..."


I agree with you Jason. This would be a great topic to bring the entire group in on, in the Footnotes section. I'm sure we'll all have quite a lot to say. I know personally, I give the author the benefit of the doubt, experience their work and eventually, I make an effort to go back and learn about them and see if it changes my viewpoint.

I think these questions don't just apply to artists though. They also apply to historical figures in other fields, such as politics and science. Somewhere along the lines, I think we forget that they are human and lived different experiences. I think we can admire the work, without condoning the viewpoints or actions of the person responsible. However, we don't always do a good job at presenting moral ambiguity, and trend towards idolization or demonization.


message 19: by Amy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy | 8519 comments And athletes.... there are noted athletes who have political connections and endorsements. Now here’s a potentially controversial thing to raise. What about the pope? Aren’t there people who feel like the pope can and should decide for them how they should vote politically? Should religious leaders hold a different say than Oprah, or Barbra Streisand, or Scott Baio? Or an author? We always believe that whoever we are that were on the side of the right, or righteous. Often the opposite side to us has something of value that we cannot see or recognize. I have strong feelings on the Arab-Israeli conflict. As I have strong feelings on our current United States political process. And to be perfectly honest those sides don’t always mesh. Ultimately, who gets to be the arbiter of fake news of her interesting question. And our authors are people too with very clear biases, some from the cultures and or a believe system they emerge from. I believe they have the right to write from their stance, and we have the right to read or not read, and also to separate a good story from someone’s political thoughts and feelings. But that’s just my take. I’m not waiting for the footnotes thread. Because I kind of think this one has become it. Hope I didn’t overstep.


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Amy wrote: "And athletes.... there are noted athletes who have political connections and endorsements. Now here’s a potentially controversial thing to raise. What about the pope? Aren’t there people who feel l..."

Amy, its funny you mentioned athletes. I originally mentioned athletes but took it out. haha


message 21: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments Athletes for sure. A prominent Australian rugby player recently made homophobic statements on his Twitter feed. He was reprimanded but not fired due to his athletic prowess, however I growl every time I see him now and have no interest in watching him play rugby. My husband and I had an interesting discussion about it, because he is able to seperate the athlete from the private persona. I am not. I think my husband is probably more forgiving as a person than I am!


Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Susie wrote: "Athletes for sure. A prominent Australian rugby player recently made homophobic statements on his Twitter feed. He was reprimanded but not fired due to his athletic prowess, however I growl every t..."

We are having an issue in the United States of uncovering old tweets. It has happened to many recently, but the most recent is Kyler Murray, the winner of the college football Heisman Trophy. Homophobic tweets were found from 6-7 years ago when he was 14 or 15. But this is becoming a regular occurrence. Old racist and homophobic tweets being uncovered.


message 23: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments LiteraryMania wrote: "Nikki wrote: "Thanks for your comments everyone!

Dan – I agree that it was pretty surreal reading that Obama article in the current context – I tried hard to read it with an open mind but couldn’t..."


LiteraryMania, thanks so much for sharing your story. I often think about gender and behaviour, and about what is learnt and what is ingrained. I was in a meeting today where people were discussing 'girls' activities and 'boys' activities, and everyone just rolled their eyes when I challenged some of what they were saying. It will be really interesting to hear your perspective as you have such a unique (or is it?) situation.


message 24: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan | 16 comments The whole idea of whether or not the author's expressed political or values influence one's appreciation of their work reminds me of the classic "approaches to criticism" model.

At the center is the text. On one end is the author who created the text. On the other end is the reader who reads the text. Some critics study the author--his social placement, his sexual proclivities, etc. Some critics study the reader--how the reader creates experiences and meaning from a close reading of the text. And some critics just study the text--the words, symbols, signifiers, etc--their study doesn't take into account who wrote them or who reads them.

Think of how many texts we read without any idea of the actual author who penned those words to that parchment. We can appreciate the work and treasure the experience of reading it.

Then we get to Orson and he's waving his thoughts for everyone. Does this change Ender's Game? Personally, I don't think it should. Once the writer puts the text in my hands it's mine to make of what I want. Preachiness and narrow-mindedness tend to vitiate the vitality of a work. In the case of Ender's Game, I believe Orson put these issues aside in favor of teling the story that had to be told. In the process, the text transcends his ideology. I can read this work and not feel attacked like I am with his newspaper opinions.

Was it T.S. Eliot who said he appreciated Milton the Author but despised Milton the Man?


message 25: by Joi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joi (missjoious) | 3809 comments Jason wrote: "We are having an issue in the United States of uncovering old tweets."

Piggybacking on this- Kevin Hart was set to host the Oscars here. He was then caught deleting old homophobic tweets. He has now stepped down from hosting the Oscars. Which brings up a whole different BIG TOPIC- of "how much to people change- and should be judge people on past behaviors". Twitter/social media/the internet has made it so much easier to "uncover" unsavory pasts.


Nikki | 661 comments Elise wrote: "Jason wrote: "If you liked Ender's Game, I recommend Speaker for the Dead but I must warn, these books are very different. Never have I read a sequel that feels so different than the or..."

Thanks Elise, that's interesting to know & makes me even more curious about where he went with the sequel.


Nikki | 661 comments LiteraryMania wrote: "Nikki wrote: "Thanks for your comments everyone!

Dan – I agree that it was pretty surreal reading that Obama article in the current context – I tried hard to read it with an open mind but couldn’t..."


Thanks for sharing your (very interesting) perspective on this LiteraryMania. I’m certainly not one to doubt the power of hormones (e.g. more years ago than I care to remember, my doctor successfully put me on the pill to smooth out my teenage mood swings), and now that you’ve put me in mind of that, it does seem funny that I of all people am so resistant to the idea of innate gender differences – I think that my more nuanced position is that I acknowledge their existence but am very wary of any argument that’s based entirely in labelling and categorising people & refuses to take individual differences into account. Side note: I was amused by your comment about your typical friendships, since I noticed several years ago that many of my close friends (at that time, anyway) were women-who-mostly-had-male-friends. Make of that what you will ;-)


Nikki | 661 comments Jason wrote: "This might be a good conversation topic.

Does knowledge of the authors viewpoints change your opinion of their works? Does it change it after you have already read their book and enjoyed it? Does..."


Thanks for opening up this discussion! This is my first time posting a review in this group & I’m really happy to see that my chosen book has got people talking :-)

My impressions from this particular reading experience are that yes, I’d have been less likely to pick up the book if I’d read about the controversy beforehand (not saying that’s a good thing, just being honest), and to some extent, yes, learning about the author's views has changed my perception of the book. My feelings while reading it were that he deliberately raised difficult moral questions without attempting to give us clear answers (which I liked), and – without going too far into spoiler territory – I initially came away feeling that his perceptions agreed with mine on many of these topics. However, since reading a couple of articles online that suggest that in real life we would probably disagree on almost everything, I’m now more inclined (along with some of the more hostile reviewers) to wonder whether he was actually intending to lead us in the other direction. Another reason to read the sequel, I think, which might make his actual intended message clearer!


AsimovsZeroth (asimovszerothlaw) | 436 comments As usual, wall of text incoming. I've never been one for brevity. Feel free to skip if it's overwhelming.

Amy – I knew I was missing a bunch of people to point out, but I was getting fatigued and both athletes and religious leaders completely slipped my mind. Those are absolutely interesting questions. Personally, I don’t believe that the opinions of athletes, most celebrities or religious leaders should hold nearly as much weight as they do. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, as there are people in all these areas that have a surprising amount of education and experience in some of the most unlikely of areas. I will say though, I absolutely respect your honesty about the duality of your own feelings. I think most of us have conflicting opinions, but not everyone can recognize that. I have trouble myself, reconciling many of my own strong opinions. I agree – we have the freedom to read and judge each author by their own opinions and some works are easier to separate from those opinions than others. For example, I’m a huge fan of Kipling. His writing his beautiful, his appreciation for the beauty of the untamed flora and fauna of India was unparalleled amongst his peers. However, he could be thrown under the bus for his racism just as easily as I praise his environmentalism. Granted, he was considered much more socially liberal than most Englishmen at the time, as he saw more ingenuity in the native population, but he still had a bit of a “white savior” complex and viewed the locals as if they needed the “fatherly influence” (as I believe it put it) of the British Empire.

Susie – I have a much harder time forgiving athletes and I think there are two main reasons for that. First - and I recognize this may be a somewhat elitist view, I do not believe that they have nearly the same positive impact on our culture. Sports can be fun, they can be inspiring, they obviously involve a lot of physical fortitude and technical skill that takes a lot of dedication. Not to mention, they give us a great outlet for the tribalism that is innate in all human cultures. However, does anyone really expect individual athletes to be nearly as culturally significant in 500 years? Secondly, we are not distanced from our current athletes by time and culture. Sure, there can still be cultural differences, but we’re starting to all become more informed about each other’s cultural differences in this age of the internet. So there are fewer excuses for giving them the same kind of slack, in my opinion. We don’t have to try and understand the time and political climate they were living in, because we’re living it.

As far as your question on my perspective on gender issues, I’d certainly be willing to discuss it more, but it’s a wide scope. What are you curious about? My situation is a bit rare, but perhaps not as unique as we currently think. It’s hard to tell, considering it’s a genetic condition, but it is estimated that up to 20% of women may have it and possibly more, since symptoms aren’t always severe enough (or clear enough) for anyone to order the proper tests. I do find it really annoying that you’re still so easily dismissed when you bring up the issues involved in labeling something as a “girl” or “boy” activity. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do in that regard.

Dan – You put it better and more succinctly. I generally try not to let an author’s personal opinions change my view of the work, unless it becomes particularly illuminating to the work itself. Ender’s Game, is not one of those books for me. However, it’s impossible to read Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens without keeping their politics in mind, as their intent was to write fictionalized social commentary, that is much more in-depth than anything Orson Scott Card had to offer.

Nikki – I absolutely agree that we need to be wary of any sort of simple explanation that categorizes people into neat little definitions. I think the reason I give Card a pass, is he’s not (at least in Ender’s Game) diving quite as deeply into the social commentary and philosophizing that even Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein would have. At it’s heart, I feel like this book dips its toes into those territories, but is more about a couple overarching themes and concepts, than a detailed commentary. I’m much more likely to take either of those author’s personal views into account when reading their work, because their views are more fully incorporated into it. As you say, the sequel might be more illuminating and I might change my mind, should I pick it up in the future. It's been too long since I've read it to remember much to comment on at the moment.


back to top