31 December, 2010

Ender's Game - Review



Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
(Note: That's the proposed movie poster, not the book cover. I *love* it!)
Publication date: 1985, Audio 20th Anniversary Edition 2002




Category: Science Fiction

Format: audiobook

Keywords: Humanity, War, Evil, Power, Forgiveness

Find the synopsis on goodreads.com. 

How I found out about this book: It's a sci-fi classic, and at least one of our local schools is teaching it to their sixth-graders. 

Quickie: This book will rip your heart out, then gently pat it back into your chest and tell you you're stronger for having survived. I loved it, every syllable of every word, every iota of meaning.

My review: I know there are people out there who hate, hate, hate this book. In my mind's eye I forgive them, because that's what Ender Wiggin would probably do--he'd puzzle out the whys and hows in a millisecond and do the right thing, because that's what he does--that's why he's so special. Ender is about as ordinary as extraordinary beings come; left to his own devices he'd probably want to spend his time reading and playing with his sister Valentine, avoiding pain and violence, but when he's pretty much drafted into Battle School at a tender age--what we would think of as kindergarten or first grade--Ender can't help but do what he was made to do, which is win, at any cost--save the world, no matter what.

On the surface of the story is Ender's role as hero--he's expected to destroy The Buggers, an insectoid alien race that had, many years before, decimated the human race; but at the core of the game there is the conflict between Ender's gentle and loving nature and the evils of the world: The Buggers, the Battle School, and his psychopath older brother, Peter. The fierce rivalry between them escalates to huge--geopolitical, even interstellar--proportions, which is where, I think, a lot of readers get lost. I think those who read and love Ender's Game can appreciate the intricacies of logic, not necessarily in the academic sense (such as what you would need to explain it in, say, a book report) but the philosophical and pragmatic applications of the game as they emanate out of a single human life. 


While listening to this ensemble audio recording I had to fight really hard not to cry while sitting at my desk in the office--Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, and others who unfortunately get lumped in as "and cast", made my first reading of this book a very emotional experience. I highly recommend it. Card's descriptions of the zero-gravity Battle Rooms where the games take place and the tenuous, at times toxic relationships Ender builds with his classmates take even more palpable shape as voiced by the readers. The woman who reads Valentine makes me tear up every time she speaks.


1994 paperback cover
Who should read this book: There is a lot of violence in this book. A LOT. It's brilliant and balletic in parts, bloody and brutal in others, and many of the negative reviews of this book call it gratuitous, as it never seems to be Ender's fault when he causes harm. Like anything parents might find objectionable, I say, to each his own. If I had an eight-year-old, I'd probably read this with him or her, as the messages about ethics, bullying, and friendship as revealed in the book are things that I would like my own child to value. 

Find the author at http://www.hatrack.com/

This author is currently on tour! I'm going to see him at Vroman's Pasadena on January 4, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. Check his official website for more appearance dates. 

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/2010ender

Find this book on goodreads.com, listen to a snippet at audible.com, or buy it now

Comments? What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!) 

2 comments:

  1. Hey, I just found this review by randomly clicking through your blog. I don't know if you'll find a comment on post this old, but I had to say I love Ender's Game. I actually taught it in a university english class once: it's brilliantly structured. Have you read Speaker For the Dead? Totally different book, but I thought it was even better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Kim! I have not yet read SPEAKER but it's on my bedside table. Just picked up from the used bookstore last week :) I know some people who dislike ENDER; I can't fathom the reasons why. It's brilliant and moving.

    ReplyDelete