Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ender's Game

Title: Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
List: #59 on Modern Library Readers’ Top 100 20th Century Novels
Worth reading? Yes.

Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel in many ways strongly reminiscent of Starship Troopers, which I read shortly before starting this blog. It takes place in a future where humans have narrowly escaped destruction by an insect-like alien race and have formed an international military unit to defend Earth from future attacks. This military unit apparently fears that another war with the “buggers” is imminent and is searching for a commander to lead the human forces to victory.

The interesting part is that the military is searching for this commander among children. These children, who are as young as five or six, are enrolled in a space station military training facility, called the Battle School, where they are trained as fighters. After Battle School, the children go on to Command School to learn how to lead forces, mainly spaceships, into battle.

The main character, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, is a prodigy sent to Battle School just before his sixth birthday. There the “game” begins where he fights other children as part of one of the school’s armies in the school’s zero gravity war games league. Most of the novel consists of Ender’s personal struggles but military successes at Battle School. In that respect, the novel is very male-oriented, violent, and militaristic.

However, the psychology behind the concept of training young children is quite intriguing, as are descriptions of how Ender adapts to zero gravity. The novel explains how Ender recognizes that in zero gravity he can decide for himself what is up and what is down and how that completely reorients his perspective on action that takes place in zero gravity. This reorienting of perspective is something that the other children have difficulty grasping and that Ender must try to teach his peers. Although the author describes this perspective change very well, I couldn’t help but think the concept would be much better explained visually. And then I found out that there are plans for a movie, set for release in March 2013. I hope that the filmmakers deal with the concept as well as the author intended.

As far as sci-fi novels go, most of Ender’s Game really isn’t that stellar or different. What sets it apart is its focus on children and an interesting twist at the end that I only predicted a couple pages before it was revealed. This twist is what makes the novel worth reading and the militarism worth slogging through.  As for the rest of the series, I haven't started any of them yet and the novel works quite well by itself.  However, I have heard from several sources that the second book clears up some questions from the first one so I may read that at some point in the future.

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