Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Published by Tor on July 15, 1994
Series: Ender’s Saga, #1
Genre(s): fiction, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, young adult
Format & Length: paperback, 324
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Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.
But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military’s purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine’s abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.
This book had been on my long list to read for over a year and a half before I really considered it. I had actually gone to my local library to pick up Red Rising at an insistent friend’s requests that I read that trilogy. When I found Red Rising, there was a quote from Scott Sigler on the cover: “Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow.” Now, I actually have not read any of Scott Sigler’s work, but it struck me that having read The Hunger Games, I possibly should read Ender’s Game before moving on to Red Rising to see the shoulders that Pierce Brown metaphorically stands on. So I went on over to the young adult section and grabbed Ender’s Game as well.
What really intrigues me about Ender’s Game is the vehement opinions it garners. To break it down, this book has over 800,000 ratings on Goodreads. Of these, over 80% rated it a 4 or a 5, and less than 5% rated it a 1 or a 2. But if you actually read the reviews, you’ll find that those people who love it, really love it. And those who hate it, really hate it.
A well written story that works on many layers, this is a book about war and human nature. It is violent. It explores the exploitation of children. It’s not what I would call an easy read. But it makes you ask the question, do the ends justify the means? More than anything else, what I think is so wonderful about this book is that it makes you think.
“How much of this did the teachers plan? Did they know they were giving him obscure but excellent boys? Did they give him thirty Launchies, many of them underage, because they knew the little boys were quick learners, quick thinkers? Or was this what any similar group could become under a commander who knew what he wanted his army to do, and knew how to teach them to do it?
The question bothered him, because he wasn’t sure whether he was confounding or fulfilling their expectations.”
To be clear, I don’t think Ender’s Game was perfect by any means. Most of the characters were two-dimensional. The plotting felt slow through the middle with a big whoosh of a rush at the end. But I enjoyed the world building. For me, the details were shown without being over explained so I could imagine it in my head. And despite knowing enough about the story going into it, it still managed to entertain and surprise me.
Regardless of whether you love it or hate it, and whether or not you even finish it, I do think this is worth reading. Because it works on multiple levels, readers from young teenagers through adults could all read it and take something different away from the story. Recommended with the suggestion to borrow from your library first.