When Children Play at War: A Review of Ender’s Game

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Introduction

As the Dragonlance Novels pushed me into the vast worlds of fantasy, it was Ender’s Game that really introduced me to the wonders that Science Fiction could hold. Well, other than Dune but that is hands down my favorite book ever, and I don’t think that I could offer a fair and balanced review of it, so Ender’s Game it is.

Written by Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game was originally written as a short story and later adapted into a novel in 1991 and was met with wide acclaim. Orson Scott Card’s work has come under some attack in recent years over his religious, and political views, and while that is wildly important to the genre, it’s not the purpose of this review in particular, so while I may write on it in the future, now is not the time.

Ender’s Game tells the story of child geniuses that are selected by the International Fleet, a globally supported interstellar military force to be the future leaders of humanity’s war against the Formics. The novel follows their training, primarily through a third person account of Ender’s experiences. Again I’ll avoid the major spoilers, but with a two decade old book and a movie, most of you probably already know how the story ends. But let’s take a look at what works, and what doesn’t.

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“Fricken awesome.”

What Works

There is a lot of great things about this book. The characters are believable (in a way, but I’ll get to that later) and the threat of the Formics looms over the entire book. Card does an excellent job in moving the plot along, and making you feel for Ender. Just as those around him work their hardest to isolate the young author, the reader can feel his anguish, his loneliness, and how he draws strength from that emptiness.

My favorite thing about the book however, is Battle School, and the games which the children play in order to learn about leadership and tactics. It’s a spectacular system that does a fine job of showing how squad based tactics can be adapted to a more strategic level. The games which Ender exceeds at are the most exciting parts of the book, more so (and perhaps detrimentally so) then the battles depicted in Command School. Seriously, Battle School. I want to go.

In the end Ender exceeds all expectations, and those nasty spoilers happen.Which brings me to the last thing that this book did so well, the end. The reveal at the end of the book was one of the most spectacular ones that I have come across. Say what you want about the man, but he knows how to write an ending, something I am particularly jealous of.

What Doesn’t Work

While his characters are rich, and nuanced, they are not in any real way what he says they are. While it’s true we shouldn’t be expecting a typical child in Battle School, these kids simply aren’t children at all. Card wrote adult characters, and put them in children’s bodies, and went about his business. While that’s not a totally awful thing, I do question the point in making them adolescents at all, aside for a cheap pull at the heart strings (which works mind you, but that’s besides the point). Finally in things that don’t jive, Ender is very smart, except when he is very dumb. He figures all these key points out, aside from the ones that really matter, those he is forced to learn through outside forces nearly spelling it out for him. It’s an odd contradiction, that while it didn’t ruin the book for me, it certainly took away from it.

Final Word

I am a fan of Ender’s Game, and Card’s follow up Shadow series, if not Ender’s direct sequels as much. Overall the book intrigued me throughout, but while I didn’t figure out the twist until a few pages before the reveal, I feel like Ender should have, and that is the largest negative the book has.

All in all I give it my arbitrary (one day I’ll spell that right without a spell check) Sci-Fi rating 8 out of 10 Phasers.

Agree? Disagree? Have you’re own comments about Ender’s Game? Put them down below in the comment section. Till next time, you intrepid voyagers you.

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