Ender's Game Review

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  Set sometime in the future, mankind is in the middle of longterm war with and alien race know as buggers.  

The premise of this book is every mother's nightmare:  children are taken from there home around the age of 6, inscripted into the army, shot off planet to a rotating school in outer space, and taught how to be soldiers, commanders, and ultimately the destroyer of civilizations.

The book centers around three highly intelligent siblings:  Peter, Valentine, and Ender Wiggin.  Each of these children were tested by the government to be an exceptional soldier.  Like the "Three Bears," the oldest (Peter) was too psychotic, the second child (Valentine) was too sweet, and the third child (Ender) was just what the army ordered...literally. In a society where children are limited to two per household, Ender Wiggin, a Third, was pretty much genetically engineered to be Earth's greatest hope.  

The book is told mostly from Ender's perspective:  of his life at home before he was taken by the army, his time at Battle School and Command School, and his efforts after the war.  And while it is sometimes hard to picture Ender as a child because of his high level of intelligence and skill at warfare, there are also scenes that bring to home the fact that he is still a child.  While he is described as being a tactical genius who can instinctively see an enemy's weakness or the best move to win the war with the least amount of casualties, Ender often falls victim to such childish notations as believing that the teacher will step in to help him when thing get out of hand and not thinking about the long term consequences of his actions.

As for the other two Wiggins children...it just goes to show that you can't trust the internet.  And politics are scary in anyone's hands.

Themes
  • Conformity and Role Play:  Ender's parents felt the need to hide their religions to the point that they cut all contact with their families, lie about their pasts, and say their prayers in secret.  Ender likes pleasing people and fitting in, but not to the point of becoming someone else like his parents, or like Peter who hides his vicious tendencies behind a model student persona.  Another example of conformity in Ender's Game is the character's desire to role play.  Each character is thrust into a role with or without their choosing and eventually find themselves becoming that role.  Ender, a genuinely kind boy, is force to be a  measured killer; Peter, who borders on pre-homicidal maniac, puts himself into the role of a peace-seeking politician who ends up ruling the world.  Valentine, who was denied entrance into the army because of her sweet disposition, spends most of her preteen years pretending to be a bloodthirsty extremist.
  • Games:  All children play games, but the games in this book are life or death.  At first, Ender plays games with his brother Peter, who on numerous occasions threatens to kill Ender and make it look like an accident.  The game evolves into battle simulations at the Battle School where Ender is either fighting for his life, his honor, or both.  The next level of the game is between Ender and the adults; Ender refusing to follow the rules set in place by the adults and the adult attempting to mold Ender into their perfect soldier.  The last level of the game is cleverly disguised, all-out war between Ender and the alien race that is threatening planet Earth.  Another example of the games is Peter's and Valentine's masquerading as adults to start/stop a world war on Earth.
  • Them versus Us:  The central war is between mankind and an alien race called buggers.  Much of this war is about misunderstanding:  the buggers (a race with a hive mentality) didn't see the harm in killing a few thousand "workers," while the humans saw it as mass murder and an act of war.  Similarly, the buggers (who still did not realize that each human was a conscious individual), could not believe that someone would attack and kill one of their queens and with it, thousands of buggers who share her consciousness.  Another version of this theme is found in Battle School:  the students versus the teacher.  Although the children are set up to fight each other, Ender and a few other children see that the true enemy is the adults who manipulate the system to suit their own wishes.  The best example of this is the deterioration of the Battle Room.
  • Two Sides of the Same Coin:  Valentine once likens Peter and Ender as two sides of the same coin (with her being the coin) and that if one is facing up the other must be down.  This is very true throughout the whole book.  In the beginning, Valentine was always being the mediator between Peter and Ender.  As for Peter and Ender, the only real difference in them is their temperament:  Peter is inherently power hungry and cruel while Ender is compassionate and loving.  Unfortunately, circumstances force Ender to become more like Peter (seeking out ways to crush his enemies) and Peter places himself more in Ender's shoes by taking a more compassionate and peaceful approach to win favor in his rise to power.
Questions:
  • Why did they need a child commander?  Is it just that they didn't have any adults that could function at the level that Ender could or is it that no adult would be able to detach themselves from the fact that they are sending thousand of people to their deaths (history shows that this is not the case)?
  • What are the qualification for getting into Battle School?  Seeing the other children that made it into Battle School, was it really realistic that Peter and Valentine were not accepted?  Bernard and Bonzo show signs of being just as vindictive as Peter and Valentine definitely proves in her conversation with Graff that she is not the sweet little girl that she appears to be.  What would Battle School and the bugger war have been like with all of the Wiggins children directly involved?

Overall, I give this book a 8/10.  It's farfetched, but my favorite kind of farfetched.  The character's are likeable even though they are not believable and the story grips you early on and keeps you wanting more.  I highly recommend it for children in middle school and above.

Warning:  There is some bloody violence, brief mention of nudity, and light swearing.  Also, it does not instill good options about adults and authority.

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