The first time that I ever heard about Ender’s Game was from one of my guy friends in high school. I remember the moment so clearly, which, looking back on it now, I find a little odd. As an avid book addict, I’ve had countless encounters with people who tell me about awesome books I should read. Well, ten minutes later and most of the recommendations are gone forever. This one was different.
We were sitting in statistics class in our little pod of desks waiting for the bell to ring. I don’t know how it came up, but he started talking about this book that he’d read again and again. I remember being a bit shocked because he was (and always will be) a math and science person. English, reading—those were things that were way off his radar. So the fact that he’d read a book, liked it so much, and then read it again surprised me. I looked up what the book was about, and this is what I found:
“In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training…” (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/375802.Ender_s_Game)
Back in my 17-year-old mind, this translated to, “Blah. Blah. Blah…” Nothing I would be interested in.
Okay, so let’s fast-forward nine years to present day. I’m still really not into military fiction, but I’ve gotten more interested in science fiction and this book keeps showing up. In grad school, many of my friends liked it. Then I see it’s going to be turned into a movie. And all the while, that memory from high school is in the back of my mind. Finally I decided to give it a shot.
In his foreword, Orson Scott Card discusses his inspiration and the growth of the novel. All of that was really interesting to me as a writer, but as a reader, different things stood out. Card went on about how the biggest criticism when the novel was released was that adult readers didn’t think the children sounded like children. Card goes on the say that when he thinks about himself as a child, he never really felt like a child, so why should the characters? That got me thinking about my own childhood, and I realized that when I think of myself as a nine year old and when I see a nine year old, they’re two very different things. Also, my own two cents on the matter comes down to two facts: 1) HELLO! This is the future! and 2) these kids have been genetically engineered to be brilliant. Of course they aren’t going to be like normal six year olds. Granted, this was an issue for me as well for a good bit of the book, but only until the characters themselves began to comment on how they weren’t normal children.
My goal here isn’t really to review the book. It’s older than I am and I think that there are enough reviews out there about it. No, this is more of my impressions/reflections on the novel, as well as thoughts about the upcoming movie.
First off, I want to say that I loved this book.
For a while I didn’t know why I liked it so much. Like I mentioned before, I’m not big on military fiction, and that’s what a good bit of this novel is about. Maybe that’s more of a surface level thing, but I don’t always try to figure out what the author’s commentary is on this or that. I like to look at books and figure out what makes them good. I can tell you, for me, there wasn’t a lot of description. I had no idea (and still don’t on some level) what the Buggers—the aliens—looked like, or a solid idea of how the Battle Room’s appearance. However, I have a theory about this lack of description that I’ll get to here in a minute.
I think what I liked best about this book was the psychological aspect. At the beginning of a majority of the chapters, there is a chunk of dialogue in a different typeset that comes from the perspective of the adults controlling Ender’s life. In essence, you get to “overhear” what they’re planning to do to Ender and why, and then see it play out.
Now, getting to this theory about lack of description. So, the Buggers. As readers we know about the threat of their existence. We can assume that they are bug-like, but that’s about it. The novel gets to a point where you begin to question whether or not the Buggers are still a threat at all. The people of Earth are starting to doubt it while the military still upholds its marshal law over the planet. I think Card withholds the description until later in the book to help foster this doubt in the reader as well. Once we start to think that the Buggers are no longer a threat, we begin to wonder why the military is doing what it’s doing to Ender. Why put this poor boy through all this emotional pain and manipulation? Then, we are introduced to a new perspective and discover that yes the Buggers are real. Once we’re privy to that information, we get a more concrete description. I think this is genius! (Or possibly an accident on Card’s part that comes across as genius.) On some level, withholding the description, making us think that the Buggers aren’t real, Card is playing with our heads just like the adults in Ender’s Game.
The movie opens November 1, and I am looking forward to it so much! What I find really interesting, from the previews, is that it appears the filmmakers had an issue (as many readers, including myself, did) with the ages of the children. The book focuses on the years from the time Ender is six until he’s about twelve years old, which covers much of his military training. When reading the book, we can almost ignore the age thing and picture the characters older in our minds if we need to. However, with the movie, the choice is made for you. The actors appear to be early adolescents. What I’m most scared of is that the filmmakers will try to soften the story in other ways. Even though the protagonist is young, the story is more for the YA and possibly adult market.
Still, I have high hopes for this movie. The book is something that I think my husband would love if he read fiction (he does the non-fiction thing which I’m not a huge fan of), and I’m glad I can expose him to the story via the silver screen.
That’s my dollar’s worth of two cents on the book and the upcoming movie. If you haven’t read Ender’s Game, give it a chance. I know I’m glad I did.