Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ender's Game

Someone left a battered paperback copy of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card on my desk... Almost as if they wanted me to put down the four other books I was already reading and finish it in 3 days....

Once again, I was extremely excited thinking I had just finished an adult fiction novel, only to set it down, think about what to write in my review and realize that Ender's Game is NOT strictly a grown-up book.

The beauty of the the story of Andrew 'Ender' Wiggins is that it straddles the line between child and adult story telling in the way that all great YA fiction does. Here at the Clermont County Library we classify it as an adult book, even though it is suggested reading for reluctant middle-schoolers everywhere. Even publishers can't decide on the demographic. Look at these covers:
 

Set in the not so far future, Ender's Game tells the tale of an earth terrified after two attacks by an anthropoid  alien race. The story starts with a bang, with two unseen, unknown military strategists cluing the reader in to the strengths and weaknesses of a character they haven't even met. Shorty we learn that Ender Wiggins is not only a 6 year old, but a third (to be said with the sort of gross intonation reserved only for the likes of Heidi Montag or Kate Gosslin... You know, pointless wastes of humanity who probably should not have been born. Or in Ender's case, were only allowed to be born because the government was harvesting the genetic traits of his family...) An child despised by his peers and loved only by his older sister, Ender is a the last hope of humanity. He has been breed specifically to join other genius children at the Battle School orbiting Earth. Regular studies are eclipsed by fantastic free-fall battles in which these children learn the art of war in the guise of games. Stripped of everything he loves and sent to a place where he is isolated from everyone because of his intelligence, heart and mostly, his scheming educators, Ender struggles to be the person he knows he is inside while the whole world struggles to mold him into a perfect young killer.

Set as a background and counterpoint to Ender's tale of struggle, Card also follows the devious political carrers of Ender's two older siblings. The elders Wiggins, Peter, is pure evil wrapped in logic and intelligence. The middle child (and last legally allowed), Valentine, is goodness and compassion with even more logic and intelligence. Neither was approved for military training for those very reasons. Peter is too cruel, Valentine too empathetic. So logically, Ender must be the perfect balance of the two. Yeah right....

Card managed to avoid the worst fate of military science fiction, i.e. the extreme political blehhhhhness of most of the genre. The reader is at once drawn in by Ender's inherent goodness and heart, and repelled by the cold, calculated decisions he is force to make to survive with the odds purposely stacked against him. As with most of his books, Card's morals make a strong showing through out, but are mercifully not overwhelming (that is till the end, when Ender needs to have morals on his side). But I don't want to give the story way. Just rest assured that Ender's Game is a classic in it's genre, a winner of many awards, translated into 23 languages, and spoofed on endless web comics. I leave those familiar with the story with this beauty from our friends at xkcd:

 

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