Book Review: Ender’s Game

I originally read Ender’s Game a LONG time. I picked it up now because I remember enjoying it, but I didn’t remember why. I could recall the basic plot line and I could even remember the ending, so there was no surprises for me in that regard, but what I really couldn’t remember was the nuances of the writing and story that made the book so exciting. I guess it’s sort of like re-watching a really good movie.

I really enjoyed reading it again, in fact I could barely put it down. In the futuristic world the book takes place in, humans have been entrenched in a war with an alien species, called the buggers, that has lasted hundreds of years, though there has only been 2 battles. This is due to the long travel times required to get to the alien world, or for the aliens to come to us. The Earth is scared, they know there will be another attack soon and have been looking for the best and brightest possible military commanders to lead the next army that will presumably beat the buggers once and for all. It is to that end, that the International Fleet commissions the birth of Ender, the third child in the Wiggin family, who’s older siblings had shown great promise, but lacked the exact attributes.

Ender begins his training at age 6 and his put through incredible hard ships. The training occurs at an orbiting battle school, where the adults teach hundreds of boys how to be good soldiers and commanders. Ender is CONSTANTLY pressured by the adults. He is put through simulations and battles with the odds always stacked against him. They isolate him. They push him. It is amazing the detail that the author, Orson Scott Card, goes into describing the mental condition of our main character.

A long story very short, Ender graduates and heads to commander school, where he begins specifically training for fighting the buggers at the next war. He is pressured again. They push him so hard the entire book. Eventually he comes to his final test at school, whereby if he passes it, he will become a commander of the fleet (at age 11 by the way). So he is put into simulation with again, odds stacked against him. But he pushes through. He sacrifices and he finally wins, only to find out that all the simulations he’s done since he entered the commander school were actually REAL battles taking place, and all the ships he was commanding were real ships, taking real orders from him. He won all of them. He never lost. He destroyed every last bugger without even knowing it.

There’s SO much more to this book than what i just wrote above. It was incredibly well written. The level of detail included by Card was amazing. By the end you feel like you know Ender like you know your best friend.

Aside from the idea that there is another intelligent species in our galaxy, the book address question ‘what if aliens were hostile’ in a very interesting way. He also address the HUGE issue that would be the political state the Earth would be in during a war that could potentially destroy all of humanity. Ender’s siblings lead that side of the story.

Even deeper in the story is an underlying metaphysical theme. During his training, Ender is required to play game on his computer that is built around presenting problems and challenges in various ways to the children. The program responds to the way the child plays, and creates the next challenges. This game takes Ender on confusing path of self-evaluation, where he struggles with what is expected of him, and what expects of himself. This theme is continued in the aftermath of the war. Upon destroying the buggers entirely, Earth begins colonizing the old bugger worlds, Ender is the first to do so, and he finds a larvae in hibernation. Ender begins communicating with the old buggers. They teach each other. And this sets the book up for a sequel.

In fact, this story-line has a lot of books. The next is Ender’s Shadow, which I might pick up. I’m interested in seeing where this story goes. So if you haven’t read the book, you should. It’s an easy read, but it’s very good. I thoroughly enjoyed it.