Ender's Game by orson Scott Card

Sally Ann Melia

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I did not read this until this month (July 2014). And I decided to give it a go having seen the trailers for the film which features Star Wars' Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield who was mesmerising in both the TV series Merlin(he played Mordred) and of course the film Hugo.

I hope to see the film soon, but for the time being I thought I would read the book.

So this is very old science fiction, it was originally published in 1977, as such it does suffer a bit with age. It was written in the Golden Age of science fiction when the genre was written by white middle-aged scientists for other white middle-aged scientists. Fortunately it lacks the out and out sexism that characterises that period, but it also lacks a world vision and still sees Russia as the main enemy several hundred years into our future.

I was happy to overlook this, because I like Old Science Fiction, but for many people this will put this book into the 'incomprehensible' pile straight - away.

If you carry on, the story tells of the planet Earth in the future which has been invaded by insect aliens The Buggers, and humanity having foiled their attack twice, and by the skin of their teeth both times, have 70 years on put together a space fleet to go and attack the buggers.

For this attack to be successful, they need to train the ruthlessly efficient soldiers, and they start by engineering young boys and girls to meet a certain speck, and then they train them... And oh what training.

I won't say much more about the story, but I enjoyed this romp because:

1) It was nice to see a story where war was to be decided on the ability or not of human soldiers

2) Wiggin Ender is very likeable and extremely well written, you are rooting for him from the start.

3) Its a very scary story, and because of its school structure it is easy to imagine yourself in Ender's shoes.

What less easy to like was:

1) The age of the protagonist, Ender starts the story aged 6, and ends it aged 12. This is a story about children who are brutalised and have their childhood stolen on an industrial scale.

2) The ending. There are 250 pages of build up, and the final battle is over in a couple of pages.

Just to say that in 1977 Orson Scott Card may have been the first to speculate that a computer game might be more than what it seems. Nowadays and particularly since the milestone film 1983 WarGames, its seems a bit of a anticlimax.
 

Dozmonic

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I enjoyed it from the psychological aspect of what does it take to create the next Napoleon, Subutai, Alexander etc. It's often adversity that creates "greatness", and that's the route Card chose for Ender to take.
 

Parson

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Hm, this is interesting. I read the book in about 1979 and it was literally ground breaking. Women in battle was hardly considered at the time. And I at least did not see the ending coming at all!! I had to go back and see if there were something that I missed. I still consider it one of the classic S.F. stories/books. I don't believe it's ever been out of print which has to say something pretty good about the book and its effect. I've recommended it several times and I've always fount those who read it to be more than satisfied. (Admittedly I haven't given this recommendation to anyone who made a habit of reading S.F.) --- The most common complaint I hear now has nothing to do with the book but with OSC's politics.
 

kythe

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I actually don't like Ender Wiggin as a person. He was a genius, but he was molded into a killer by his carefully controlled environment.

I see "Ender's Game" as an exploration into what creates greatness. This is not the same as "goodness" since there is a noticeable lack of morals in several main characters. But both Ender and Peter become very important to the development of world history in their respective environments.
 

TheDustyZebra

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Err...that would be Ender Wiggin, and yes, he is a great character.

I don't particularly think of this as "old science fiction", which probably shows my age to a not insignificant degree. :) The Golden Age is generally considered to extend from the 1930s to the 1950s, but I don't think you can stretch it all the way to 1977 (when the short story was published) or 1985 (when the book was published) for Ender's Game. And it was written neither by nor for middle-aged scientists (of whatever color), since Orson Scott Card was 25 when he wrote the original short story, and he is an English teacher who was a poet/playwright/editor at that time -- and the story is about young people, and war, and a great deal of politics that didn't make it into the movie (just as well).

As for lacking a world view, I don't think that gives credit to the political arena that remained on Earth and sent Ender out to do their dirty work. His brother and sister got themselves quite embroiled in the politics of that world stage, while he was gone, and of course the hornet's nest of political opinion was the reason that Ender had to go where he did at the end.

I am always glad to see new fans of this book (and its sequels), so I'm glad you liked it, anyway!
 

Rodders

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Agreed, this is an excellent book. I did find the three sequel novels to be a bit of a grind, though and really struggled with them. The Shadow series was enjoyable enough.

I recently watched the movie and weirdly enough, i thought it wasn't as good as it could've been and it tried to pay homage to the book too much. Consequently, it glossed over a lot of aspects that the book had.

Having recently read this, i'd be interested to hear what you make of the movie.
 

Vertigo

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Sadly this is another book that has generally received high acclaim that I enjoyed but considered vastly overrated the other two notable examples were Forever War (which I've also just posted about!) and The Stars My Destination.

Essentially I thought this was a great romp, and I accept that is was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, book blurring of the line between games and war. But other than that it's shear implausibility made it painful for me to read. I admit I'm not a dad but in my limited experience of children no, and I mean no, six-year-old is going to think and behave the way OSC has Ender behaving. Even brutalised the way he is, in fact especially brutalised the way he is. Six-year-olds are simply not as rational, forgiving and understanding as the apparent saint Ender is made out to be. I only managed to read the book by always adding 6 to his age.

Also, whilst I know we are supposed to ignore OSC's personal political and religious views, but, when I find a book by author who is proud of his homophobia and that continuously refers to the enemy as 'buggers,' I find it just plain distasteful.
 

Parson

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Clearly at the time I read Ender's Game I wasn't as discerning a reader as I am now. But I guess although I thought he was very young, I just put all of that stuff down to his utter exceptionalism.

I've always thought that OSC was taking a shot at the Zero Population Growth people of the 70's when he had Ender be a child that should not have been conceived, who turned out to be the genius the human race needed.
 

Vertigo

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Interesting Parson. Quite possible I suppose - do you know what the LDS church's stance is on that? Sadly, we now really need a Negative Population Growth movement! However, if that was his intention then, for me at least, it fails; life can't be defined in terms of what if's and maybe's.
 

Parson

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I do not believe that they teach that Birth Control is a sin, but they do believe that life is sacred and encourage large families. I'm quite sure that they are completely opposed to abortion except in the case of an abortion to save the life of the mother. With the exception of encouraging large families, they would be seen in the Christian mainstream. -- I assume you know that the more religious a family is the more likely they are to have a large family. The LDS members in general take their religion very seriously so it should not be at all surprising that their family size is well above average.

A Negative Population Growth? Isn't that what Western Europe already has? With an average live birth rate of about 1.7 per female the population is headed seriously downward in our lifetime.
 

Vertigo

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I think I mentioned before that my upbringing was Catholic and I went to school in a monastery so I'm well familiar with the large family syndrome. I should mention I'm no longer practising.

You are quite right about the European population but by current thinking we have so much reduction in population to achieve that it will be a very long time before it becomes an issue. However we digress somewhat ;)
 

Boaz

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I read Ender's Game four years ago. I knew there had been a sequel or two.... but OSC was able to wrap up the story without me suspecting there was actually going to be a resolution in the book. That was the neat part.

The not so neat parts were the intergalactic instant communications and the fact that I never related to Ender. Maybe if I'd read it when I was eleven in '77.
 

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I read this shortly after it came out, and also 'missed' the ending, so I was very surprised and delighted when I read it.

I do remember at the time thinking that the characterisation of the main child characters was implausible. I can't remember now exactly why, but the "add 6 years" comment above does make sense...
 

Ice fyre

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I read this book quite recently. It wasnt a bad read at all, the things his sister and brother got up to in the lead up to the war were interesting. I dont like Orson Scott Cards Politics much, but I didnt see any of it reflected in the book that I could see. I will have to try to see if I can get to see the film.
 

hitmouse

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The first science fiction magazine I ever bought as a 12 year old was an edition of Omni, containing containing what I think was OSC's first published story: Unaccompanied Sonata. That made a big impression.
Ender's Game was the next thing I read by this author, 30+ years later. An engaging and readable novel, but in retrospect one I do not like much. My 12 year old son enjoyed it. I do not think there is anything particularly profound about the story. The 2 sequels are less good.
 

Parson

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If we use a 10 pt. scale. I would judge Ender's Game a 10. Speaker for the Dead an 8. Xenocide a 6. I haven't read any of the "Shadow" books.
 

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