Monday, June 9, 2014

On "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card ****

This one came highly recommended by someone when I noted that I was going to do a classic science fiction list. No doubt, this is one of the newest books on said list, but I did want some newer contemporary writers represented. I can see why the book was recommended. It's a great book in terms of propelling one along as a reader to want to read more and more.

The story is essentially that of Ender Wiggin, a child who is drafted into the army at the age of six. This is a world that is looking for a superhero, and Ender is just that, as were potentially his two siblings, Peter and Valentine. The problem was that Peter was too violent, Valentine not quite what the bigwigs wanted either. So Ender is it. He's a third, in a world where couples are allowed only two children, so he's already known as an outlier. This in turn means that he's likely to be beaten up by other kids--and by Peter.

One day, faced with a mob, Ender beats up the lead kid, beats him up so badly that the kid will never threaten him again--nor anyone. That's the goal. But he feels guilty about treating others like so, the way Peter would. So Ender has, in addition to proclivities to violence, a kind of empathy to tame it.

Along come the generals to take him off to battle academy. The academy essentially consists of playing battle games in zero gravity--something akin to laser tag of sorts. In between, there are classes and video games. As technically too young for the school, Ender is again an outsider, prone to getting beaten up. However, he's savvy, knows how to work the politics so that he gets what he wants, over and over. And he's good at the games too, which lends him respect, even when he's told, for example, not to fight.

Eventually, he works his way up at the school and then is promoted to commander school, where the battles become huge simulations of actual battles with the buggers, as they are known.

This is why Eros (i.e., Earth) needs a superhero. Twice, the buggers tried to invade Eros, and both times they barely were repelled. Unless humans prepare for the next onslaught and have a brilliant commander, there is no hope. Ender is that hope. And with each command battle, Ender proves why he is.

There are a few tricks Card drops in near the end of the book that I won't reveal here. Suffice to say that the ever-feeling Ender is a reluctant warrior.

Card treats his children like adults--or in other words, he writes them as if they are adults. They are precocious, and they aren't allowed to be children in this particular world, but still, they don't come across to me quite the way kids would, and in that sense, I had something of a hard time with the characterizations in this book. But if you can accept that or get beyond it, the story is an intriguing one. And the characters were well enough drawn that I actually found myself caring about them, despite how fantastic they seemed.

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