Thursday, December 05, 2013

Book Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game might well be the most beloved prequel in all of literature.  Not all versions of the story are the prequel, and it wasn’t released that way, but if not for Speaker of the Dead, the novel form of Ender’s Game that so many of us grew up with would never have come to be.

Ender’s Game tells the story of the Wiggins siblings, Andrew (nicknamed “Ender”), Peter and Valentine.  The story’s not told from Peter’s perspective- it would be difficult to keep the “innocence under duress” tone of the novel if it featured viewpoints of a true sociopath- but there are a good deal of passages of Valentine and Peter working together or at odds.  This is told largely independently of the story of their brother, the titular Ender, but Valentine plays a key role in Ender’s development.

An ironic side effect of reading this book with my particular tastes is the psuedo-incestual vibe this book starts to give off.  That might be slightly disturbing if you don’t know what I’m talking about from having read my past reviews, but that’s okay, because that just makes it more funny.  What’s ironic is that picturing a devout religious individual with certain very traditional values regarding religion writing something with an unintentional incest vibe is just funny to me.  And of course, what’s “psuedo” is the fact that Ender probably hasn’t gone through puberty by the time the book ends, and it’s only his precocious nature that allows an older reader to see his tendencies as anything other than child-like innocence.

Now that I’ve made everybody thoroughly uncomfortable, what is it that elevates this book to such a status, despite the fact that the entirely series has an obvious “written during the heart of the Cold War” vibe?  Maybe it’s the way a “children can save the world” story is told in a way that adults can still find believable and interesting.  It could be the way the aspects of the Hero’s Journey are exaggerated to their most powerful extent, with all of the emotion behind it of a bare child.  Maybe it’s the way a good person could do ethically questionable things in a completely un-questionably ethical way.

All of these elements are present in Ender’s Game, not to mention a twist at the end that makes me hesitant to even discuss the plot for fear of first-time readers seeing this.  There’s a host of characters, with the biggest flaw of the book being that few of the characters are given enough personality to be memorable down the line.  You want to learn more about them, but the story is about Ender.  One of the more mysterious players, an even younger boy nicknamed “Bean”, gets his own series of novels, and my only hope is that some of these side characters get their real moments to shine (and aren’t revealed to have been burnt up in their childhood) in these books.

Ender’s Game is a book that any Science Fiction fan should read- particularly young ones who can handle death in fiction but are still learning their way around the genre.  It’s not hard Sci-Fi, not because it’s Fantasy, but because the writer felt that the book should be easy for everybody to understand.  I personally wouldn’t have minded an extra 1% or so to harden the science, but I can definitely agree that it wouldn’t have been as accessible to me at twelve years old if that were the case.  And that’s the point- the accessibility of this book is what catapulted Ender to the forefront of the young adult genre.  But it’s not the only reason to read it.

And, for the record, I’m not qualified to comment on Card’s life outside of his fiction work, but if you feel you are, this book is crazy easy to find used, so don’t let politics get in the way of enjoying and learning from this piece.

1 comment:

Carl V. Anderson said...

Great review! I read the book for the first time a handful of years ago and was blown away by both it and Speaker for the Dead. Both packed a nice emotional wallop, had some interesting characters, and surprised me with unexpected turns.