Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card (1977)

Genre: Science Fiction
Interest Level: 12-16
Ender`s GameThis book is a sci-fi classic, and it has been on my reading list for years. I`ve felt a bit guilty admitting I hadn`t read it, in fact. As it turns out, it was worth the wait. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a Third – a third child in a society where families are permitted only two children. The government is closely watching the Wiggin children the world is depending on this family’s military strategic skills. With an interstellar war looming, Earth needs the perfect commander to lead the troops. Brilliant, courageous but not foolish, ruthless, but not cruel. Ender’s elder brother Peter is a brilliant strategist, but a mean streak took him out of contention. His sister Valentine is too soft. So the government permitted the Wiggin family a Third, pinning their hopes on a perfect combination of empathy and merciless calculation. Ender is taken from his family at just six to go to Battle School, where he learns lesson after lesson, in the lunch hall and in the games room, all intended to foment the creation of the single leader the world needs to defend and protect the human race. What fun it is to read a book written 35 years ago, and discover how prescient the author was about the world I live in today – nets of computers that connect everyone on earth, offering both anonymity and problems of privacy, hacking as a child’s skill, play with video games and simulators, the tablets students use for learning. The story was just plain fun to read. To those who criticize a plot that has children fighting wars, may I just remind you of what it was like to be a child and to dream of power? The idea of children making a difference, making the difference, is hugely empowering. It’s every kid’s fantasy come alive – who among us has not imagined ourselves as the one who saves the world, drives the truck to rescue Dad, or jumps into the river to save a sibling? And like so much great children’s fiction, this is so much more than a simple story. Card has a lot to say, and get his readers thinking, about childhood, bullying, parenting, alienation, independence and yes, war. There are some creepy elements – not sure if they were intended but they are hard to ignore. In particular, I found myself troubled by the Big Brother surveillance and primarily by the parents’ chilling disinterest, particularly given Valentine and Ender’s almost pathological closeness. Others have pointed to the boys’ frequent nudity. That doesn’t bother me, though based on my memories of childhood, I’m pretty sure I would stay clothed near a bully. Call me a wimp.
Released the same year as Star Wars, this is a fine piece of sci-fi that can also be read as a grand space adventure, albeit on the dark side. More reviews and discussion of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/901.Ender_s_Game


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