Sci-Fi Heaven

I wanted to read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for years but never got around to it because I have somewhere in the vicinity of 5 billion books I want to read.  But boy, I’m SO glad I finally did. I’d heard it was good. Friends, it was excellent. Wiggins is a third child in a time when only two are allowed to each family.  He is chosen to enter Battle School, where the leaders of Earth hope that he will show tactical prowess that will make him the hero of the human race.  As he trains against his fellow boys (he’s only six when he starts), he hones his mind to a sharp point, and becomes the commander that the world needs to defeat their enemies.

The plot seems pretty straightforward, but what makes this novel so epic is the fact that Ender is only six years old at the time he begins battle training.  His rise is so swift that by the time he is twelve, he is already the hero of the world, recognized on Earth and throughout the galaxy.  But it comes with a heavy price, and that’s what makes this would-be fairy story into something more adult and realistic.  Half the book details Ender’s internal struggles to cope with the person he is becoming, and it makes him easy to relate to and care for. It’s easy to forget that he is such a young boy, but occasionally his overflow of emotion reminds the reader that no child should have to go through what he does. After all, the fate of an entire race rests on his ability to think tactically and quickly, and to lead an entire fleet of spacecraft. That’s a lot of pressure for a kindergartner.

Card has also created some truly delightful villains.  They are big, and bad, and jealous, and Ender whips them all. Everywhere he goes he encounters hatred and therefore conflict due to his overwhelming genius.  But he wins friends as well, great friends, who are loyal to him through everything and help him overcome all his obstacles.  The interactions between characters are a strong point for Card, I feel.  Since so much of this novel is less about physical actions and battles (though there’s plenty of that stuff too) and more about conflicts of personalities and interests, this is a huge deal to this novel. I love the way Ender reads everyone, anticipates their plans, and reacts before his enemy knows what has happened.  Ender is totally cool.

What’s truly amazing about the book is the end.  Again, as happened with Murder on the Orient Express, the plot seemed pretty straightforward and predictable, but the ending slammed me out of nowhere.  I had no idea that what happened would happen.  I loved it.  And Ender’s compassion and understanding for his enemy at the end of the novel help to alleviate all the heavy feelings of regret and sorrow that haunt his character and through him, the reader.  The body of the book was good but the ending was stellar.

Also, it’s kind of cool that the technology in this book (written in the ’80s) is predictive.  So much of what they have going on in the book reminds me of things we have now. For instance, his “fantasy game,” played on his desktop, reminds me a lot of World of Warcraft. And their null gravity battleroom game closely resembles laser tag.  Interesting to read books that were written in the past but take place in the future, and to see which technologies have arrived, and which are still out of our reach (like colonizing asteroids).

Bottom line: If you love sci-fi, read it. It’s pretty freaking awesome. But even if you’re not a huge fan of the genre already, this book is a fantastic adventure and a wonderful exploration of human nature.  Please read it!


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