Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game Cover

Ender's Game


Ender's Game is Orson Scott Card's Hugo and Nebula award winning novel, and the first book in the Ender's series. I was pleasantly surprised by how truly amazing this novel was. Once I started reading it, I was unable to put it down and devoured it in 3 days. I can see why it is on so many lists of great novels.

In the Introduction to Ender's Game, its author, Orson Scott Card wrote that the short story this novel was based on was written during the height of the Vietnam War, so I guess that it is not surprising to me that while reading it, I kept thinking of another great science fiction military novel, The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman. The concept that the Army would conscript only the smartest for an elite fighting force is the basis for both novels. The idea that Ender feels alienated towards the people of Earth, after being in Battle school for 2 years, mirrors the alienation the soldiers in The Forever War felt after returning for their tours of duty. Also both main characters come to the realization in the end of their respective novels that the war was meaningless and was the result of an inability for both sides to communicate with a society that was completely alien. Both novels lean on these ideas.

The main theme in Ender's Game, is the idea that the end justifies the means. This is the theme that is repeated over and over by the military officers in charge if Ender's education and training. They themselves struggle with the purposeful pain they are inflicting on this one child, even as they realize that it must be done in order to protect the Earth from the perceived threat of the "Buggers".

While reading the novel, I would be going along cheering Ender to beat the crap out of the bully, or win a battle when it would strike me that I was rooting for a 6 year old child to perform a horrific act of violence, and would find myself disgusted and broken hearted. I have to wonder if I had read this novel before I had children if I would have realized the truly brutal level of physical and emotional abuse the military government put this very small child through. I kept thinking of my son at age six, and trying to convince myself that society would never allow this to happen, and yet as I sit here typing this, I live in a country where enemy combatants are being held without trial in prisons and where my own government justifies "Enhanced Interrogation Methods" with the very theme of the novel. We do it to make America safe, and I am saddened to realize that brutalizing a child to make the world safer may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

I found that one of the most interesting aspects of the entire novel was the way the military chose to just completely ignore Ender's older brother and sister, Peter and Valentine, after they decided to reject them as candidates for their ultimate weapon. As was obvious from the work these two did, rejecting them out of hand may have been a mistake, both proved to be just a powerful leaders in their own way as Ender. I felt the same way about these two young people as I felt towards Frankenstein's monster. They were created a specific way through science, and then were rejected for acting as was in their nature. Punished for being who they were created to be.

From a technological standpoint, Mr. Card anticipated several items such as "The desk", which so mimics a laptop computer with Wi-Fi, and the concept of interactive, multiplayer online gaming. This resulted in a novel that was written almost 30 years ago but never felt dated. The novel always felt fresh and relevant to me. Even all the talk of a second "Warsaw Pact" did not cause my suspension of belief to falter.

Overall Mr. Card's beautiful and heart wrenching character development is what ultimately makes this such a wonderful story. I cared what happened to Ender. My heart broke when he felt heartbroken; I suffered with him, and for him, when he felt doubt and rejection. I wanted to see him happy, and above all, when the novel ended, I wanted more.