Hot off the completion of 1984 and typing out my review, I jumped straight into Ender’s Game. There are those who would argue its place among the ‘Classics,’ yet I am one to wholeheartedly agree with its place on any top SF/F list. I first read this back when I was in middle school or high school; from the first time I started reading it, I was hooked. The pace is quick, and by that I mean fast! There was an incredible amount of military theory, political manoeuvring and plot packed into such a compact book. The fact that this was originally based on a short story and fleshed out into its current form may explain a lot of that.
Recently made into a cinematic adaptation (which I have yet to see), Orson Scott Card has certainly seen his fair share of criticism and bad press. To be honest, I don’t agree with many of the author’s views, certainly not the ones that put him in such hot water. To be clear, and to get it out of the way, this is a book review about Ender’s Game, not about the author.
We first meet Ender as his monitoring device is removed, a device that records his brainwaves and experiences. It is no surprise that the first couple of encounters would be formative and revealing to Ender's character: with his older and diabolically twisted brother, Peter, and one of the older kids from his school, Stinson. The former is a driving force for Ender throughout the book, as Peter’s torments and harassment plague Ender. Poor Stinson is our first example of Ender’s capacity to excel in reading a scenario and overcoming it despite a multitude of deficiencies, defeating an opponent who outclasses him in every conceivable physical way. The two sides of Ender are revealed and explored thereafter.
The Battle School and the games played with Ender, as well as those he plays within, are a quick overview of how he becomes the formative general and leader that will eventually save the world. His leadership skills are developed and flexed until he finally gets to Command School. There, he is set with the best and brightest from the Battle School. Tutored through the most grueling challenges yet faced by the legendary hero of the Second Formic (Bug) War, Mazer Rackham, Ender and his team fight their way through new and more complex simulations. They culminate with Ender winning the decisive victory over the Buggers. We then realize that simulations, these were not.
The books ends with Ender leading a colonization of one of the Bugger planets, recently vacated after their queen’s died, leaving them devoid of reasons to live. After establishing the colony, Ender makes a startling discovery. He finds the last remaining egg of the Buggers, a queen who telepathically explains to Ender their perspective of the war Ender fought to defeat them. He earns their love and respect, in doing so, healing the wounds that Battle School and Command School had rent in his psyche.
The dichotomy of the chapter introductions, typically a discussion between Colonel Graffe and Major Anderson about what Ender accomplished, or how they would mess with him, were perfect blends of world building and backstory in the context of what developed in the chapters themselves. Typically laced with some significant humour, it often contradicted the seriousness of the activities Ender was forced to endure.
I found the chapters with Peter and Valentine (Ender’s older brother and sister) were originally a distraction from the story I really wanted to read: what was Ender doing? In this, perhaps the fifth time reading, I came to understand just how important this part of the story was. As Valentine assisted Peter’s megalomaniacal dream of ruling the world, it counter-balanced Ender’s genius; Peter and Valentine were the two greatest influence on Ender’s formative years. As Peter and Valentine grew their influence over the global political landscape, it mirrored Ender’s control over the Bugger threat. It was also the mechanism that justifiably allowed Ender to escape Peter’s clutches, but only through Valentine’s doing.
At just 225 pages, this is a quick and easy read, yet compelling in that you really want to keep up with Ender’s exploits and see what other obstacle he tackles. Benefitting from a power outage, thanks to hurricane Andrew, I found lots of opportunity to grab a few pages here and there. Before I knew it, I was done, having enjoyed it just as thoroughly as the first time. An easy, and nostalgic, 10 out of 10.