This book has been on my shelf a long time, one of those sci-fi staples that you tell yourself you’ll get around to reading and then you let it collect dust for a few years. In fact I had forgotten until recently that I even owned this book. It wasn’t until I was reorganizing my bookshelves that I noticed it and decided on a whim to read it and when I did I mentally kicked myself for leaving it unread on a shelf for so long. This book is a masterpiece. I’m always a bit trepidatious when it comes to those ‘if your a fan of -insert fandom here-‘ must reads. I think it’s partly because I don’t like being told what I “must read” if I’m a sci-fi or fantasy fan and also because if I do read one and I don’t like it I feel like it’s my fault and now I have to hand in my fan card. Luckily this was not the case with Ender’s Game.
The human race had been attacked by the Formics, an intelligent insectoid alien race more commonly and derogatorily known as “buggers”, we won the first and second invasions but barely and at great cost. To keep that from happening again the Battle School was made and now exceptionally bright children are selected and enrolled into the school to be trained as the next generation of soldiers, better, faster, smarter. Enter the main character Andrew “Ender” Wiggin a brilliant 6-year-old boy, a social outcast for being a Third (third child) in a world where the United States only permits families to have two children and you need to request government permission to have a third. Like all children Ender was monitored (some kind of chip I think in the back of the neck that lets the government see and hear what you do…creepy) and he was chosen to go to the Battle School. Ender was picked right off the bat as the best of the best and was deemed humanity’s last hope. While that’s all well and good for humanity but Ender is a child (yes an exceptional one but still…) and he is pushed to limits that grown men would have buckled under while still having the pure innocence that only children can have.
This book was amazing, the way it captures the essence of human nature is masterful. I easily shifted from one characters viewpoint to the other feeling the emotions they felt, every slight and injustice and then another characters voice would take over and I would see it from the opposite side. That’s what I love about this book, there really isn’t a bad guy. Usually in a book you see things from the perspective of one person or a few people but all of them on the same side. You sympathize with them, their viewpoints become yours and the enemy is nothing more than an evil (sometimes simple other times more complex) that stands against everything you do and must be stopped for the good of blah blah etc. Ender’s Game is more than that. Even the buggers a race that tried to wipe out the humans, something that most books would have left as an evil alien race who we either defeat or we die a heroic death, we see things from their side. How our cultural and racial differences lead to the near destruction of first one race and then the other.
Ender’s Game had me continually conflicted, the different viewpoints all right in their own way made my head spin. Like real life, I found myself confused and asking myself the question ‘Who am I to deem who’s evil?”. These people were just trying to live their lives, make the hard decisions that come with life doing the best they could while sticking to what they believed was right and for the good of others. Why do I, an impassive observer, get to label them as good or evil/ hero or villain?
I would recommend this book to anyone (I give it a five out of five stars) however I would offer a warning to those who would read it. DON’T try to power through this book. If there are any readers out there like me (the “just one more chapter, oh hey when did it become morning? Crap I gotta get to work and I haven’t slept” readers) please note that this book isn’t for the faint of heart. The writing style is easy to read and the subtle simplicity lures you into a false sense of security, so the emotions sneak up on you. I actually rage quit twice because I read for too long and it was too much for me, I would throw the book down and pace the room muttering to myself “people are just so….grrr! Why?! Why?!”. I needed time to digest what I had witnessed and come to terms with what I was feeling before I could pick up the poor abused book and continue the story.
I understand why Ender’s Game is considered a must-read for any Science Fiction fan. This unassuming little book holds up a mirror to humanity and strips away the white lies and illusions we allow ourselves on a day-to-day basis. I wasn’t told or led to feel a certain way but I would feel for each of the characters. The raw emotion I felt was difficult for me to understand, I would have to analyze why I was so angry at a certain character when I had felt sympathy for them only chapters before. The difference between a good book and a great book is that while both are entertaining a great book gets you to start thinking, asking questions that you normally wouldn’t ask yourself or others. Ender’s Game is one of the greats; it challenged me and I would spend hours contemplating the chapter I had read, piecing and re-piecing my viewpoint from what I had learned. At the end of Orson Scott Card’s 324 page book I sat in silence for a while absorbing everything I had just experienced. As my thoughts began to return to the real world it dawned on me that for the first time in a long time, even if only for a brief moment, I had regained a sense of wonder.
p.s. For those who don’t know this book is becoming a movie this year. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t lose too much in translation.