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Flying book

Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card is one of those authors I've read a lot about but never read any of his books. I thought it was time to put that right and chose Ender's Game, a book which seems to be popular with a lot of sci fi fans.




Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin is a 'third' - meaning he was the third born child to his family in a world where there is over-population and only two children are permitted. His parents were given permission to have a third child though, this being due to the fact that his older brother and sister were extremely bright and were *almost* right for the task required of them, but not quite. It is hoped that Ender will be less vicious than his brother but not as placid as his sister.

The problem is that fifty years ago the human race was almost annihilated by an insect race of beings from another planet. Known as the 'buggers' (I think because they were 'bugs') they were defeated by a brilliant military commander. The fear is that the aliens are about to repeat their invasion attempt and the hunt is on for another such commander, but he will have to be trained from childhood. Ender fits the bill. He is six when whisked off to Battle school to join hundreds of other boys, to train, in a bid to save the world by way of brutal mock 'games'. But Ender is not popular. He is the brightest of the bright and resented by the other boys and, for some reason, the officers running the school are purposely making his life difficult. In other words he's being tested to see how much he can take. Is Ender up to the challenge?

It's not often that I'm this ambivilent about a story. On the one hand I found it to be a pageturner - Card's writing is extremely readable and the story is pacey and really quite exciting. I finished it in two days and that's pretty quick reading for me, so clearly I couldn't put it down. On the other hand I had issues with a couple of things. Mainly it was to do with the kind of dialogue and thoughts Card embued small children with. It was all too adult and, although I realise that these are supposed to be bright kids, I didn't find that aspect of it realistic. Not that Card is the only author to do this by any means - it's very common.

The other thing that struck me was that Card was writing a novel set sometime in the future. It wasn't clear how many years (a hundred?) but, whatever, I found it bizarre that a science fiction author, who would supposedly be forward thinking, did not forsee the role women would come to play in the armed forces. Even just thirty years after he wrote the book women are fighting and dying in combat zones around the world. He put one girl in his school, *one*. At least JKR didn't fall into that trap...

Nevertheless, despite my issues with the book, I did, as I said, enjoy it a great deal. Much of the book is 'edge of the seat' stuff and it has a fantastic twist near the end which I didn't see coming at all. I must also add that it was the last few pages which intrigued me the most and because of that I plan to get a copy of the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, as soon as possible; I suspect that one might be a bit more to my taste. My husband grabbed Ender's Game off me as soon as I finished so it'll be interesting to see what he thinks.

Comments

I was ambivalent too, although I know many people who rate it as one of the top books they've ever read.

I wonder if the age at which one reads it affects the reaction? I was in my late 40s or early 50s when I read it, and I think those who love it were teenagers on first reading, as was my now 22 year old son.

Card writes very gripping, disturbing books. I read the first couple of books in the Alvin, The Maker (I think) series, and lost interest after I couldn't find the next boos.
Yes, I know people whose favourite book this is too. But you're right, they were teenage boys or a bit older when they first read it. Age is a real factor where this one is concerned. When you're much older, as we are, its faults are really obvious. I think too we're less keen to tolerate extreme violence and this book has that in spades. I'm glad I've read this but am pretty sure I won't be reading every book he's written.
I read this shortly after it came out and loved it. I should read it again and see how it holds up for me; I'll probably be struck now by the same things that you've mentioned here.

However, the one thing you should know about Card (and please forgive me if you already know this, but it didn't sound as if you did) is that he's a Mormon. And not just a Mormon, but a very conservative one. Women have one primary function, baby making, and everything else must be secondary. IMO, his greatest failing as a writer is his apparent inability to hide his personal feelings on this subject in his work. It's not blatant in his older work, but as societal norms have changed, he's apparently become more strident about it in his fiction. I say "apparently" because I haven't read any of his new stuff in years. Oh and he's very anti-gay, too.

But I think you'll like Speaker for the Dead a great deal. IMO, it's the best one in the series.
I feel really stupid because yes, I did know Card was a Mormon funnily enough. I just didn't make the connection between his Mormon beliefs and the treatment of girls in this book. I *should* have because near the beginning there's a bit where he's talking about families having to limit their size and it's very clear that he, the author, does not approve of such things. To tell the truth, several times I nearly threw the book across the room so, although I certainly plan to read Speaker for the Dead, I doubt I'll be seeking out *all* of his books.
I read this book in my first year of high school, and I remember being intensely gripped by it. However, I don't think any of Card's other books affected me in the same way (maybe one or two of his short stories?), and I also found that the sequels didn't get close to duplicating that feeling.
I think it definitely is a book that would be most enjoyed by young adults. When you get much older and read it its faults are glaringly obvious. I shall read a few more of his titles with interest.