I must confess that I saw the movie version of this story before I read the book. It was on TV one night, but we didn’t see all of it, so we got it out from the library and watched again a few days later. It was quite good, and that got me wanting to read the book. Hence this review.
And let me tell you, the book was amazing. So let’s get to it!
Information for Readers
Genre: Science fiction/psychological
Age level: I’d say older teens and adults for the intensity.
Content? Because of the subject matter, there’s a lot of violence and death. Ender gets pretty traumatized eventually. There’s also a fair bit of swearing and occasional mentions of private parts. I’d rate the book PG-13.
The Story: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a brilliant six-year-old boy, is recruited for Battle School by the International Fleet. They need someone to defeat the “buggers,” insect-like aliens that have invaded Earth twice trying to colonize, and their best hope is in gifted children like Ender. Once at Battle School, Ender finds both friends and enemies, especially when he excels far past the norm for his age. His prowess in fighting, both mock and real, leaves him tortured, struggling not to be like his tyrannical brother Peter.
This was an excellent story. The premise was just fascinating, and Card did as much with it as he possibly could have. I also really liked the ending, how it wrapped everything up from earlier in the book. It was just a really well-done plot.
The Characters: They were excellent, beautifully written. I thought it was great how they all had goals: Colonel Graff, trying to save Earth and take care of Ender at the same time; Peter, trying to take over the world by influencing ideas on the nets; and Ender, trying to survive and, eventually, to make the IF stop manipulating him. These were just a few examples; all the characters were really well developed and interesting. Ender was my favorite, though I also liked the few scenes spent with Valentine, and the dialogue from Graff at the beginning of each chapter. I really appreciated Ender’s struggle to not become his brother and to cope with the things he’d done as he got older.
The Writing: So this book was published in 1977, almost forty years ago, and I’m not sure they had the same ideas about point-of-view and such then as we do now. It seemed like a book written in omniscient to me; usually, each scene was spent looking into one character’s mind (with a few exceptions), usually Ender, but occasionally the narrator would drop in warnings that something was going to happen and Ender didn’t know about it. There was also a lot of telling, which actually worked for the omniscient-ish POV, and it did go alongside showing things through Ender’s experiences.
The worldbuilding was excellent; it felt very futuristic with the artificial gravity of Battle School (according to my physics professor, that’s scientifically accurate, too) and the video games on portable “desks.” One thing I found interesting was that, in Card’s future society, the Warsaw Pact still exists as a powerful faction, although Earth is allied under a global Hegemony. This leads to some friction later on, driven by Ender’s siblings, which is an interesting subplot. It was great how Card never overexplained anything about the worldbuilding; instead, he just let the reader be immersed in the world. I really liked it.
One more thing bears mentioning in this section: the themes. I was on the hunt for themes as I read this book, and I found so many. Childhood, war, guilt, forgiveness, power, ends justifying means, friendship, and love, and there are probably more that I could find if I re-read the book. The complexity, the many layers and levels of this story make it ripe with themes, with thoughts on life and humanity. I really loved the literary depth of it.
Overall: Ender’s Game is a fantastic book. The premise is fascinating, the characters compelling, the writing complex and deep. It’s a really magnificent work of fiction. Highly recommended!
What do you think? Have you ever read Ender’s Game? Would you like to? Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it (either one)? Tell me in the comments!