Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Series: Ender's Saga #1
Genre: YA, science fiction
Published on January 1, 1985
Published by Tor Books
Pages: 256
Read From: 6.8.13 - 6.9.13

Andrew "Ender" Wiggin isn't just playing games at Battle School; he and the other children are being tested and trained for war. Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in its struggle against an alien enemy that seeks to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever-harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast. 

But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest raging for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender's two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncomfortably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military's purpose, but they are driven by their jealousy of Ender and their drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine's abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike through powerfully convincing essays. 
Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth - an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I'm not really into hardcore science fiction, so the cover doesn't do anything for me personally. A little too dated and too boring.

Characters: I loved Ender Wiggin. He was a sympathetic protagonist, smart, quiet, refused to be a victim, and aware of his own abilities without being pretentious. Ender hates to hurt people, and he would rather they left him alone, because even in self-defense he doesn't like to beat people to a pulp. It reminds him too much of his sadistic older brother, Peter - the last person in the world Ender ever wants to resemble. The various bullies Ender runs into through the course of his training are all equally horrible, and his few allies easy to like, though I wish I had had more time to get to know them. Ender's sister Valentine had no backbone, and though I understood her survival instinct, I wished she would stand up for herself more. Meanwhile, Ender's older brother Peter was downright creepy. Torturing small animals and threatening daily to kill his siblings (not at all in a joking manner), Peter was the perfect guy to become a future dictator and psychopath. Unfortunately, in the end none of these characters could save the story in my eyes.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: I am not even going to try and write my own summary; the official one above does a far better job than I ever would. Why? Well, because I was so lost in the world of Ender's Game that I couldn't even begin to figure out how to piece together this story's plot in a coherent and intriguing fashion. The Author's world building was, quite frankly, downright awful. He had a great concept, but he failed to flesh the world out. That it is futuristic there is no doubt; that it takes place on Earth, and then space, that is also made clear. But everything else - the scenery, how things look and work - is all left to the Reader to decide. It left me completely confused and frustrated. Setting that aside for a minute, the plot's pacing was painfully slow. I would have enjoyed reading about Ender's training if it had been even vaguely interesting! But he spends all his time at computer games (which, by the way, I never could figure out if they were virtual reality or arcade games; I kept picturing arcades), zipping around in a zero-gravity room, showering, sleeping (when the teachers weren't depriving him of sleep, that is), showering some more, and combating jealous bullies. Once Ender leaves Battle School and goes to Commander School, I thought, "Yes! This is it! Now we'll get some action and aliens!" Um . . . no. We get more computer games - this time in the form of a simulator. And no aliens. That may in fact be the book's second biggest fault: the astounding lack of aliens for a - well, for a sci-fi book about alien invasion! When we aren't being subjected to Ender's rigorous training mantra, we got to follow along Peter's plan to take over the government. Exciting, right? Well, I'm going to reserve my opinion on this for the conclusion.

Believability: Not really applicable. Except one thing: why did they need kids? Why did they start training soldiers so early? I can understand them wanting to snatch Ender up early, but everyone else? Didn't quite make sense. It almost seemed that the Author made them kids just to make the training seem somehow harsher.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. And less than impressive. As I briefly mentioned in the plot, the Author fails to describe his world. Heck, we don't even get a proper description of the Buggers - the aliens - until about 20 pages until the end! He spends plenty of time trying to explain how one's perceptive of direction changes in zero gravity, and that just gets a)boring, and b)confusing. Things like zero gravity are better on a movie screen than in a book. The boys' slang is actually more annoying than the slang in The Maze Runner because it's more of a speech pattern than different words, and it's quite difficult to understand at times. Not to mention that it crops up randomly and for seemingly no reason. A lot of the chapters would begin with a conversation taking place between two people, who largely went unnamed. I think these bits of dialogue were there to supply the Readers a small perspective on what the teachers were doing and why, but it always failed to convey those two very important concepts: what and why.

Content: 3 s-words. A few juvenile genitalia jokes that adolescent boys are inclined to make.

Conclusion: As the pages got fewer and fewer, I began to despair of an alien invasion. Maybe it's in the second book? Probably not. Ender's Game ended where I don't think the Author intended to write any sequels until he saw the success of this one (I don't know this for certain, but that was the impression I got). Peter's plan to take over the government comes to an entirely anticlimactic head: [Spoiler] with Peter's takeover, he heralds the beginning of a peaceful era for Earth. What happened to our animal-torturing psychopath?! What happened to the brewing war on Earth, for that matter?! [End spoiler]. And as for the alien invasion . . . [Major spoiler] In an attempt to create a surprising plot twist, it turns out the simulators Ender was engaging in at Commander School were, in fact, real battles, and his "final test" is the actual Third Invasion. Of course, Ender doesn't discover this until he's won the "final test." [End major spoiler] The story's conclusion left me so completely disappointed and irritated that not even my great affection for Ender himself could redeem it. I could not believe the ending! I felt downright cheated. In short, Ender's Game was not at all what I expected. It let me down in every way except characters. But, that being said, I actually do believe that this will make a much better movie than it did a book. This sort of story needs visuals, and whatever changes the filmmakers have enacted, it can only improve the plot. So, while my opinion of the book is very low indeed, I still have high hopes for the movie. And it had better not fail me like this book did.

Recommended Audience: Guy read all the way, fifteen-and-up, good for hardcore science fiction fans.

Others in the Ender's Saga:
1)Ender's Game
2)Speaker for the Dead
4)Children of the Mind

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