Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game is not a book my mother would like. I took her to see Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events once, which ended with her leaving the theater mad that I “subjected” her to kids who were in a helpless situation. We didn’t even get to finish the movie, and I was so confused at her reaction. I totally thought of that moment when I read this book, because…well the Bauedelaire children had it easy compared to Ender Wiggin. And to think I almost read this book to my mother. Ha!

Details, Please…
I’ve seen this book referred to as a “military-academy Harry Potter,” but I don’t really see the comparison. Ender gets accepted to Battle School and it’s no Hogwarts with magic, butterbeer and quidditch. Its military boot camp in space with grueling hours, exhaustive exercising, and constant wargaming where the future of the human race depends on how well you play. Almost every situation in Ender’s life is deliberately made worse so that he can learn to think and fend for himself.

As if the name, "Battle School" doesn't imply it's hardcoreness

Not to mention Ender is always picked on for being a “Third”….a third child is extremely rare in this future setting,but Ender’s birth was authorized by the government. He seems to be Earths only hope against an alien race. Did I mention this kid is only six, and by the end of the book he’s only twelve?

“How do I love thee (Ender)? Let me count the ways…”
I love that Ender is a peaceful character forced to make difficult decisions and yet he still maintains his humanity. I love that Ender doesn’t even seem like a child, yet we are constantly reminded of his frailty. I love how he is constantly worried he is turning into his brother Peter (who is a freakin’ psychopath) and he totally isn’t. I love his sweet relationship with his sister, and his immense compassion and empathy. Even when the odds are stacked against him he manages to shine. I love, I love, I love…

Overall
Despite the immense pressure all the children were put through and some of the violence Ender had to deal with, I liked the story. It’s obvious that Mr.Card has an interest in military science. I found myself interested in the battle-simulations and strategy Ender used. I always wondered why Ender’s Game has such a huge following within the military. Now I know it’s supposed to teach critical thinking. So if you like the idea of reading cool battle strategies and don’t want to read Bruce Catton’s three-volume Army of the Potomac then by all means read this. If you get queasy, throw a tantrum and cry at the thought of watching Lemony Snicket’s then you should probably pass.

11 comments

  1. I read this book back in High School and I remember liking it a lot…I actually saw a copy of it recently and wanted to re-read it. Maybe my opinion of it will change now that I’m older…who knows. So are you going to read book 2 and 3?

    1. That would be interesting to see if your opinion changed. Maybe as we get older we lose the ability to view Ender seriously… Lol. I might read Mr. Card’s The Lost Gate before any of the Ender books. Did you read them? Actually I wanted to read the Ender’s Game comic book….it would be neat to see the mock battles drawn out…..

  2. Yes, I read Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide. They were also good, from what I remembered. When I saw Ender’s Game again, I was surprised at how short it was..I thought it was a rather long book at the time. Maybe I’ve just gotten so used to reading the books in the Song of Ice and Fire series that I now consider books with fewer than 500 pages short 😛

  3. I might have to pick this up… I vaguely recall reading one of the sequels, “Ender’s Shadow,” in high school. I don’t really remember it well though. My boyfriend’s been trying to get me to read it for a while now though.

    One question… the thing that I didn’t like about Lemony Snicket was the way that he always ended his books with a negative cliffhanger. Card doesn’t do that, does he?

  4. @ themisanthropologist Anything that isn’t Song of Ice and Fire or David Foster Wallace seems like a piece of cake. Lol

    @ Grace I’ve only read Ender’s Game, and despite the battle theme and some sad mistakes, it ends on a high note. You don’t even have to read the others in the Enderverse, it ends like a standalone novel. 🙂

    @TBM Yeah, it was on my summer list…I don’t usually read Science-Fiction.

  5. This has been on my radar for a while but I never really knew what it is all about. Thanks for this review. I’m not sure I would like it but it does sound interesting. God to know it can be read as a stand alone.

  6. Oh, I have an old copy of this book somewhere in my house. I feel so ignorant…I never knew what this book was actually about even though I hear the title dropped here and there. Glad I stumbled on your review about it!

  7. I had heard so many good things about this book since being in Middle School. I finally decided to read it 15 years later and couldn’t be more disappointed. Aside from being completely derivative of Starship Troopers–which Orson Scott Card claims he’s never read even though the basic plot/story for the book is nearly identical–I found it very unexciting. In fact, I couldn’t understand why people like it so much. Then I realized why after reading this post and comments: it sounds like people like Ender’s Game because of the emphasis on military strategy. I actually found the book very underwhelming in this respect because I read military histories on a regular basis and found Ender’s Game to be “Diet Military History.”

    That said, I love military histories and can see why people who haven’t read about Trafalgar, La Ponto, Leyte Gulf, Tsushima, and Jutland would love it. Ender’s Game would come across as relatively strategy-focused for someone that’s not familiar with military history.

    I’m not trying to “hate on” a book that countless people love; however, I will say that if you like Ender’s Game, the good news is that’s not even the tip of the Ice Berg since there are tons of excellent books about war. Here are some good places to start:
    – Evan Thomas – Sea of Thunder (This tells the story of the evolution of carrier-based naval combat told through the stories of four commanders whose fates meet at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. This reads like a novel, doesn’t require background knowledge of naval tactics, and does require much “heavy lifting.” The level of research is impressive and tells the story equally from Japanese and American perspectives)
    -Roger Crowley – Sea of Empires (This history of nearly a century of naval combat between Europe and the Ottoman Empire is a little dry if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology and general history, but the scale is almost unbelievable by modern standards, and the stakes are high. This is easily the most violent book I’ve ever read)
    -Robert Massie – Castles of Steel (heavy lifting but is extremely comprehensive and doesn’t leave one element of WWI naval combat unturned)
    -Bruce Catton – Stillness at Appomattox (I actually didn’t see an obvious connection between this and Ender’s Game aside from the fact that this was extremely well read when Card was growing up. In fact, I thought this book does a terrible job describing battle tactics and communicating what happened on each battlefield. However, this is a classic. It’s thoroughly researched, extremely objective, and reads like a novel)

    1. Thanks for this awesome response, Corporate Historian. I think you’re right about people liking this book because of the emphasis on military strategy. Plus it was lite enough for me to understand. lol…I’ve never read Starship Troopers, but one of my co-workers said the same thing, so I don’t doubt it. I wonder how coincidental the similarities were. Thank you for your knowledgeable recommendation of military histories, since I don’t know much about them I find this very helpful. Sea of Thunder is probably a good place to start for me 🙂

      1. Hey, you’re the one who had the post to begin with about the subject. I finished Ender’s Game and was mystified at why people love it. Then I reread Catton’s Stillness at Appomattox and was even further confused until I read your post.

        Speaking of which, I’m reading Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs now. It overlaps heavily with Catton’s Stillness at Appomattox, but does a much, much, much better job getting into military strategy. It is probably a better fit for those that loved Ender’s Game that Stillness at Appomattox, which I thought was excellent as an objective history but was lacking when it came to analysis of military strategy and tactics.

        Grant’s writing is not only clear and simple; his memoirs were edited by Mark Twain, and you get to see inside the head of the great general that revolutionized battlefield logistics and supply lines. He delves into ways to create natural flanks, coordinating attacks in order to take on stronger opposition, detaching military units in different directions to spread out the enemy (like the spread offense in football), clear communication that has either no room for interpretation or lots of room for interpretation to handle different battle situations, etc…

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