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A Review of Ender’s Game

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 14, 2013

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have some mixed feelings about Ender’s Game, but mostly negative ones. Of course, I’d heard of the book for years — after all, it’s won some major awards and is about to be released as a major movie — but only now got around to reading it. I’ve also heard the Marines use this book in their classes. If so, I’m sorry.

The world we read about is one that has fought two wars with “The Buggers” (Starship Troopers anyone?), winning the second one through the seemingly amazing strategies of one Mazer Rackham, who saved the earth 60 years ago. And ever since, the world governments have been preparing for a third war. To do this, they take child geniuses at — get this — age 6 and train them for years in the Battle School, somewhere in outer space. Ender Wiggin is one of three genius siblings chosen for this school. So begins the problems. First, character development. These characters are one dimensional and we never see them progress, even as they age and allegedly mature. It’s sad. Two, the children sure don’t act and think like 6 year old children. They think like adults — mature adults. Witness Ender’s thoughts from page 77: “Instinctively, Ender’s perception of these events changed. It was a pattern, a ritual. Madrid was not trying to hurt him, merely taking control of a surprising event and using it to strengthen control of his army.” Seriously? Those are the thoughts and perceptions of a 6 year old? It just doesn’t seem realistic. Third, Ender is God. Honestly, he never loses a battle as he and his army play laser tag is a zero gravity battle zone. He’s incapable of losing, no matter how much the evil adult teachers rig the games to beat him. There’s also an RPG Ender plays relentlessly that annoyed me in its idiocy. Its role comes into play toward the end of the book, but by that time, events are so unbelievable, it’s hard to take seriously. Fourth, Ender’s siblings, the evil Peter and wishy washy Valentine, decide at ages 12 and 10 to take over the world by … blogging. I’m not kidding. To give Card credit, this book was published in the 1980s based on a story of his from the ’70s, so it was genius to foresee blogging, but honestly, to have two children take over the world by blogging really stretches the imagination. Meanwhile, the emotionless killer known as Ender is promoted to Command School years early because he’s done so well in Battle School. Bear in mind, this whole time I’m skeptical as to whether there’s even going to be another Bugger attack. It’s been 60 years. And they’re treating Ender as if he’s the only one who can save the world. He’s the Savior. That’s a lot of pressure for a little kid and they try to break him even as they build him up. The games he plays at Command School aren’t much more interesting than those at Battle School, which become pretty redundant, but there’s a major plot surprise toward the end of the book involving these games, so I won’t give it away. There’s also a major plot surprise involving Mazer, which is sort of interesting. But Card ultimately can’t even develop Mazer as a character. Poor writing. The final pages were completely unbelievable to me as Ender travels the universe as Speaker for the Dead, giving Card ample opportunity to write the sequel that follows. At no point are we told how these child geniuses manifest themselves as geniuses, their origins, their growth. Ender whines some, is ruthless often, although in self defense as he perceives it, and cannot lose. Simply unbelievable. I know many people love this book, and I do have to admit that after a slow first half, it did pick up for me and I rushed to reach the end — which I didn’t like. It’s rather abrupt. I have a hard time picturing the Marines learning much valuable from this book, and while I may go see the movie to see how much they “Hollywood” it up, I’m not going to read the sequel. I’m glad I finally read this so-called classic, but it’s the only time I will. I might give it away now. Not recommended.

View all my reviews

4 Responses to “A Review of Ender’s Game”

  1. I couldn’t agree more — unsure why this is considered such a classic. I think what really bugs me is the fact that Ender kills that kid (Stinson?) in the beginning of the novel “accidentally.” AND never has to deal with the ramifications of his deed — I have the feeling that Card wants us to seem him as innocent. Rather, he’s a disturbing individual who resorts to violence — which is why the military narrows in on him as a perfect candidate for their program.

    Like

  2. I must admit that I enjoyed this novel and fully intend to see the movie when it comes out. That said, I do agree with several of your points. Ender’s complete and utter infallibility got annoying at times, and the subplot involving his siblings wasn’t really needed.

    It’s worth noting that Card actually wrote the sequel novel first and wrote this one largely to provide to provide set-up, which is why it ends the way it does. That doesn’t make the ending feel any less out of place, however.

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