Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ender's Game Review

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card



Yeah, so I jumped on this bandwagon pretttttty late.

So I'm flipping through Kirkus...or Library Journal...one of those, and there's this advert for Ender's Game "A NEW MOTION PICTURE COMING NOVEMBER 2013" and I'm like "DAMMIT, I still haven't gotten around to reading it." So I promptly grabbed the library's copy because once the movie gets really hyped up (they've already re-released the books with movie-covers, ugh)  library copies are going to be scarcer and scarce.

Holy crap.

Why did I not read this sooner? Specifically, when I was in high school. Not that I didn't love it, because I absolutely did, but because this is JUST the sort of thing I would have DEVOURED as a teenager and if I could go back in time and give fifteen-year-old me one piece of advice it would be to go and read Ender's Game already.

So, for those who are like me and have somehow managed to bop through life ignorant of the 11-book saga that's been around longer than me, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is a six-year-old genius who is whisked up to a Battle School in the sky where they train other child-geniuses, though none as genius as Ender, in the ways of strategy and tactics and less-than-friendly competition, via a series of increasingly difficult "games". All this is in an effort to train the next crop of brilliant commanders in hopes of finding one brilliant enough to defeat a dangerous alien race referred to only as "buggers", who nearly wiped out the human race and was only very narrowly defeated. Between this and Heinlein's Starship Troopers, you'd think giant bug aliens had a vendetta against us for some reason.

 I'm not sure if Ender's Game was considered a YA novel when it first came out...I know the YA genre wasn't quite the same as it was in the 80s as it is now, though I think that's when when the genre started to pick up...If anyone who has extensively studied the history of YA cares to comment, please do. Regardless, Card manages to achieve that balance of accessibility to young people with mature writing. Not that I'm bashing all teen novels that have come out recently, but you can definitely tell there's a stylistic gap between books written for teens and books written for adults. With Ender's Game, the tone and the language come off as more adult, while not necessarily being written at exclusively an adult level.

Plot-wise, the book is well-formed. And while it initially seems like your typical "us vs them", by the end, Card really elevated the story beyond the black and white, and introduced a vast gray area that adds greater depth to the idea of warfare. I suppose the only thing is that all the kids seem to talk like adults (or at least much older kids), but I suppose we can give a pass for that, seeing as they're supposed to be geniuses.

Admittedly, there are some things that didn't sit quite so well with me, such as this passing comment on women:
"A few girls. They don't often pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them." 
What the hell is that supposed mean? I'd say it's more like too many centuries of discrimination and social repression (Though it looks like they might be changing that in the film?).  But at least Petra and Valentine are pretty awesome characters.

Then there's Card's anti-gay thing, which doesn't reflect on the book so much as my opinion of Card  because as much as I want to respect him as a writer, it's really hard for me to respect bigots (and as a contemporary writer, you can't really use the "product of his times" defense). The important thing, I suppose, is that it doesn't really come out in the book (at least not to me, anyone think otherwise?).

 Overall, a really great read. I'll probably pick up the rest of the series at some point, but for now:
4.5/5 Fancies.

Read-a-Likes: Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein


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