Monday, October 4, 2010

Ender's Game

Author: Orson Scott Card
Edition: 1991
Read: September 2010
226 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

This is my first Orson Scott Card book. I found it to be an engaging, science fiction novel. Story line is that humans have repelled two invasions from a race of “bugs”. The last one was repelled through the intelligence of Mazer Rackham. In preparation for the third invasion, humans have been cultivating very young kids to be the future leadership of the space fleet.

The chosen kids start their education on a battle school, in pace, learning to think in a 0G environment. The book follows Ender Wiggins as he rises from a brilliant 6 year old to master tactician and then to leader. He is promoted to fight the buggers at the young age of eleven.

This is not a deep thinking book, but one which you go along with for the ride and pick up thoughts along the way. You enter into Card's world of kids acting as demons and adults manipulating them., Kids hiding their emotions, actions, from their parents and parents giving away their children.

But there are some interesting ideas which do get talked about. Things like, what does it mean to sacrifice for others, especially for less personal concepts like nation or humanity? Even if you do not have freedom of choice saying that Ender was forced to, but more at that young age, he did not have the maturity to say no. Do we all live within narrow constraints which makes the idea of freedom non-existent? Are all freedoms only illusionary? Can you supersede them based upon need? If so, then is freedom really there? Towards the end of the book Card noted that we are only able to play the rules given to us by society. The best we can do is to be used by good people. But what about the society changers such as King, Gandhi, and Luther? While Card's view is utilitarian and probably true for most of us, it is not true for people like Ender. And towards the end of the book, Ender starts to lay the seeds for a change to society.

When does play stop being play? When is it preparation? When is it work? Or maybe this is the wrong question. Is play really serious business? It prepares us for other things—our future occupations, future circumstances, future interactions. When little kids are trained to command war machines by 11, incurring military discipline is this really play? When we “play” cards, games, …, why do we do these things?

The most troubling thought from this book is that there is no one in the book whom you would describe as being “good”--only manipulating or those being manipulated or both. Very much of a book which picks up the Calvinistic line that there is none good, no not one—Romans 3:23. There is some redemption though. At the end of the book, when the buggers are defeated, Ender starts to understand their civilization, which he destroyed.. He then leads a movement which starts to emulate some of it. The rest of the world follows this lead. Still 95% of the book shows our willingness to destroy each other. The only thing which causes us to cease from our own destruction is when someone else wants to kill us all. Once that threat is gone, we are back to self-destruction.

 While Ender's Game will never be considered great literature and probably in about 50 years will be considered a period piece, it is an entertaining book, one worth reading. At the most base level, it is fun to read about kids playing games. It is also serious and makes you wonder how we exploit children for our own ends. What effect this exploitation has scars the next generation. An example is only the young fight our wars. There are some gross themes worth exploring.

Notes from my book group:
The group pretty much liked the book. It held their interest, unexpectedly since this is a group as a whole is not into science fiction.

Good Quotes:
He could see Bonzo's anger growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender's anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo's was hot, and so it used him. (62)

Wikipedia on Ender's Game
Amazon, including a comment from the author
Spark Notes
The movie from IMDB

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