Home > Genre, scifi, YA > Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Humanity survived the second Bugger invasion by pure luck.  Now they’re determined to be prepared for a third invasion and actively train children in Battle School, seeking the child who could be the commander to save humanity.  They think Ender, with his ability to perceive and understand null gravity spaces, just might be that commander, but Ender isn’t so sure.

Card has created a rich, complex, entirely believable future where individual sacrifice is vital to the survival of the human species.  This goal makes the adults’ treatment of the children in Battle School justifiable and allows Card to create a story where children are simultaneously treated as adults and misled by them.  Adults will recognize the feeling of being pawns to those in control of society.  Children and young adults will appreciate that the children characters are treated as adults in smaller bodies.  It’s a fun narrative set-up.

The world-building is excellent.  The complex scenes of the Battle School, Battle Room, and videogames the children play are all so clearly drawn that the reader truly feels as if she is there.  Readers who also enjoy videogames will particularly enjoy the multiple videogame sequences in which the narrative action switches focus to the videogame.  This isn’t just for fun, either.  It’s an important feature that comes to play later in the book.    In fact, it’s really nice to see videogaming being featured in a future as something important to society and not just recreational.  It’s a logical choice to make in scifi too, as the military is moving increasingly toward using weapons that are manned by soldiers behind the lines with videogame-like controls.

These fantastic scenes are all set against a well-thought-out human society reaction to multiple alien invasions.  In spite of the threat of a third invasion, there is still violent nationalism brewing under the surface.  Politicians must worry about their image.  Dissenting voices can be heard on the internet.  The teachers of the Battle School must worry about the retributions for their actions, even as they make the choices that will hopefully save humanity.  The people in this future are still people.  They act in the sometimes stupid and sometimes brilliant ways people act.  They don’t miraculously become super-human in the face of an alien threat.  I really enjoyed this narrative choice, as I get really sick of the super-human trope often found in scifi.

The ending….I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make up my mind on how I feel about the ending.  I definitely didn’t guess it ahead of time, which is a nice change, but I can’t decide how I feel about it.  The fact is, I liked part of it, and I didn’t like another part of it.  I think I may have found the ultimate message a bit too idealistic, and Ender too gullible.

*spoiler warning*
Here’s the thing.  The Bugger queen claims that the Buggers didn’t know that humans were sentient creatures, and Ender believes her, but I call bullshit.  Humans and Buggers built cities that were similar enough so that humans could live in Bugger buildings.  In spite of being drastically different from an evolutionary stand-point, it’s still obvious that humans were sentient enough to build cities and spaceships.  That should have been a warning sign.  So ultimately, I view the queen larva and message to Ender as a last-ditch effort to come back from the brink of extinction and beat humanity, and Ender fell for it.  Of course I don’t want to argue for the extinction of an entire species.  I’m a vegetarian.  I’m pretty much against the killing of species of any kind, but the fact remains that the Buggers attacked humans twice.  What were they supposed to do?  Sit back and let themselves get wiped out?  I’m not one of these nutters who says don’t kill the polar bear attacking you, and in this case, the polar bear had already attacked twice.  I like the message of a possible peaceful coexistence, but I don’t think it was very realistic in that world, and I was left feeling that Ender didn’t really learn anything from his experience. 
end spoilers*

Overall, however, Card has achieved near perfection in telling a unique, scifi story.  The world is entrancing and draws the reader in, and the reader is left with multiple philosophical questions to ponder long after finishing reading the book.  It is a book I definitely plan on re-reading, and I highly recommend it to scifi and videogaming fans.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

Buy It

  1. September 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I actually remember loving the ending here; I’m not sure if that makes me more idealistic than you! I just found it to be so completely powerful; the whole book was amazing. I definitely plan on rereading it too. I haven’t yet ventured into the rest of the series but it is something I really should try.

    • September 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

      Haha, well if there’s one thing I am, it’s pessimistic, so that probably definitely impacts the reading of the ending.

  2. September 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I love this book. The rest of the series, while even more complex, were sort of meh for me. I think because they didn’t focus on one character as much, and Ender is one of my favorite characters ever.

    • September 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

      I’ve heard the rest of the series is rather disappointing, so I’m trying to decide if I want to read it or just leave it at this, since I found this book by itself so satisfying.

  3. September 22, 2010 at 9:32 am

    I read this book years ago and I loved it! One high school English teacher recommended it and another put it down, saying that it wasn’t literary enough to mention on an AP exam, lol. I’ve actually been thinking about rereading it lately so thanks for reminding me!

    • September 23, 2010 at 7:40 am

      My pleasure, Jennifer!

  4. ano
    December 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    about sentience…

    try Peter Watts’ Blindsight, which the author makes available at http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm.

    Some hard SF, original ideas, like the relation between intelligence and consciousness.

  1. December 30, 2010 at 1:08 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: