“Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf.”
This classic of science-fiction is a great example of how suspension of belief might be important to enjoy a story. Many end up disliking the book because they can’t do that, they cannot abstract themselves from our world, our rules. That’s all right. But when I read science-fiction, or fantasy, I assume that suspension of belief is a necessary part of the reading process, in varying degrees.
Therefore I enjoyed Ender’s Game. More than I was expecting, actually. It’s a story about war, leadership, sacrifice, and power, but friendship and empathy too, although the way it goes about all that is what causes so much controversy. Ender is six when the book starts, after all, and the main plot accompanies him for about five years. He’s just a child, and yet he’s being trained to be a soldier, the soldier. A leader to command the entire human fleet against the alien threat. But this is not treated lightly, and that’s the point. There is enough inherent criticism about this behaviour, and sometimes it comes from the actual characters that are enforcing it. It’s precisely the theme of the book: how far are you willing to go for the sake of the entire human race?
“They have a word for people our age. They call us children and they treat us like mice.”
That was a recurring thought throughout the book: are these characters really children? In age they are, but what about in maturity? Ender is forced to leave his childhood behind. There’s no time for that in the Battle School, and you see that clearly as time goes by. This is a young adult novel, and yet the main character behaves almost like an adult. Yes, he cries and he misses his family, but that soon goes away, and you’re left wondering about the consequences of this system. Because, again, that’s the purpose here. Humanity is at war, and although it’s hard, some sacrifices are necessary. But when is it too much?
“It was a lie, of course, that it wouldn’t hurt a bit. But since adults always said that when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future. Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.”
I was surprised by how open minded and accepting this book could be, though. It has some very political and philosophical passages, and yet they are neither conservative nor super judgmental. I only say this given the controversy Orson Scott Card has created over the past months. He has the right to his opinion as long as he doesn’t hurt anyone (which might not be the case, but I’m not here to talk about that), but this only goes to prove that the author and the book are two separate things. And this book does speak of some important matters, and it makes you think. It has questions about war and the way we handle it, that are as relevant in the context of the book as they are in the real world.
Despite this I still found Ender’s Game an easy read. If you are looking for an action packed space-opera this might not be the book for you, although it has its moments of action. It’s a thoughtful book, which uses these action scenes to support a more philosophical theme. And yet, even if the characters have their own opinions, the narrator doesn’t force them on the reader. We are left to reach our own conclusions, whatever they might be.
“We’re like the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, then eat the little brats alive.”
The ending is especially interesting. The tone is very different from the rest of the book, and it has some surprising twists. In the last 50 pages everything changes, and it makes you reconsider everything you’ve read so far. I wish there were more parts like this, to make up for some of the slower chapters before. Without any spoilers, it is a very nice set up for the following book, Speaker for the Dead.
In short, this book has a very interesting story, even if it does need you to suspend your belief a bit in some cases. It has a diverse cast of characters, with special focus on Ender’s brother and sister, both of whom give you a different perspective of the story in a few chapters, and Colonel Graff and his sarcastic humour and dedication to the cause despite everything. The writing might not be the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s easy to read and it has a quick flow. It makes you think, even if you don’t agree with everything on the book.
Isn’t that what matters in the end? A thoughtful and good story that makes it worth your while. This book does just that, and so it gets my recommendation.
“I’m crazy,” said Ender. “But I think I’m OK.”
THERE IS NO TEACHER BUT THE ENEMY…
Ender Wiggin is battle school’s latest recruit. His teachers reckon he could become a great leader. And they need one.
A vast alien force is headed for Earth, its mission: the annihilation of all human life.
Ender could be our only hope.
But first he must survive the most brutal military training program in the galaxy…