Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card : Review

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.

But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military’s purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine’s abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is one of those books that I’ve been telling myself I was going to read for years now and then choosing not to actually read every time I’m looking for something new. This is one of those books that I’ve been told over and over again how good it is and how much I’ll enjoy reading it so I was honestly a bit hesitant to every actually try as I can’t help but feel like it’s been overhyped for me. But when I received one of Tor’s new miniature hardback editions in the mail a couple weeks ago I decided it was finally time to give it a try and I have to say my feelings on it have been pretty mixed.

This has been one of those books that I both loved and hated at the same time and I’ve been struggling to say why for the past few days now, but I finally think I’ve got it narrowed down some. First, I thought the whole concept behind the book was just fantastic and I loved how well-written it was, but at the same time, I felt like Orson Scott Card took every available YA and science fiction trope and stuck them in the book. I also thought Ender Wiggin was a great character and I loved watching him mature and grow as a person and as a leader as the story progressed, but I didn’t really enjoy any of those other characters. I found the majority of them to be pretty flat and two-dimensional in comparison and felt like they were just there to fill up some background space.

I can easily point out what I think the best part of Ender’s Game is and that’s how it seems like it was written to pave the way for an even greater story. I may have had my issues with parts of the book but in the end, I wanted nothing more than to know what was going to happen next with Ender Wiggin and was actually disappointed when the book was over. I barely made it through half the book before I was ordering the next book in the series and by the time I finished I knew that I was going to buy the rest of them all, despite my feelings on the characters and everything else. This is not a series where you can just read the first book and then walk away without having to know what happens next.

While this may not have been my favorite book I did enjoy it and I do understand that a lot of the tropes I found and disliked in the book are probably popular and used so often today because of Ender’s Game. I will definitely recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, though I don’t imagine there are as many science fiction and fantasy readers who have skipped all the classics like I have. Now it’s time for me to go out and rent the movie I’ve been refusing to watch for the past few years just so I can spend the next few days talking complaining about what it got wrong and how much better the book was.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


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  • Jane Ryder

    And I’ve added Scalzi’s Old Man’s War to my list. :)

    Have I asked you if you’ve ever read The Enemy Papers? It’s several decades old, but still one of my favorite books of all time, in any genre.

  • Jane Ryder

    I might give it an 8 rather than a 7.5, but otherwise I entirely agree with you, Shane. I hadn’t read the book until a few years ago, and I found it hard to put down once I’d picked it up. But yeah, mainly it was because Ender’s story, specifically, was fascinating. Everything else just kind of fell away.

    BUT, Speaker for the Dead is a better book. It’s just as riveting — though it also gets a little lackluster when it wanders from the main plot — and the ideas and philosophy behind it are fascinating. Speaker for the Dead is in my all-time top five SF novels, right up there with The Enemy Papers, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Hyperion.

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