Escape into Science Fiction

A Review of Ender’s Game (SPOILER ALERT!!)

“Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself.”

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

I am a little ashamed to admit that Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has been on my “to read” list for more than a decade.  Now, you have to understand, my “to read” list is really more like a “to read” library – thousands of books, figuratively stacked together according to genre, filling up rows of shelves, each of which I hope to explore eventually.  Naturally, in pursuit of degrees and a career, I have delved into certain shelves more frequently than others – 18th and 19th century British novels, Shakespeare, Chaucer, etc.  Other shelves have been more or less neglected, and science fiction is a loss I feel most acutely. As a huge fan of sci-fi movies and TV shows, it is about time that I engage with the plethora of acclaimed texts in this genre.  Ender’s Game begins my exploration into the world of sci-fi literature, and I could not have started at a better place. I decided it was high time I actually checked this book off my list when I saw the preview for the upcoming film. What was I waiting for?!?

My favorite aspect of Card’s novel is his elaborate description of the battle sequences within the game.  While I enjoy action films on occasion, I have never particularly sought out books with extensive accounts of battles, action scenes, etc.  Girly to the core, this is not my idea of relaxing reading.  However, Card’s vivid imagery and extremely visual depictions of movement enthralled me in these chapters.  I had no difficulty seeing the battle rooms through Ender’s eyes.  The brilliance and intuition that makes this character victorious also gives the reader a sensory awareness of the dangerous world that surrounds him – we can see, hear, feel (and yes, occasionally smell and taste) everything that Ender encounters.  This effectiveness of description alone makes this novel well worth reading.

I also became quite attached to the protagonist of the novel, Ender Wiggin.  Through young Ender, Card portrays the life of hero as lonely, conflicting, painful, and frequently unrewarding.  Although Ender is blessed with gifts that allow him to stand out amongst his peers, these gifts weigh on him like a curse in the hands of the adult world.  Ender’s experience rings true when the audience takes time to consider the honorable plight of great leaders in times of peril.  As Mazer delineates, “Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf.”  The reader comes to understand that Ender’s gifts, like all of our individual gifts, bear with them a burden of responsibility.  Will we use our gifts to better the world, or will we squander them amidst selfish desires?  In following, if we choose to use our gifts for the betterment of humanity, how do we know what truly puts those gifts to the best use?  What I struggled with the most in this novel (and maybe it is just a maternal instinct) was that Ender was forced into answering these questions as a child – and in the process he was being deceived by the adult world around him.  It continually broke my heart that due to his gifts and experience, Ender’s only clear understanding of the adult world was that “sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.”  While this was heart-wrenching, even making my hands clench in a defensive rage as I read (I want to protect that child from the evils of adulthood!), I applaud Card for his realistic portrayal of human folly in times of crisis.  Thankfully, Ender himself restores our faith in human morality as he moves on to be the “Speaker for the Dead,” a twist that I did not see coming.  Card’s ending not only provides a kind of redemption, in light of the extremity of human vice seen throughout Ender’s youth, but it helps this novel stand out from the majority of “humans vs. aliens” stories, with an in-depth look at the motives of the alien other.

This is a novel that I highly recommend!  Check it out before you see the movie!

My Current Reading List

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Possession by A.S. Byatt

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Speaker for the Dead (Ender’s Saga) by Orson Scott Card

Starlighter by Brian Davis

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers

gods at war by Kyle Idleman

The Bible (currently in Job)

What are you reading?  I would love suggestions to add to my list!

Ever Curiouser,

Alice

The Quiet Places in Wonderland

I desperately want to be one of those people that actually sets aside time for tea every afternoon – not just drinking a cup in the midst of grading papers, monitoring make-up tests, and painstakingly facilitating extracurricular clubs – tea is a NECESSARY addition to those activities.  No, I mean actually setting aside a time of quiet and solace in which tea can be sipped out of china tea cups, accompanied by delicate savories and sweets artistically arranged on coordinating serving pieces.  Ooohhhh…do you see the dream?

Unfortunately, occasions that allow indulgence in such a ritual are few and far between.  Even during the summer, when it would seem that abundant time for such activities could be found in the absence of my classroom, I find that those moments seem to run from me.  After surviving the gauntlet of graduation with my seniors, I am always compelled by my “YES” nature to dive into all social, educational, and recreational activities suggested by those I hold dear.  Not that I mind these engagements; I truly believe that without such social distractions I would become overwhelmingly bored, and thereby fall into a bout of depression.  But I covet those moments of rest, solace, privacy – seconds in which I can breathe deep and disappear, completely caught up in a time and place of which no other human is a part.  

I found one today – the first of this summer, and I am in awe.  Solitary exercise, tea, classical music, a bright kitchen alcove, my Bible, a few pages of a novel, more tea, and my journal have filled this blissful morning.  I feel alive, awake, small and large at the same time – all alone in this quiet corner of life. I know I am only here for a moment, so I will savor it…and wonder, with a secret smile and flutter in my heart, when the next one will come.

What is your place of solace?

Ever Curiouser,

Alice

Allusions to Shakespeare:

A Review of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves…”

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

The thing that impresses me most about John Green is his assumption that young adults are intelligent.  His writing reveals a distinct belief that YAs can comprehend complex sentences.  They can appreciate irony.  They can follow (and participate in) philosophical discourse.  Even more amazing – Green assumes that they have access to (and will use) a dictionary upon encountering new vocabulary.  Writers like John Green give me hope for the intellectual future of our youth.

Perhaps due to my taste for the classics, I am constantly frustrated by the lack of vocabulary, syntax, and complexity of thought in most of the YA fiction decorating the shelves of bookstores.  As I peruse the books that my students read in their free time, I am frequently disappointed not only in the caliber of composition but in the lack of character development, plot depth, theme, and allusion.  I often wonder, is there some lie plaguing the masses of authors out there that young people will not read books that stretch the mind?  Furthermore, if this lie is circulating, one must ask, do we really want to set the literary bar so low that even the weakest readers have no need to strengthen their skills of comprehension?  Based on The Fault in Our Stars, John Green says “No!”

I was introduced to Green’s work by a stellar group of students.  After weeks of effort on their part trying to pull me into “nerdfighteria,” I realized he deserved my attention — after all, I have never had a group of students so excited to read Julius Caesar, and due solely to a single line alluded to in a modern text.  Yes, I needed to show some gratitude.  So, I gave in and watched Green’s “Crash Course: How and Why We Read” on youtube.  I nearly cried…he expressed what I try to get across to my students every day, and while my words frequently seem to be “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” he clearly and effectively got the point across in only 7 minutes – and made me laugh to boot!  Thus, a nerdfighter was born, and I eagerly set out to read his most recent novel.

Having viewed numerous episodes of “Crash Course” by the time I purchased the book, I expected the same intelligence and witty discourse in Green’s fiction, and The Fault in Our Stars does not disappoint.  Green’s style is memorable not only because of the artistry in his composition – he is quite quotable – but due to the strength and honesty of his characters.  Hazel, the protagonist of TFIOS is candid, sarcastic, and undeniably charming, as is her love interest, Augustus.  I was overjoyed to find both characters dazzlingly eloquent, astute, and vocal about their mutual appreciation of these qualities in each other. (As a teacher, characters that present intellect as a desirable attribute in friends and/or significant others automatically gain my esteem!) Hazel’s voice is crisp, honest, beautiful, and poignant.  She carries the heart of the reader throughout the text, making Green’s craft in her creation completely successful. While I found this novel to be heartbreaking in many ways, due to both the obvious plot and the spiritual conclusions of some characters, I believe this novel provides the opportunity for fantastic discussion, regarding both the craft of writing and difficult life issues (grief, love, honor, sacrifice, etc.).  I am eager to read Green’s earlier work, and look forward to his future publications.

Please share: What are you reading?  Any suggestions for books to add to my reading list?

Ever Curiouser,

Alice

The Indecisive Bookworm

I am not a “one book” person.  This necessitates explanation:

I love to read, and I do not use the word “love” lightly.  I have an emotional relationship with my books – I get overly attached to the language, characters, settings, etc.  My tendency to plunge deeply into texts led me to study literature in college and grad school.  Six years of tearing texts apart to uncover the vast depths of lexical artistry has left me incapable of simply “reading a book.”  I dig, claw, and burrow into books.  I plummet, sink, and melt into their pages.  Because of this, and the fact that my personal emotional state can vary greatly from moment to moment, I keep an assortment of books on hand.  I jump between romances, mysteries, historical fiction, classics, sci-fi, etc. depending on my mood.  I usually bounce between 6 and 10 books at one time: 3-4 purely for pleasure, 2-3 for teaching, and 2-3 for spiritual growth.

All that to say that my reading list on any given day will look something like this:

Current Reading List:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (finished today – review coming soon!)

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

An Arthurian Reader edited by John Matthews

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

That I May Know Him by Kay Arthur

My Upmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Bible (currently in Philippians)

One of the primary purposes of my blog is to actively engage with literature.  I do this in my classes and, of course, in my mind on a daily basis; however, I miss writing about literature.  I miss sharing ideas outside of the classroom.  So, as I endeavor to compose some thoughts, however simple or complex, on the myriad of texts at my fingertips, please – if you’re reading this – share with me.  What are you reading?  Why do you love/hate/tolerate it?  How has it become a part of you?

Ever Curiouser,

Alice

The Beginning

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

There is nothing quite so frightening as a beginning; nor is there anything quite so exhilarating. After finding myself at a loss (for months) concerning how to begin this plunge into the blogosphere, I choose now to cling to the text which inspires many of my creative musings – Alice in Wonderland – and ask myself, 
“Who are you?” 

I see this question provoke fury, terror, and confusion in the eyes of my students on a regular basis, especially those applying to college.  I lean more toward confusion – how does one answer this question?  Following some guidance from a beloved university’s admission application, I will begin with a top 10 list in order to provide some insight into my interests as well as some of the key focal points for this blog.

Alice’s Top 10


1. London – This incandescent city was the setting of my transition from adolescence to adulthood. The parks, the art, the theater, the history – my world widened with each new day. I left a part of my heart in London, and I know it will be ever calling me back.


2. A Tale of Two Cities – “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Sydney Carton loves as we all should – sacrificially. Because of this, and regardless of the fact that this story centers on a bloody revolution, Dickens’ novel appeals to my feminine sensibilities in a dramatic way. I fall in love every time – with the writing, the characters, the redemption. Read it, and you’ll understand.  Did I mention that one of the title cities is London?

3. Tea – A product of my London experience, both the substance and ceremony of tea have become one of the greatest pleasures in my adult life. Tea can revitalize, relax, cleanse, and heal. The act of tea extends friendship, provides comfort, evokes delight, and demonstrates artistry. 

4. C. S. Lewis – The works of this phenomenal scholar have helped me ask the right questions, seek a life beyond my own desires, and understand the love and sacrifice of my Creator and Savior. Some favorites: Mere ChristianityThe Problem of PainTill We Have FacesPerelandra.

5. Dresses – I adore femininity. By the way, if you don’t already know, dresses are far more comfortable than pants.  They account for 90+ percent of my wardrobe.

6. Wonderland – Obviously, the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll mesmerizes my adventure-loving mind. I relish all things curiouser and curiouser!

7. Vintage – Old furniture, family heirlooms, leather-bound books, antique jewelry, period clothes…my tastes definitely lie in the past.

8. Jane Austen – A reciprocal influence with regard to my passion for femininity, Jane Austen is my go-to reading material.  My favorite books are Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility.  I love the BBC films as well (Masterpiece Classic is a runner-up for my top 10 list).

9. Cinnamon – Filled with warmth and subtle sweetness, this spice is a necessity in my favorite recipes and central to almost all of my cravings.

10. Libraries – Obviously the home of many of my top 10, I too am at home in a library – reveling in the smell of old books, discovering hidden reading nooks, basking in the wonders of other worlds. I spent 6 years working in university libraries, and I greatly esteem the preservation of literature and history that is being so quickly forgotten outside of their walls. 

Well, there is the beginning.  Time to see where the rabbit hole leads… 

Ever Curiouser, 
Alice