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!