Orson Scott Card's Ender’s Game
YA science fiction review by J. Anne Huss
(J. Anne has her own site at The Simple Homeschool.)
Ender’s Game is considered a ground breaking science fiction novel and won both the Nebula AND the Hugo awards 1986. Though not specifically a young adult novel, it is often viewed as one because of the point of view and language.
Set in a distant future, the Earth has been at war with the “Buggers”, an insect-like race, for decades. Having survived two previous wars with the buggers, commanders on Earth are deliberately preparing the world’s smartest children for the “final” conflict. Selected children are identified quickly by the use of monitors which allow the adults to understand their intelligence and their psyche, and sent to outer space to train in a place called Battle School.
Ender’s Game starts with 6 year old Ender Wiggin who has been wearing his monitor for several years. Both of his older siblings, Peter and Valentine, were also tested this way, but failed to be chosen. The monitor is the source of all Ender’s Earthly troubles; the kids at school know why he is wearing it and his own brother is violently jealous of the fact that Ender might be the “one”.
Ender inherently understands that he is smart, but his genius is tempered with just the right amount of humility so as to not be evil. Peter was rejected from battle School because the monitor revealed that he was evil, and Valentine for being Peter’s polar opposite, unable to strike the final blow if necessary.
In this future society only two children are allowed per family and it is quickly understood that the only reason Ender was allowed to be born is so that the International Fleet (the army in space) could have another chance at producing the Battle School child they’ve been waiting for; a child that would have the ability to lead them to final victory.
Peter was far too violent and Valentine far too accommodating, but Ender unknowingly proves that he is the “one” by unmercifully beating a bully who attacks him on the way home from school. Unlike Peter, he counters his violence with regret and shame, and it is for this reason that he is chosen.
Ender is singled out to be the only hope for humanity and manipulated into making the “choice” to attend Battle School. This “choice” clearly points out one of several recurring themes in the book; manipulation.
Every child in Ender’s Game is being manipulated by the adults and at the beginning of each chapter, a brief conversation is taking place between two of these manipulating forces. It becomes increasingly clear that many of the emotionally horrific things that happen to Ender Wiggin were not by chance, but rather “tests” so as to properly evaluate him for future duties.
In fact, the entire book is a series of physically and emotionally draining tests, molded into the form of “games” to entice the genius children to play along.
Ender’s real reason for choosing battle School was not really to save the world, but to escape from several things; the increasing violence of his brother and the loneliness of his situation. He longs for “normalcy” and feels he has a chance to start over.
The adults feel otherwise. They know that the only chance Ender has of reaching his full potential is if he is completely isolated from the rest of the group and in a perpetual state of enemy confrontation. Before his little boots can touch the floor of the Battle School station, Ender is already an outcast. He is the youngest child to ever be admitted and he is also the smartest, something the commander points out to the rest of the “chosen” kids while en route.
As expected, he takes it all in stride. Ender Wiggin is already a survivor and he encounters chance after chance to prove himself as he winds his way through the convoluted hierarchy of the School while formulating novel ideas for every possible conflict and situation.
He even becomes the youngest commander in the history of Battle School.
But at what price?
From the very first sentence to the very last, Ender’s Game is one of emotions and manipulation. But who is manipulating who? It is almost impossible to tell!
If you like science fiction, fast action, and numerous twists and turns then Ender’s Game is just the ticket. There are several other books in this series (read a review of the fifth) which deal with Ender and his outcast crew from the Battle School as they face the final confrontation together, and try to simultaneously live as both child and adult.
As a bonus, Orson Scott Card provides literary study questions aimed for young adult readers on his website.
Read more of J. Anne's book reviews.
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