Book Review: Ender’s Game
Title: Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Rating (of 5): ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Year published: 1985
First sentence: “I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.”
That first sentence sounds very Matrix-esque, right? Granted, Ender’s Game came first by twenty or so years, but it does have a similar near-apocalypse-averted-by-chosen-one plot line. The book follows the exploits of Ender Wiggin, a 6-year-old genius who is Earth’s hope for saving mankind from aliens known as “buggers.”
In a world with tight population controls, Ender is a rare “third” or third child, bred specially for the purpose of saving the world. His loving older sister Valentine and his sadistic, bullying older brother Peter were both monitored by military forces known as the International Fleet until it was decided that their genius IQ’s were not combined with the right personality traits to create the right military leader. Thus, the Wiggins family was given special permission to have a third child in hopes that this one would possess the right traits as well as the right IQ to save the world.
When the International Fleet decides that he does have the right traits to be a battle leader, they pluck him out of his home — away from both the loving embraces of Valentine and the evil clutches of Peter — and train him to save the world. In Battle School, the adults seek to isolate him from the other students, advancing him rapidly through the ranks. He quickly becomes adept at commanding 0 G battles and virtual fleets, as well as protecting himself from myriad bullies. But Battle School is essentially just a game … until one day it’s not.
It was an entrancing story and I absolutely loved it. It was shockingly unlike the only other Orson Scott Card book I’ve read, Homebody. But the differences were certainly for the better. It reminded me somewhat of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, albeit with an absurdly young character. And that’s the one gripe I have with this book. At the start of the book, the main character is six years old and by the end he’s only about 12. I have no problem with young characters, and I like a lot of YA novels which, of course, often feature young characters. However, I feel like Ender’s Game just stretches credulity with this.
Actually, it more than stretches credulity. I know this is science fiction, but the basic human stages of childhood and adulthood are basically the same in the world depicted, so it still seems absurd that a 6-year-old — even a genius 6-year-old — acts like this. It’s not his intelligence that I take issue with; he’s a genius, so of course I get that he’s crazy smart. However, I just can’t reconcile his emotional maturity with his age. I can accept that he’s a genius and thus smarter than most adults he encounters, but I have a little bit more difficulty swallowing the emotional maturity. Even his ability to read others and understand human behavior in general is difficult for me to believe, because no matter how smart he is, the fact is that he only has 6 years of experience in analyzing human behavior and interacting with humans.
The age thing certainly didn’t ruin the book for me, though. Whatever Ender’s exact age, the story still snares the reader. I would have preferred if Ender’s age range in the book was something closer to, say, the arc of Harry Potter’s aging throughout the series.
After the finishing the book, I decided to research the details about the upcoming film version so that I could mention it here … but instead I was very disappointed to discover that Orson Scott Card is a bit of a nutter. And not the genial kind of kooky nutter, but the judgmental anti-science asshole kind of nutter. Any one of his bizarre statements I would just see as an oddity; one weird belief does not a nutter make. However, when viewed in as a whole, his beliefs coalesce to form a mountain of insanity. Some of my favorite examples:
1.) Although he later retracted it, in 1990 he said:
“Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”
Maybe just this belief alone doesn’t make Card a complete nutter, but it is at the very least a bit anachronistic at this point in time.
2.) He thinks that Obama is trying to create an American Gestapo out of inner-city gangs:
“Obama will put a thin veneer of training and military structure on urban gangs, and send them out to channel their violence against Obama’s enemies. Instead of doing drive-by shootings in their own neighborhoods, these young thugs will do beatings and murders of people ‘trying to escape’ — people who all seem to be leaders and members of groups that oppose Obama.”
I mean, you don’t have to like Obama, but what dafuq? Yep, this quote alone crosses the line into nutter territory.
3.) He’s implied that 9/11 was necessary:
“George W. Bush did all that he could to prepare to rid the world of Islamic terrorism prior to 9/11; and because of 9/11, he finally got the political support to make it possible to begin the real job.”
4.) He doesn’t believe in global warming:
“That’s what the global-warming protection racket is about: Hey, we can’t prove anything is actually happening, but look how many people we’ve got to agree with us!”
‘Nuff said. I don’t feel like I even need to expand on this. I mean, shit, only 97% of climate scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming. And you know, Orson, just because you write science fiction it doesn’t mean that all science is fiction. Just sayin’.
Of course, all his nutty views do nothing to diminish the book — but I just hate when I discover things like this about an author. It’s like learning that Santa Claus is actually a necrophiliac. It does nothing to diminish the annual coolness of his gift-giving sprees … but I just wish it weren’t true.