Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is the first in a quintet series. It was originally published in 1985 but has since seen a resurgence in popularity and has been reissued recently. There is a movie version slated to be released November 2013.
This book was brought first brought to my attention recently when I was student teaching. It was being taught to a 9th grade English class. The feedback I heard back from several teachers was that it appealed to the majority of students and many were able to connect to the material. A book that students wanted to read and willing read ahead? I wanted to know more. So I read the book.
Since I still had some Amazon/Kindle credits left, I downloaded the book to my Kindle. This edition had a foreword written by Card that highlighted how the story came to be, his astonishment of its success, and a few anecdotes about people who have written to Card describing the book’s influence on their lives. I have to say, it was one of the best forewords to a reissue I’ve ever read. I was choked up to read that a person who serves in the military has re-read the book several times for comfort while in combat. The foreword also explained that people seemed to either really like it or really hate it. People either could relate to Ender or they could not. People either loved the structure of the book or despised it. I wondered why there was so much polarization, but I did not let it deter me.
As Card stated in his foreword, he has a master’s in literature. He knows how to structure a story. He knows the nuances that conventional stories typically follow. He just chose to methodically break them. After I finished the book, I read some reviews on Goodreads.com. One thread began with a comment about the flat characters. This lead to a difficulty in connecting to the characters or understanding their motivations behind their actions. A response to this pointed out that Ender was repeatedly isolated, ostracized, and never stayed in one group too long to make many friends. Card utilizes the dimension of his own writing to reflect Ender’s frustrated emotions of isolation and loneliness within the reader. The reader connects with Ender, but since Ender wasn’t allowed to connect with anyone else, the reader is unable to connect with anyone else in the story.
If you read Ender’s Game and just look at the plot, the story does seem to drag, be disjointed, and be quite plain. However, Ender’s Game cannot be just read for the surface story, like one can do with a romance novel; it must be read for the small nuances, symbols, and themes. The novel is crafted to make the reader think about the characters and the decisions that are made as well as their opinions of right and wrong. It is not meant to entertain with numerous explosions, witty one-liners for the movie trailer, and a nice-and-neat packaged ending with the guy and girl kissing despite one or both being all bloody, dirty, and sweaty. It’s an ending that just kind of drops off.
There is one question you need to keep asking throughout the book: “WHY?” Card wrote each sentence, each scene, and each plot point with a purpose. Figure out what the purpose is. The book means something different to different people because the answer the to same question is different to different people. Some people see a character who truly understands the mindset of a solider. Some people see a character who is just a child but is being forced into a mold he doesn’t want to be in. Some people see a character who has not only the weight of the world on their shoulders, but the weight of the human race.
Ender has no free will in the book. Situations are manipulated to make him think he is making a decision on his own, but his life was already pre-written for him when the government allowed his parents to have a Third. And honestly, who hasn’t felt at some point in their life that they’re just a puppet and someone else is pulling the strings to make them dance?
Ender’s Game is a great book to be teaching in high school. There are so many insights into the human experience that I would love to discuss with a class. There are just as many lesson of what is in the book as what is not in the book. Sometimes, the lack of an element in a story provides more information that having an element.
I will admit, the book is not riveting. I was not on the edge of my seat and staying up until 3am reading “just one more chapter” five times. The ending did not leave my jaw on the floor. However, we cannot use blockbuster-style stories and blindsided twist endings as markers of a good novel. If we did, we’d soon grow weary of the same plot lines. I liked Ender’s Game. I’m debating if I want to read Speaker for the Dead. You should read Ender’s Game.