The first thirty pages gave me the impression that this read might be too “masculine” for me. 90% of the characters are boys, teennagers, men, while the theme is evolving around space, war games and alien invaders. It felt like being in a playground for boys…
I’m usually not drown to sci-fi, but this one was highly recommended to me, and after I’ve pushed through the first pages, I’m starting to change my mind -at least concerning the books.
The story is about training children to become soldiers to protect and save humans from the next invasion of the “buggers” -aka: from extinction. The training is hard, the teachers ruthless. Ender, the main character, is shown to be better than everybody in the battle school. He excels in video games, computer simulations, war rooms, military strategy, fights, etc. Between a too violent bloodthirsty big brother and a too empathetic big sister who wouldn’t hurt anybody, Ender is the perfect balance between the two. He is the third kid, he is the exception (the law prohibits from having a third kid). And he is chosen to bear the hope of humanity, to save earth from the buggers’ attack.
He is exceeding expectations, he is pushed beyond his limits, put under the pressure to bring out the best in him (but also taking the risk to bring out the worst in him), and mostly put into isolation (just being a third guarantees to have no friends).
Ender is my favorite character. We view a lot of things from his point of view. We watch him grow : he is a kid, but he is not brought up as one. He is a child genius, a prodigy ; he doesn’t think, talk, act like a normal kid. This contrast makes him a complex character and I liked that about him, especially because sometimes adults tend to forget that kids can also think on their own, criticize things and analyse them. They usually underestimate kids capabilities’ (on good and evil).
In Ender’s case, because it’s war, he needs to learn and practice violence -after all, he is trained to kill when the time comes! But Ender does not wanna be a killer, he doesn’t wanna hurt any body. And in the same time, he also needs to win, to be better, and most of all to be able to defend himself against the enemy, the bully and the people who are going hard on him for his “own” good. No body is there to help him, to save him, he has to learn to count on himself, and himself only.
Through his eyes, we meditate on the complex emotions of human beings (adults and children), the hate, the fear, the weight of responsibility and the need to remain “in control”. And deep into his thoughts are revealed to us the little lies he tells himself, that are also relatable to a lot of us. It shows how fragile human minds can be -especially when witnessing how cruel kids can be sometimes-bullies are surely the worst!
It’s a plain clear story, there are no cheap games played against the reader, no surprising twists just for the sake of it. The plot makes sense and the characters remain faithful to their deep nature. Good struggles to remain “good” and bad, well, it only gets worse.
The book offers a rich view about war, politics, particularly about leadership, and it explores the complexity of human nature and the philosophies of peace and war. It’s also very instructive about the deep core of ambitions, fear, strength and weakness.
I enjoyed the book both intellectually and emotionally. It’s a very smart and intelligent read, plus I was hugely entertained! I like books like that, they just don’t waste your time.
Not only did the author knew how to entertain his audience, but every elements of the story was carefully set to make you dive inside the story and into the characters’ minds and souls. Though it’s an easy read, it’s not always comfortable. Ender’s isolation for example was one of the hardest parts for me. Being in his mind through the whole process, living his isolation with him made me root for him. He acts and thinks like an adult, but an innocence and a naivety remains, reminding us -the readers- that he is still a kid, a kid that needs to do kid things (and sometimes in this way, adults also tend to see that kind of kids more mature than what they actually are); and so we grow even more empathy towards him.
This book also made me think a lot about something that I thought I had a straight answer for : How do you make someone better ? does a person become better or worse when being put through suffering and isolation ? It only took me two days to devour the book. And today, I can count it amongst my favorite books! Even if -like me- science fiction is not your usual interest, I suggest you gave this one a try. I would especially recommend Ender’s game to a category of kids and teenagers : you know, the so-called nerds? They will for sure, identify with Ender ;)
“Why else do we read fiction, anyway? Not to be impressed by somebody’s dazzling language - or at least I hope that’s not our reason. I think that most of us read these stories that we know are not ‘true’ because we’re hungry for another kind of truth: The mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those life-communities that define our own identity, and the most spec> ific truth of all: our own self-story. fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about ourself” ― Orson Scott Card