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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

July 12, 2013

Several people have recommended this book to me over the years, and I saw that they’re releasing a movie of it in the fall, so I finally gave it a read. It’s a science fiction novel in which humans are in the midst of an inter-galactic battle with an alien species referred to as “the buggers.” Top military leaders have identified a young boy, Ender Wiggin, whom they believe to have the perfect mix of intelligence, toughness and compassion to become the general that will lead the human army in the final battle against the buggers. Ender is shipped off to space military school, and the bulk of the novel follows his intense training. It’s a classic hero’s journey. Put another way, it’s more or less Harry Potter in space.

This novel is a pretty entertaining read, but maybe more appropriate for a teenager. There’s quite a bit of description of the training games the cadets play, bouncing around in a zero gravity room, firing freeze rays at each other, and the continuous evolutions of the game and Ender’s strategy to deal with the changes. Although Ender’s Game is at times pretty dark (Ender is tormented by nightmares and reluctant to fulfill his calling, reluctant to unleash the violence he has inside of him), it doesn’t contain quite the moral or philosophical weight of good science fiction. Ender struggles internally, but never actually fails at anything. He therefore never develops into a truly relatable character. And, without giving too much away, the most interesting part of the plot is essentially an anti-climax. Entertaining overall, but not as compelling or insightful as it had been made out to be.

Here’s the trailer for the movie:

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