I am a voracious reader of fiction. I read a good bit of non-fiction, too, but fictional thrillers and sci-fi are my chance to escape for a while, so on any of my regular trips to the library you will find my stack of books weighted towards those genres. I was really in the mood for some sci-fi on this last trip, and while browsing the sci-fi shelves at the local library, I remembered a mention that Andy Osenga had made a while back about Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I figured it was worth a try, and so I picked up the (paperback!) book and added it to my stack. When I got home, I didn’t start it first; I had one book that was a 10-day reserve that I wanted to get out of the way. (Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, if you really care.) But before long it was getting dry and so I turned to Card.
Let me just get it out of the way early: Ender’s Game is a terrific book. The story is well-told. The main characters are exceptional children who, for the most part, sound like adults. Their childish emotional states, though, are crucial to the story. Card puts you right there, feeling what the hero feels. I had a hard time putting the book down. The twist at the end is just brilliant. I didn’t see it coming, but it made perfect sense given what you have been told in the story to that point. And when you find out, it’s one of those “wow” moments that sets your mind whirling.
I can understand why they classify Ender’s Game as sci-fi; the story is set in the future, with appropriately futuristic technologies and surroundings. But unlike much other science fiction, where the futuristic technology or science is at the core of the plot, Ender’s Game just uses the future as a tool to set up a story that resonates in any age. I also found interesting the device of using a main character who is a highly-intelligent child who sounds pretty much like an adult. It’s not a common device; the only other place I remember reading a story from that perspective is Bryce Courtenay’s much longer and more anguished The Power of One. But it works here. It causes you to identify with a protagonist that might otherwise be distant. And that makes the story work.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the story since I finished the book. The reluctant hero, the adults who keep him in the dark the whole time, the whole issue of the sacrifice of the unwitting to save the many; these are themes that will keep the book relevant for decades to come.
Pick up Ender’s Game sometime if you haven’t read it. It’s worth your time. I hear they’re talking of making a movie of it eventually; this is one of those stories where if the movie is done well, it could be a masterpiece. If it’s done poorly, yick, what a waste. I’ll hope for the former.