Ender’s Game

This week I took some time out of reading the never-ending (though still very entertaining) Horus Heresy. Upon recommendation and curiosity, I picked up Ender’s Game to see what all the fuss is about and understand what makes it one of the definitive titles in sci-fi.

The basic premise is that an exceptionally talented boy is taken away from his parents to be trained as humanity’s fleet commander against an alien race known as ‘buggers’ (guess what they are). When I say ‘talented’ we’re talking super-genius. Well, you kind of have to be if you’re commanding space fleets by the time you’re eleven. It’s a tough call for a kid but then the government only sanctioned his birth so he could fulfil that purpose. You get a sense of the fleshed-out future, right?

The copy I read had an introduction from the author, Orson Scott Card. While I wouldn’t normally bother with these, and given that the author admitted in the introduction that he didn’t want to write it, I checked it out. And was rewarded with some interesting stuff. It seems this science fiction tale about a boy blowing up spaceships is used as text in a number of academic disciplines, including the teaching of religion and leadership. There’s something for authors to think on next time they consider settling for ‘good enough’ in their work. *note to self: don’t do that* He includes letters from fans whose lives the book has had a profound effect on: talented individuals who can relate to Ender’s isolation, members of the military to whom it helped teach command. There’s a real testament to the impact a simple story can have. And not once did I get the impression that Card was bragging.

The focus throughout the book is Ender. It’s not lengthy descriptions of spaceships exploding. I don’t even recall a description of a single ship–human or alien–in the whole story. What this allows is a stronger connection to the character; substance over style. This struck me as a story more about exploring ideas, an eye-opening view of what the future could hold. Given that it was written in 1985 (first seen as a short story in 1977), you have to wonder whether Card had a crystal ball for all the overlaps we see in the modern world. The ‘nets’ bear a striking resemblance to our Internet, including the masking of identities. Remote-controlled combat also sounds familiar, doesn’t it? There are examples aplenty.

From a casual reader’s perspective, don’t worry, it’s easy going and very accessible. You don’t need thick-rimmed glasses, a beard or leather patches on your sweater’s elbows to read it. Anyone can pick this up and it will make them think. Isn’t that what we’re shooting for in fiction?

If you like your sci-fi, read this book. Word has it that a film adaptation has just been released. Read this book. Then go see the film.

I’ll be putting the Horus Heresy on hold for a little time whilst I plough into the sequel, Speaker for the Dead.


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