We open up with six year old Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins having a tough day at school. He’s getting his monitor removed, he’s teased for being a Third, and he nearly beats another kid to death. Once home he is threatened with death from his older brother and seems to have a little too much affection for his sister. He’s worried that he has washed out of his military training, but it’s all good, these are just more tests for him to pass.
Right off the bat I’m a bit confused by one of the core systems in place in Ender’s Game:limited breeding. People are only allowed to have two children, unless they are willing to give a Third child over to the military. We find out that there was a war eighty years ago that wiped out most of human life on Earth. So…why would there be a limit on reproduction? Shouldn’t there be mandatory polygamy where every man has six wives and they are all pregnant all the time? And why are children being selected to be the next great military leaders? They never come right out and say that Ender was genetically engineered to be Patton, Caesar, and Genghis Khan all rolled into one-so why do we need six year olds in the first place? There’s a brief mention of a couple of religions and then we put all this stuff behind us and head into space to go to Battle School.
In the movie, Ender is about 16 years when we meet him and he heads off to save the world. In the book, he’s six years old when he goes to Battle School and 11 when he saves the world. His older brother washed out when he was five years old and his sister washed out when she was three years old. This doesn’t stop Ender from saving the world or his siblings from taking over the world-all while still kids of course. Which is fine, I suppose, as far as it goes. Like most speculative fiction writers, Orson Scott Card doesn’t have to explain why things are they way they are, he just has to describe them. But I would kind of like to know why very young children are groomed to be the next Hitler, or how anyone came up with the idea.
One of the complaints people have about Ender’s Game is the blatant racism, homophobia, and constant hazing that goes on in Battle School. Anyone who went to a real school knows that these things are common place, but I don’t recall them being that big a deal when I was in the first grade. Add to that the fact there are no consequences for these vile behaviors-murder is overlooked when committed by promising students, for example. Like Lord of The Flies, we are told that children are naturally evil and violent. And like all stories that star children, there are very few adults around-and no adults who would dare to stop the children from doing anything.
Ender’s brother and sister have small roles as fellow super geniuses bent on taking over the world, but they could have been left out of the book, as they mostly were in the movie, without much effect. That whole side plot about a world war and America fighting Russia didn’t do much for me.
Ender wins the war, starts a new religion, and wanders the cosmos carrying the future of the Alien enemy with him as we roll to a close.
For all it’s odd bits of logic and unexplained reasons, Ender’s Game was a pretty good read. The writing was straight forward, the love ’em or hate ’em characters were two dimensional-but seemed to be meant to be that way, and the War was a lot less interesting than the battle drills.
In the end it’s all a morality play-should we kill an enemy, even if they aren’t our enemy any more? Discus among yourselves.