Monday, February 16, 2015

Awesome Books - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

This book surprised me in a couple of ways.

I'm pretty good at guessing the ending of the book. Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but I can consistently guess the ending. However, I had no idea how this book would end, and even a few tendrils of ideas I had, nothing worked out the way I thought it might.

The book rating on the back cover said Ages 10 and Up, but I'm not sure I agree with that. There is a certain viciousness in this book that startled and shocked me. I didn't expect it from such a young character. Although a lot of books have Ages so and up, usually the kids who are at least 2 or 3 years younger start to read up to the age rating. At that point, I feel that this book is not appropriate for kids who are younger than 10. AND I wouldn't let my daughter read it until she's about 11 or 12.

HOWEVER, I enjoyed this book, and I'd like to recommend it to anyone who likes a good action/adventure. That is anyone older than 10, but probably 12.

Spoiler Alert~

Ender lives in a dangerous world where the Aliens nicknamed "buggers" have invaded the earth twice already. Every Earthlings' life is predicated by the impending third bugger invasion.

In this world of limited resources and impending doom, Ender is also a dreaded "third." In a world where there is two-child-per-family policy, being a "third" itself is a reason for derision. He is picked on by his classmates, and he is harassed by his older brother who resents him for being more talented and capable of meeting the demands of military training.

But he is a cunning, ruthless, military genius, and he is sent to Battle School to hone his strategic and tactical skills pitted against other brilliant students of Battle School. There, he excels once again by coming up with mock battle plans that surprise and impress his superiors. His team never loses a battle, no matter how it is outnumbered and disadvantaged. His successes in Battle School convince his teachers to Command School, skipping several years of additional training.

In Command School, he is isolated from the rest and interacts mostly with his mentor, the previous conflict's war hero, Mazer. He spends most of his time fighting buggers in simulation, and he is depressed by the endless simulations and isolated existence.

For his "final" test, Ender's fleet is outnumbered by the buggers by a lot, and he sacrifices most of his fighters to launch a weapon that destroyed the entire bugger planet. Ender thinks this act of rebellion will get him kicked out of Command School. Instead, he learns that the "simulations" weren't simulations. In fact, they represented the actual international fleet, buggers' fleet, and buggers' home world. Ender has won the bugger war for the humanity.

Winning the bugger war has opened a bigger can of worms on Earth where various powers fight amongst themselves for the control. Due to his capabilities, he cannot return to Earth. He decides to become a colonist on one of the buggers' worlds. There he learns that bugger invasions were based on misunderstandings and mistakes, and he finds a dormant egg of the bugger queen. In the end, he and his sister board a starship to search for a safe world to establish another bugger colony.

I skipped a big chunk of plot that involves his brother and sister, but I wanted to concentrate on Ender. I really enjoyed the strategy and tactics Ender used to win his mock battles in Battle School and Command School; however, I had problems with what finally led to Ender's entry into Battle School and Command School. His brutal beating of a classmate bully lands him not in jail, but in coveted Battle School. And when he is ambushed, he responds with overwhelming force, and it gets him promoted to Command School. In both cases, his opponents are dead. It's this rewarding of his ruthlessness that I find objectionable.

However, I did enjoy the book. In fact, I'll probably read it again. It made me think about a lot of things, from space colonization to alien life forms to morality of preemptive strike, communication obstacles between two vastly different species, etc. Though I did have some reservations, I would recommend the book to those who enjoy action or sci-fi.  

PS - I also read Ender's Shadow, and the same brutality, cunning, and ruthlessness are threaded in this book for a main character who is even younger (starts out at 4), and I just couldn't recommend the book. And I didn't enjoy it. It was too much, but I finished, hoping that things would change. It didn't.