I’ve been meaning to get to this one for years. A (now fading) lack of interest for science fiction combined with all the talk of Orson Scott Card being a bit of a dickhead contributed to my negligence, but the upcoming movie finally pushed me to read it.
Ender Wiggin, the third of three genius children in his family, is recruited at the age of five to join an elite military training school after showing an aptitude for command in the first few years of his life. Civilization on earth narrowly avoided annihilation in two long wars against an insect-like alien race, nicknamed Buggers, many years before this, and the hope is that one of these genius children will rise up to command the army against the inevitable third invasion.
I ended up loving this. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that it was published in 1985. I was listening to this without that in mind, which means I was basically treating it as having been written this year, and nothing took me out of the story. Nothing felt like the future as seen from someone in the 80s. Card knows what to describe and what to leave to the reader’s imagination, without it feeling like gaps in the imagery, so the book is left feeling somewhat timeless. I bet it’s a much different experience reading it now for the first time than it was for someone reading it in the 80s, even more so than with other books.
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.
It will be interesting to see how the movie comes out. My favourite parts of Ender’s Game weren’t necessarily the action scenes. It was being in Ender’s head as he worked out the tactics needed to overcome his opponents, which seems like an aspect that will be hard to capture as well on film. It felt like a science fiction Art of War at times, and I loved that.
I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, and I’ve been getting more and more into science fiction these last couple years, so this was right up my alley. Any hesitations I had with Orson Scott Card didn’t factor into this novel at all, as none of his homophobia seemed present in this. If anything, I thought a couple of the interactions between the students seemed to have some homoerotic undertones. After reading Stephen Fry’s first autobiography, though, I think I have it in my mind that gay sex and private schools go hand in hand.
I suppose at times you have to decide whether or not to separate the art from the artist. It’s tricky, because on one hand the views I disagree with aren’t expressed in his novel at all. There are conspiracy theories about the underlying metaphor of he story, the fact that it’s about a war on ‘buggers’, but that seems like a stretch to me. On the other hand, even if those views aren’t present here, I’m still supporting someone who will go on to express those views in other ways.
Purely from a literary standpoint, I really enjoyed the novel, though I’m still not sure I’m going to continue on with the series. I hear they begin going downhill right away, and I feel like Ender’s Game was a fairly complete and satisfying story in itself.