Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ender's Game

Ender Wiggin lives in a future vision of Earth with population bug-like aliens that are trying to wipe out the human race and population restrictions. Two children is the usual limit, but Ender's parents were allowed one more by the government because his sister and brother showed military promise, but had flaws that proved them to be ineligible for service. Ender was teased and bullied at school because of his status as a third child. He severely injured the main bully and was recruited into military training. Ender is only 6 years old. At Battle School, he is isolated and forced to push himself to his limits. He makes some friends and earns a lot of respect, but because he accelerates through the program, some of the other recruits resent him. It eventually gets to a point where those resentful students reach a breaking point and pose a danger to Ender. Can Ender rely on the teachers of the school to protect him or is this just another test? If he survives, can he go on to save the world from these aliens and at what cost to Ender?

Ender's Game is a classic science fiction novel that introduced an interesting, nuanced dystopia with unique characters. Most of the main characters in the novel are children. This makes the dystopia all the more compelling and chilling that children's lives are experimented with and sometimes discarded for a greater good. Ender is in a horrible situation from the start. He is purposefully targeted, isolated, and made to defend himself at six years old. As the novel progressed and Ender grew up, I would imagine him as an eighteen year old because of his mature thought processes and the way he progressed in the Battle School, even though he wasn't even a teenager yet. Each chapter starts with military officials discussing and sometimes arguing about his situation. They assess his progress and seem to have affection and compassion for him, but they continue to push him to be the greatest that they can make him, even at the expense of his sense of humor or his ability to make friends and be happy. Ender is a great character and I really felt for him throughout the book, especially in the shocking last chapter. Ender's siblings are almost as compelling as he is, but in different ways. Peter is older and a sociopathic meglomaniac, while his sister is sweet, but still very intelligent and manipulative. All three of these exceptional children effect the world in profound ways, whether it be good or bad.

The alien species that fight against the humans are another interesting aspect of the novel. Nothing much is known about them until the last half of the novel. These aliens were eventually seen as sympathetic. Heinlein used a similar race of aliens, but used their insect-like look and way of life as a way to distance them from the reader and make it practically impossible for us to relate to them. In Ender's Game, the conflict between human and alien came to be mostly because of an inability to communicate rather than an irrational hatred. It was nice to see a look at the other's way of life instead of just assuming they are evil.

I absolutely love this novel. The language is fairly simplistic, so people of all ages, whether they typically enjoy science fiction or not, can enjoy it. It has something for everyone: fight scenes, political intrigue, aliens, plus it still packs an emotional punch. I consider this required reading for anyone who remotely considers themselves a fan of science fiction.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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