Book Club Review: Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

The youngest member of our book club has chosen this book for us, because she wants to challenge us to read a book that is not in our usual genre, and yet this book is a classic, and has won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award, both coveted awards in science fiction. Furthermore, The Ender’s Game has been made into a movie and will be shown later in the year. What’s better than bringing a group of women who are the age of her aunts and mother up-to-date by reading The Ender’s Game? 

We all read the edition with an Introduction by the author written in 1991, six years after the book was published, and we all like it. Our only reservation is how difficult it is to visualize the games that Ender and his school mates are playing.  We remember the time back in the 70’s and early 80’s when computer games only meant Pong (although other games were developed but not widely distributed) and a little later Atari’s Space Invaders. Obviously Orson Scott Card is describing much more sophisticated “games” than those of his time and they are more like the games people are playing today.

We are more familiar with Peter and Val asking their father for his account number to post online using pseudonyms and pretending to be adults. Isn’t it amazing that the author has written about chatroom and blogging when the did not exist forty years ago?

The plot of the book is straightforward. Ender Wiggins, a young boy of six, is selected to join Battle School and later promoted to Command School to be trained to fight the Buggers, some insectoid enemies from space. He leaves his parents, his older brother and sister, who are also gifted but considered unsuitable for the purpose and he is mentored by the person who won the last war against the Buggers to win the ultimate battle.

We discuss the “power” theme of the book. The book is all about Power: from parents being forced to reproduce to fulfill the purpose of the state, to children being removed from their parents, to the winning of “games” which allowed the young people to move up the ranks. When I read the book, I feel I am reading something like Animal Farm or 1984. Then there is Peter, Ender’s brother, who thirsts for power, his sister Valentine, who knows that power also means being influential and Ender, who although peace-loving, becomes the powerful conqueror in the Battle. We are taken by the irony the Ender somehow has to struggle with his conscience that he has killed his school mates and the Buggers, whereas Peter becomes known as the peace maker on Earth.  We can only take comfort in that although lacking parental love (and we wonder whether his parents are holding back from loving him knowing that one day he will be taken away from them), Ender is nurtured by Val and by General Graff–tough love–in a way.

“He’s not a killer. He just wins…thoroughly.” However, the winning is deceived in the form of a game, unknown to Ender. On the one hand, we question the morality of deception–Ender, who does not want to kill, is deceived into playing a game in which to win means killing. One person mentions that she has come across a report on  Prince Harry commenting on his pilot training, the simulation aspect of which is shooting objects on a computer screen to destroy them. Isn’t that what Ender is doing? On the other hand, we also question whether the innocent killer is really innocent, but we did not have time to delve into a discussion on the philosophy of the act and the intent.

It is brought up that Card is a devout Mormon and this sparks the discussion on the implication of his religious practice on his writing. We are speculating, but does calling the enemies “Buggers” implies homophobia or a disrespectful attitude? Another interesting observation is that some Mormon communities are known to send their young male members away to live in a community very much like Ender and his friends. The people in command are all male. This has got us speculating again.

Then someone observes that in the movie, Viola Davis plays the role of General Alexander. Our conversation drifts to the cast and the anticipation of watching the games that Ender plays on the movie screen.

At the end of the book, Ender travels with Valentine, and he finds the cocoon of the Bugger Queen, which he carries with him until he finds a place for it to hatch. He also writes in the name of Speaker of the Dead. One thing is sure, many of us are going to read the sequels of The Ender’s Game.

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4 thoughts on “Book Club Review: Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

  1. Joachim Boaz

    “who does not want to kill” — that might be the case, but he’s absolutely capable of doing so hence why the military selects him — just look at his ridiculously over-the-top reaction with the bully whom he ends of killing — as you point out. I dislike how Card manipulates us into really empathizing with Ender because he is not a “good” person.

    It is also worth noting that Card’s religious beliefs and ULTRA-conservatism really only shine through in his later works… he’s become sort of the only right wing sci-fi author (there might be a few others) so he’s become rather radical as of late (avoid his rant platform of a blog).

    Only the next sequel — Speaker for the Dead — is really worth reading. It also won the Hugo.

    Reply

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