Monday, December 27, 2010

Ender’s Game

Orson Scott Card
TOR, 1977 (my copy is from 1994)
Size: Average (my copy has 324 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space war
Narrative: third-person (also occasionally first-person)
Main character: Ender Wiggin
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Ender’s game is one of those books that offer a good plot twist in the very last pages. You are left thinking “wow, I did not expect that…” as if someone punched the wind out of you. Yet, it is conclusive enough that you are not left hoping for a sequel. I found the book so good I have actually convinced a couple of friends to read it and they have also enjoyed it. 

The story is focused on a young genius at games, Ender Wiggin, who is recruited to help mankind in the war against an alien species. The book describes in detail the time from when Ender is recruited, and we are offered with insights into his thoughts in addition to descriptions of his activities and those of his colleagues. There are enough action scenes to make your adrenaline flow, but I have not found myself grabbing hold of the chair/couch. Since the cast is relatively small, you quickly learn about each and their feelings toward each other, although the story is highly centered on Ender (and the book is not long enough to allow digressing too much into the other characters).

This book can easily be read by teenagers, with minimal level of gore, sexual innuendo, or gratuitous violence (though some violence had to be expected, obviously, as it is centered on a war scenario). The reading is light, and while you never have to think deeply to follow the plot, there is some discussion on strategy that allows you to engage your imagination if you so feel like. There is also some social philosophy and moral ambiguities involved (which the sequel books explore much more deeply), which are actually a very nice part of the plot.

This is the type of book that, after reading, you wish you erase your memory of it and re-read it, just so you could enjoy again those final moments of awareness to the plot.

Follow-up books:

The fact that the ending is so strong made it very difficult to believe a sequel could match this book. Luckily, no hurried-through-blunder-sequel was created. Instead, the author produced two branches from the original book. One follows from the outcome of the first book, involving several of the original characters (more on the spoilers below), while the other retells the original book storyline (and then the timeline after that) but entirely from the perspective of another important character. I have found a few of those books as entertaining as Ender’s Game. However, you should definitely read Ender’s Game before any of the other related books.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
Ender is alive at the end of the book, having participated in the war by commanding armies. (warning: stop reading here unless you really want to know the end of the book…) Ender and his colleagues/generals lead the human army to victory by playing out the final command school battle simulations, which they do not know involve actual fighting in the real universe. The alien race is all but extinct, and in one of the sequel branches, Ender goes in search of the last alien queen and intends to help the alien race have a second chance by finding a planet for them to colonize.

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