This is one I go back and forth on. I like the setting, the training, the brutality of what Ender does and is forced to do. Then I remember he is a child and I almost can't handle it
This is not a children's book. It's excellently written, the characters are realistic, the world is fascinating. It is important to note that this is a story about the effects of war on the mind os a soldier, and even though the main character is a child, it may not be suitable for young readers. (Mild cursing, physical violence, death, grief, warfare.)
I thought initially the story started off really well with the story of Ender leaving his home and family behind. But once he left Earth for school, it became tedious battle after battle. Admittedly I do not care for war histories and tactics, so I found the descriptions of Ender's fights and battle strategies excruciating to get through. However I had a tough time seeing how Ender really changed or developed while in school. He was a very gifted child. He was a gifted fighter/commander. That's all I really got.
It was quite jarring to see some of the attempts by the author to bring back some of the family back later in the book. Peter is an apparent sociopath who tortures and kills small animals for fun. He later begins writing columns and becomes a political figure. Why discuss how evil his older brother is without expounding on it? To create a contrast? That could have been done without wasting text on Peter.
Others have also said, the plot development is all over the place. I have no idea why Ender felt guilty all of a sudden at the end to go around and tell the story of the buggers. It's my understanding that 'Ender's Game' was supposed to set up Ender as a character for 'Speaker for the Dead', but the ending is much too rushed and felt tacked on. Ender never appears to suspect his "games" are actually lethal and I don't recall him feeling guilt in possibly going off to kill the buggers.
I understand what the author was trying to get at, but I don't feel he was very good in accomplishing his goals. This, combined with the news of his views on gays/lesbians and comparing President Obama to Hitler means this is the first and last book I'll be reading by this author.
Full disclosure. Orson Scott Card (the author) is a bad person, which is why its so strange and remarkable how beautifully he writes about empathy. For somone who is explicitly homophobic, it's so strange that he built an entire world and wonderful and epic book series all around the concept of Empathy. He must be a confused person. The book series is great, it's exploration into empathy is quite amazing. And for any science fiction fan, this series is a classic. If you were to read just one book of the series, this would be the one. But the whole series is worth it as well.
So, a little disclaimer here. I do not like Orson Scott Card. As a person. I think he's a shitty human who's used his award-winning author status as a platform to advocate the denial of other humans' rights. This is detestable to me.
But that is not why I rated this book 1 star.
The reason I gave this book 1 star, and have given up even trying to read it, is because I do not like Orson Scott Card. As an author. This was the second book of his I've read - or tried to read- and it will most assuredly be my last. I finished the other one, but can't say I liked it, though it was... interesting. This one I just couldn't even muster up any meh over, and it's supposedly his best work. I disliked it almost immediately.
I made it about 15%, and I've read about all I can stands, I can't stands no more.
The writing is awful. We're told what Ender thinks. We're told what Ender feels, and does, and says, and why, and despite supposedly being in his head, I don't understand or like him at all. We're told he's a genius. We're told he's mastered calculus as a toddler, that he can hack school computers with ease. We're told that he plays game A. Then he beats it, and plays game B. In every game, the goal is conquer and kill, and he's the best at it. But we're told that Ender does that only when he's forced... but then we're told that he likes it - no he doesn't! - yes he does. He stabs the game giant in the eye and likes it, and then when the giant is 'dead' and no longer an obstacle, out of boredom, he wishes he could murder it again. Because he liked it. That's why he's The One. Duh.
The ridiculous chapter-leading nameless dialogues are terrible and jarring and distracting, and they take me out of the story. Which is a very bad thing when I'm disliking and uninterested in the story as it is.
The complete lack of characterization is shameful. These kids, and especially Ender, who is SIX YEARS OLD and likes to throw the N-word around like it's a frisbee, sound like adults that I wouldn't even want to talk to, let alone root for. I don't like, understand, or care about a single character in this book. Not one. Wait, I might like the Buggers, but that's only because I feel like they have to be decent if they want to rid the universe of this society of sociopaths and groomed killer children.
Then there's the fact that I'm apparently supposed to believe that a society as advanced as this one, with space travel, in-body monitoring of thoughts and actions of their potential recruits, the ability to at least partially coax out genius children by specialized breeding, etc, would be so casually dismissive of female potential as to respond to a question regarding whether there will be girls at this murder-camp with "A few girls. They don't often pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them." Because, apparently, only Y chromosomes can carry intelligence and females are just sub-par, even at evolution. How can they be a war leader and savior of humanity if they can't even master upward evolution, like males have?
Oh, but wait... which entry tests were those again? The ones that require extreme violence? Stomping the shit out of another kid, albeit a bully, was the only test-like thing I saw that earned Ender a spot at murder-school. And it's OKAY that Ender put him in the hospital, because he was forced to do it or keep being bullied. There was no other solution. So maybe that little comment was a backhanded compliment to us of the gentler, weaker sex. Our delicate sensibilities just don't automatically run to murderdeathkill at the slightest provocation, which from what I can tell makes females completely valueless except as future-soldier-makers, so yeah, I guess we fail. Darn!
I don't buy the concept of putting all of the eggs of an apparently critically endangered humanity into a single basket that consists of a child 4 years away from attaining the glorious achievement of double digit age. But wait, this war is apparently on hold while this generation of future soldiers grows up? How awesomely considerate of the "Buggers". I now see why they must die. /sarcasm
Which brings me to the "Buggers". They are aliens. Got that. Apparently, there's no possibility of aliens NOT wanting to wipe out all of humanity... because, you know, the universe isn't big enough for the both of us. I was really, really hoping for a plausible reason why these aliens would want to kill people, but I got nada. Perhaps it's explained later. Or maybe this is just fear and hatred of the unknown. I don't know, and frankly don't care all that much, but it just feels like we're supposed to just go along with the story that implies that different = bad and must be killed.
I'm not squeamish or tender-hearted. I fully believe in killing off characters that need to die, even and especially if it's painful to the reader. Violence, in general, doesn't bother me, and I have no trouble reading about abuse, or death, or destruction, or brutality. But it needs to have a purpose and reason for existing on the page. It needs to be honest, and realistic, and plausible. And I didn't feel like that was the case here. It felt like it was for pure shock value here, placed with ever more aggressive offensiveness with the hopes of a reaction. "OMG! they are just babies! Oh the brutality! Won't someone save the children?!" And it worked, because my reaction is to stop reading this shit called a book. The racism, misogyny, hatred of the 'different', the adult condoned and encouraged cruelty and alienation of weaker or smaller children, the violence and genocidal-tendencies in a 6 year old all made me hate every minute I spent reading, or avoiding, this book, and only confirmed that Orson Scott Card is not someone whose work I will ever read or watch again.
I could go on, but I'm done with this book. Writing it off and washing my hands because they feel like they've been holding something disgusting and slimy. I haven't seen anything even remotely redeeming in this book, nothing that makes me think that the rest of it would be worth my time, and I'm done.
This is another book that I've heard about for years but somehow never read until now. When the movie came out, I said to myself that I should wait to watch the movie until I'd read the book. Which I did, but it only meant that I didn't watch the movie, not that I rushed out to read the book. But then my son read the book, and he'd like to watch the movie (recommended by his best friend), so I thought it was finally the time.
Having read it, I can now understand why it's so popular with teen guys, though I was disappointed not to like it more than I did. The writing style is serviceable, if bland, and the plot is interesting and addicting. Now that I think about it, this describes quite a few contemporary popular fiction titles, actually. The main problem in the story is suspension of disbelief about the kids' ages. The story would be fine if all of the kids were 3-5 years older than they are. I know part of the point is the too-quick advancement of children, bringing them to adulthood too soon. But still . . . a six-year-old boy, talking like that, doing what he does?
I was most disappointed by the very end (not the plot twist, which was fairly predictable given the number of hints along the way). Like some other sci-fi authors, Orson Scott Card has little good to say about established religious institutions. Yes, people can pray, or use scripture as a blessing over a child in Ender's Game, but traditional religions seem best kept vague and non-threateningly "spiritual." What always seems amusing to me, then, is that the ultimate answer to the hopelessness of religion is to create a new religion, which selectively draws from those elements of religion that don't offend the author. The author, in his blindness to what's really going on in religious faith, can do no better than create a "nicey-nicey" religion, which (let's hope! says the author) is free of all that historical sediment that nullifies established religious traditions. This process is interesting as it is not only a manifestation of the modernist belief that the more scientifically informed we become the less we will need religion (and in fact this process in sci-fi modifies the modernist belief by affirming that humans need something to have faith in), but it is also an example of the typical American attitude of "If something (including myself) is broken, don't bother fixing it; just reinvent something new (even--especially--a new identity). I was disappointed, then, that Card springs this process at the conclusion of Ender's Game, which might have worked out differently, with more complexity. (Yes, I realize that Card's Mormonism has a lot to do with the ending of the novel.) I know there are more books, and someday I may read them, to see where the story goes from here.