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

Three things you need to know about the plot of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game:

  1. Earth is preparing for a third war with alien lifeforms known as formics (or “buggers,” since they resemble insects)
  2. children are chosen and trained as the battle force to go up against the formics
  3. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, though just 6 years old, may very well be the one to save humankind.

Simple story, no?

No.

Scott Card manages to create a tense, intimate, complex atmosphere that completely draws you in. He accomplishes this by providing only a modicum of dialogue between his characters, and instead pulls you in to their psychological worlds, and explorations of their motives, fears, and desires.

The character of Ender Wiggin is amazing. Quiet, commanding, subdued, calculating, gentle, lethal. So complicated – he is perhaps now one of my favorite characters in fiction. His ability to completely assess a situation, account for the actions of others, and accurately plot a successful course of action is a wonderful process to witness. It’s like he’s the James Bond of the science fiction world. Complete with inner angst and turmoil over the decisions he has to make, and the outcomes he has to live with.

I confess that some of the more political themes of the book flew past my attention. And the many, many battle room scenes (the kids at Battle School are trained in mock battle exercises) lost my interest after a while. But time and again I found myself wanting to know: What new challenge will Ender be faced with? And how will he respond? I also found myself intrigued by the complexities of Ender’s relationships with everyone he meets, as well as the strained dynamics of the Wiggin family. It seems that so much is felt, yet goes unsaid. Actions speak louder than words in Ender’s world.

Without giving anything away, I have to say that the last chapter, Speaker for the Dead, took my breath away. It was just stunning, the direction Scott Card took the story and the character of Ender.

I understand that I am about 20-ish years behind most fans of this science fiction classic, but I’ve been grateful to meet this book and this character with a clean slate and no preconceived ideas. It was an enjoyable read, and I’m happy to be moving on to Scott Card’s newest installment (and direct sequel to Ender’s Game): Ender in Exile. Look for that review very soon.

*Disclosure: Affiliate link included.