Title: Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card
First as a short story in 1977 and then as a novel in 1985. The novel Ender’s Game was actually written after its sequel Speaker For the Dead.
Nebula (1985) and Hugo (1986) Awards
In the future humanity is at war with an alien race referred to as the Buggers because of their insect-like appearance. The government is breeding and selecting children with unusual intelligence to go to a battle school to learn how to be leaders of the fleet that will protect Earth from future Bugger invasions. Ender Wiggin is the best of these children not just because of his intellect but also because of his compassion. Ender’s Game is about how the adults teaching him do everything in their power to mess him up and how Ender rises to meet every challenge.
Ages 12 and up
Ender’s Game is not necessarily a book for kids even though most of the main characters are under 12 and Ender himself is 6 when the story begins. However, it is an excellent entry to science fiction for middle schoolers, especially those well versed in video games.
I’m tempted to say this book will appeal more to boys only because the vast majority of characters are boys and it has a very boyish milieu but the quality of the storytelling is so high that I think there’s plenty here to engage everyone. I’m also a strong advocate for boys reading Anne of Green Gables, so there.
The book is often criticized for its violence even though most of the violence in the story is implied. The nature of the setting, the characters, and especially Ender’s reaction are what gives the violent moments their power but also makes it an important and indispensible theme throughout the book.
There is a fair amount of rude language that parents should be aware of. Very little of it is traditionally obscene but there is a great deal of childish name calling invented by the author and mostly relating to flatulence and other disorders of the alimentary canal.
I would like to recommend Ender’s Game for kids as young as 10 but my primary concern with younger readers is not the violence or language but their ability to understand some of the deeper themes. The author has said that the ideal presentation of the book is to have it read aloud and I would strongly encourage parents to read this to their kids and discuss what’s happening to the characters.
This has been one of my favorite books since I first read it back in the mid eighties and my wife reminded me the other day that it was the book I gave her that convinced her science fiction actually has some redeeming qualities. The characters are very strong and the pacing keeps you deeply engaged throughout. I was very excited for the movie to come out until I came across an article pointing out the controversy surrounding the author’s negative views on homosexuality and marriage equality. I can only guess that his disappointingly reactionary comments stem from his Mormon faith but it raises an interesting question. Ender’s Game doesn’t reflect any of his discriminatory opinions and rereading it recently I thoroughly enjoyed it as always, but going forward how will I view it through the prism of what I consider the author’s poisonous personal beliefs? This wouldn’t be the first time an author’s personal life was at odds with the public perception of their work but it could be an interesting opportunity to discuss the paradox with your kids and help them to better understand the separation of fantasy from reality.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?
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Let me know what you think.