Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review: Ender's Game

Once again, my reading choices have been dictated by research for my novel. In my novel, a male teenager is reading a dog-eared copy of a book. Seeking a book with great appeal to teenage boys, I decided to make the book he is reading Ender's Game, even though I had never read it. I liked the fact that it has a character trying to save the world, since this particular character has a bit of a hero complex himself. It is, indeed, probably a perfect fit for reading material for this character.

Alas, I didn't find it quite so charming that I personally would consider reading and re-reading the novel. I felt that the book was extremely violent and I found it distasteful that the adults were attempting to turn the children in the novel into killers. Plus, it felt somewhat unbelievable. Seriously! Ender is six years old when he is taken to begin training to command a fleet against the enemy aliens. Yet, he is dangerous enough that he kills another child and this earns him the coveted spot in the Battle School, where they play endless simulated games to prepare for war.

Everyone's hopes are pinned on Ender Wiggin. At six, he accomplishes far more than other kids his age. He is a ruthless opponent and sees strategies that elude others. He is taken to the Battle School for training, knowing full well that he will not be released to see his parents or his beloved sister, Valentine, until he is at least twelve. He isn't the least bit sad to say farewell to his older brother, Peter, a boy with sinister violent tendencies (supposedly more violent than Ender, although Ender kills two boys, while Peter never kills anyone). Even though he loves Valentine, he agrees to go to the Battle School in the hopes of becoming the commander to lead the human forces in war against the Buggers (aliens).

From the very start of his time at the school, his precociousness is milked by isolating him from the other students because he is labelled special. This is the premise which Card says earned the most value with teen readers, especially among the gifted who feel isolated and misunderstood, just like Ender. But the level of conversation, intention, and behavior presented by these children felt unrealistic. I never really cared much for any of the characters presented, to be honest.

The twist at the end was ruined because I had done an Internet search on why teens like the book and one person had mentioned the twist, so I guess I didn't get to experience the novel as it was intended. Still, I did manage to glean a few quotes I felt might stand out for the character in my novel. "We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools." (Colonel Graff to Ender on his usefulness to humanity). And toward the end of the book, Valentine turns to Ender and says, "Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life, Ender."

In thinking of the book, I am curious to see the movie. I would like to know if it ends up being as violent as the book. I don't know that I want my boys to watch it with me, although they have watched other PG-13 movies where the violence level was beyond my comfort level (The Maze Runner). Somehow I doubt the movie remained faithful to the book in beginning with Ender's training at the age of six. I'm guessing they started training him as a teen or pre-teen. Much more believable. Also, there are a host of other books in this series, but I have no desire at all to seek them.

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