Sunday 29 June 2008

Ender's Game

Still busy reading challenge books! This time it was Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card for the Cardathon challenge being hosted by Becky. This one runs to the end of the year and I've read a couple of books by other authors, as the challenge includes not only books by the author but also books recommended or edited by him; I'd yet to read anything actually written by Card though so it was time to put that right.

Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin is a 'third' - meaning he was the third born child to his family in a world where there is over-population and only two children are permitted. His parents were given permission to have a third child though, this being due to the fact that his older brother and sister were extremely bright and were *almost* right for the task required of them, but not quite. It is hoped that Ender will be less vicious than his brother but not as placid as his sister.

The problem is that fifty years ago the human race was almost annihilated by an insect race of beings from another planet. Known as the 'buggers' (I think because they were 'bugs') they were defeated by a brilliant military commander. The fear is that the aliens are about to repeat their invasion attempt and the hunt is on for another such commander, but he will have to be trained from childhood. Ender fits the bill. He is six when whisked off to Battle school to join hundreds of other boys, to train, in a bid to save the world by way of brutal mock 'games'. But Ender is not popular. He is the brightest of the bright and resented by the other boys and, for some reason, the officers running the school are purposely making his life difficult. In other words he's being tested to see how much he can take. Is Ender up to the challenge?

It's not often that I'm this ambivilent about a story. On the one hand I found it to be a pageturner - Card's writing is extremely readable and the story is pacey and really quite exciting. I finished it in two days and that's pretty quick reading for me, so clearly I couldn't put it down. On the other hand I had issues with a couple of things. Mainly it was to do with the kind of dialogue and thoughts Card embued small children with. It was all too adult and, although I realise that these are supposed to be bright kids, I didn't find that aspect of it realistic. Not that Card is the only author to do this by any means - it's very common.

The other thing that struck me was that Card was writing a novel set sometime in the future. It wasn't clear how many years (a hundred?) but, whatever, I found it bizarre that a science fiction author, who would supposedly be forward thinking, did not forsee the role women would come to play in the armed forces. Even just thirty years after he wrote the book women are fighting and dying in combat zones around the world. He put one girl in his school, *one*.

Nevertheless, despite my issues with the book, I did, as I said, enjoy it a great deal. Much of the book is 'edge of the seat' stuff and it has a fantastic twist near the end which I didn't see coming at all. I must also add that it was the last few pages which intrigued me the most and because of that I plan to get a copy of the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, as soon as possible as I suspect that one might be a bit more to my taste. My husband grabbed Ender's Game off me as soon as I finished so it'll be interesting to see what he thinks.


DesLily said...

hi Cath: I rarely if ever read "sci-fi" but it seems to me that most of Carl's regulars just love this book, so you are in good company!

Cath said...

Hi Pat! It's a good read, somewhat like Harry Potter with its 'school' theme but much more hard edged. I have a feeling I'm going to like the next book even more though. I hardly read any sci fi these days either. I used to read loads as a teen but have more or less moved over to fantasy now. Gotta love the elves, goblins and dragons! LOL.

Ana S. said...

I know what you mean about women. There was a passage in particular that did bother me a bit...I think it was concerning Ender's sister not having gone to battle school...something along the lines of "women are not naturally predisposed to do certain things" was said. I know that Card is known to be very much of a traditionalist, so I wonder if that has something to do with it?

But that was just a detail, and like you I enjoyed the book a lot regardless. I also really want to get my hands on the sequel. It does sound even better than Ender's Game !

Cath said...

Hi Nymeth. Yes, that particular bit about women not being suited to the battle school was exactly the bit that irritated me. Not that I particularly want to go and fight in a war but I do believe that women who wish to should be allowed. Someone on TV the other day mentioned the fact that WW2 was fought without any women being involved in actual combat and what a wste of resources that was. Interesting point...

I wasn't really aware that Card was something of a traditionalist. Although I knew he was Mormon I kind of assumed that the two don't always go together and that it wouldn't show up in his writing. I think I might have been wrong about that. :-) I'll read his next books with a good deal of interest.