In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.
Ender’s Game is another classic of the genre that I found myself drawn towards recently. I’m always hesitant when it comes to reading such praised novels and always wonder whether or not I’ll come away disappointed. Luckily enough I found that wasn’t the case with Ender’s Game. A novel that can pull you along at such speed while delivering some thoughtful ideas is a joy. Not only did Ender’s Game manage this, it also put across a great story with very entertaining characters.
The story is one mainly of Ender, although there are some sections where we have a look his older brother and sister – Peter and Valentine – and what they are doing since Ender left. Ender is a great character that is enjoyable to read while he is also one that can be sympathised with. The situation he is in puts extreme pressure on his abilities and those in charge of the battle school make nothing easy on Ender, forcing him to understand that if he cannot do things by himself he will get no help from adults. The friendships that he makes take on a different role as the story progresses and the implications of such are interesting to a child of his age, not that he is ever treated as a child.
The whole idea of the battle school and the games that are involved within it are excellent. I thought the way in which it was handled was good and the introduction of the battle room, along with the games that can be played, gave the story a solid centre around which to expand. I love tactical games and can easily waste hours of my time away at them so I would love to see something like the zero gravity battle room in action. The way in which Ender changes the way the game is played by introducing new tactics shows how far it goes to deciding the winner. However, the unfair treatment of Ender goes to show what lengths people will go to when they want something badly enough and the effect it has on those involved, an interesting subject for children so young.
Speaking of the age of the children in Ender’s Game – this is the only place I found myself in the situation of not quite believing what the story was telling me. The children at battle school are aged from 6 up and their behaviour seems a little too old for them. I fully understand the reasoning behind it, but to make it truly realistic they would need to be from 10 up – try and picture a 6 year old doing what they do in battle school and it feels wrong. The same goes for the sections looking at Peter and Valentine – kids doing politics at their age did stretch the imagination a little.
Despite these little problems with Ender’s Game I thought it was an excellent book. Not only did give some memorable characters, it also looked at what the human race is capable of when it faces something it fears can destroy it. Without a doubt this is one of my most enjoyable reads of the year and I would recommend it to anyone – with the above reservations. Now just to hope the sequels live up to the standard set here…