I'm reading the Ender Saga for the first time...

So I thought I’d read the Ender Saga.

I’m not usually into reading much Science Fiction, ofr some reason it holds little appeal, even though I tend to enjoy a lot of SF TV or Movies (or at least, I used to). It does seem to come as a highly recommended series, though, and I figured a book about a prodigy child who is used as a pawn sounded like a good read.

I’ve read a little Orson Scott Card before, his Prentice Alvin series, and I definitely enjoyed his writng and characterisation, though it was ultimately somewhat unsatisfying. Interestingly, I find exactly the same thing here.

I like Ender. He is very much a nice kid, even if he is a sullen boy sometimes. I liked how the whole book is scene after scene of describing children floating around in a room, and despite that is compelling to read. I liked the overall plot, it had a nice climax.

I did not like the ending, which feels like it’s a rushed chapter written solely for the inevitable sequel.

Speaking of which, I am 90% of the way through the second book, and I like this one a whole lot less. Seems to have very little to do with science fiction, and more to do with social relationships. You can hardly say it’s a sequel, if it wasn’t for Ender being in it. Who, may I say, is a lot less likeable.

The problem I really have, though, isn’t the inexplicable use of Portuguese characters, or his total underestimation of computer capabilities 3000 years in the future.

No, my problem is Ender is a soppy annoyingly empathetic character. And he expresses his “love” for people rather too often and rather unrealistically. Just having empathy for the troubled teenage girl is not enough to know immediately that he is in love with the 40 year old woman. Saying how much he loves his evil brother and his nice sister really comes across as creepy.

it’s not the love itself - it’s the fact that he expresses it too often and too openly. It just feels weird.

What say you?

I felt the same way. It’s just hard to top Ender’s Game. Although it’s a tough comparison since they are such different books.

Welcome to the world of Orson Scott Card. Off the top of my head, I think Ender’s Game is about as science-fictiony as he gets. All his work is extremely character-driven.

He’s had more time (a lot more time) to develop negative personality traits. In the first book he was basically an extremely bright, innocent and well-meaning young child. In Speaker For The Dead he’s a fully-grown adult and isn’t all peaches and cream.

I think this is rather realistic, actually. He’s flawed. He had a horribly messed-up upbringing and his character as an adult is impacted. He’s almost supernaturally empathetic. He feels responsible for the well-being of everyone he comes into contact with. The occupation that he invented basically consists of getting to know someone so well that you come to love them, and then explaining your love to other people. Ender is not average. If you find his flaws soppy and annoying, there’s not much to be done about that. Personally I find them revealing and somewhat endearing, and very realistic and understandable.

Well, it’s not just Ender. Nobody questions his outpouring of love, nobody reacts in any way other than immediate acceptance and agreement, even returning a similar expression. It may be understandable for Ender to feel this way, but is it realistic to have everybody else behave similarly?

It seems to me that Card’s portrayal of people is skewed by something, he must’ve had a unique openly emotional upbringing.

I have a special edition of Speaker for the Dead that includes a foreword by Card. He explains that he actually had the idea for the second book first, but needed a proper setup. The setup became Ender’s Game, which I like better of the two. (Haven’t read the next two yet.)

I think one of the better things about Cards writing is that the characters are so complex. They’re both good AND bad.

I met Card once at a signing and mentioned that his books always made me feel uncomfortable because of the characters and he told me that he planned it that way. He tries to write real people.

And that’s actually kind of refreshing in SF circles. Too often the characters are just cardboard cutouts to move the story along.

Well, lemmie see what I can add.

sturmhauke is right, in a way. Ender’s Game was originally a short story (or novellete) that was published in 1977. The character Ender Wiggins started off in battle school, went through an accelerated training and the ending was near the final battle. There was no mention of travelling to other planets, Ender’s family, etc.

SftD was then thought up in the early '80s and that’s when Card realized that Ender Wiggins, or Wiggin, and his story would be the perfect setup to the tale he really wanted to tell. He had no idea EG would be so popular, he was just using it as a prelude. It’s also why there seems to be such a dramatic change between the first and second book. They really just aren’t the same.

People in his stories don’t behave similarly. Peter is cruel. Valentine is kind. Bean is rebellious. Bonzo is arrogant. etc etc etc.
Those are extreme simplifications but you get the point. The characters that come to his side don’t do so for the story’s sake. They do so because he wins their affection. Those that don’t show the jealousy behind their actions.

Why is Ender so empathetic? That’s who he is. That’s what he was trained to do: to figure his “opponents” out. The computer game where he tries to make it past unmakable areas. Battle school where he needs to understand his team’s motivation and the strategies of his opponents.
Think of him as a low grade Pretender, though instead of adopting their life, he just tries to understand how they think.
That’s how he can be empathetic. He starts to understand how they feel.