Spoil "Ender's Game" for me

I’ve had several friends recommend this science fiction book to me, but have never mustered sufficient interest to actually read it. I’m so busy now, and my reading stack is so tall, I probably never will.

So go ahead, spoil it for me. What’s “Ender’s Game” about, how good is it, what kind of interesting issues does it address, etc.?


I just can’t spoil it for you. But I recommend you read it.

[spoiler]Earth is at war against space aliens. You got a bunch of 6-10 year-old kids who act and talk like adults (culled from the most talented kids on Earth) which get sent to Battle School where they learn the 3-D fighting skills needed to fight space battles (the BS is in space.) Part of the training is simulations fighting the aliens, simulations that get harder and harder as the training progresses. Finally, at the end of the book, the last simulation is almost impossible to beat so the leader of the kids, Ender, decides to do something (I can’t remember which) that blows up the simulated planet, thereby winning the simulation.

And the war, as we find out. The simulations were anything but: they were actual battles and the final battle had Ender (the leader) commiting genocide (“Xenocide”, the title of one of the sequels) w/o knowing that he was doing so. [/spoiler]

It was OK. I don’t understand how this is held in as high regard as it is, but that’s life. People say that OSC makes believable children characters, but his kids are nothing like the kids I hung around with. He even makes it more unbelievable by:

setting up a side-plot involving Ender’s sister and brother who, while in their teenage years, become world-renowned political figures via the Internet (whatever it was called in the book). This one was taken to even more extremes as the two kids formed persona’s and positions that were opposite of their own beliefs. So you have two teenagers debating positions they don’t believe in and doing so well at it that they become global influence makers - all while attending school, going to the prom, undergoing puberty, etc. Yeah-friggin-right. :rolleyes:

It’s about a bunch of surprisingly (and to me, impossibly) adult kids beating each other up while trainging as super-genius admirals. Card doesn’t have a clue about military tactics. And in the end they trik Ender into comiting xenocide.

Frankly, I think it’s overly hyped.

If he asked for spoilers, why are we spoiler-boxing?

OK, we’ve got some negative things here, so here’s some positive views:

In a lot of ways, it was like kids really are. Jealousy of anyone smarter than they are, extreme competition. Several personalities were addressed: the over-achiever, the one who’s content to just float along in life, the bully, etc.

We have the classic case of the unwilling hero as the central character. The one who does what he has to do. One of the points of the book was that the only way we could defeat the aliens was by someone who felt compassion for them and therefore could think like they did. But someone with that much compassion could never defeat them, hence the trick.

It also drew an allegory between Ender and many mystic beings…he saved the Earth but could never return to the paradise he saved.

There were many interesting dynamics between him and the adults in his world.

All in all, I recommend it. It’s a good read.

The main plot, with Ender, is very interesting.

The subplot, as has been noted, is so ludicrous as to defy reading.

I think the readability of the book hinges on your own personal experiences at this age. If you can place yourself and your past in common with Ender, it’ll really have a powerful impact on you. If you can’t then, just like two posters before, you won’t understand the hype. I personally loved the book. I did have friends that age who spoke and acted very similarly. Indeed, you could even say I was immersed in an environment similar to the Battle School: the brightest students all piled in one artificial place and forced to deal with the pressure it carries along, the recognition that merely being intelligent makes you average. The language gets verbose and polysyllabic, the analysis of yourself and others goes deeper, but in the end it’s still just a bunch of kids trying to make it. In short, my experiences make the book credible for me.

I am surprised that no one has linked to the original short story that Card wrote for analog back in 70something. If all you want is the basic Enders Game plot, this has that…without a lot of the other subplot things that people have complained about. It’s only about 20pp long and worth the read.

That being said, Enders Game is one of my favorite books. No, it isn’t the GREAT literature of some of my favorite “traditional” authors, nor is it the best Sci Fi I have read, but Card really knows how to write. Enders Game has a gripping plot and interesting characters. I read the whole book in about 6 hours of straight reading when I first got it, and go back to re read it periodically. There are just so many cool ideas in the book, even if you know the plot it is worth a read.

I also think that like Catcher in the Rye, it is a book that is best experienced for the first time when you are young. Not a teenager necessarily (though all the people who seem to react very strongly to it read it first as teens) but young enough to remember what it was like to be that age. What it was REALLY like. 10 and 12 year olds are smarter and more aware than most people give them credit for, especially the gifted ones. We seem to forget as we age that at 12 or thirteen, while emotionally immature, most of us had something on the ball. This book has a lot to do with that idea, the gap between emotional and intellectual maturity as a pre teen/teenager. (other ideas too, but that one always struck me)

So read the book, its short. Or at least read the short story to get a feel for OSC’s writing style.

I’m with those who say you should forget the spoilers and read the book yourself, and you’ll be glad you did. It’s 400 pages but it’s a FAST read, you can easily finish it in a single weekend. However, I do feel compelled to expand on JohnT’s spoiler:

Ender attacks the bugger planet because he’s exhausted, disillusioned, and wants out of the game entirely. He thinks that committing a gross violation of military ethics (the general warned him NOT to attack the planet earlier) will force everyone to kick him out, and he won’t have to fight the “real” war. Of course, it turns out that that’s exactly what the brass was counting on him to do!

That’s just the main story, though. You’ll also miss out on stuff like The Giant’s Game, the rivalry between Ender & all the older captains, as well as

all the homoerotic subtext & excessive young male nudity which has convinced many readers that OSC’s pro-Mormon, anti-gay rants are just a front. :smiley:

The Peter/Valentine subplot may be a little unrealistic, but it’s nonetheless intriguing since it predates internet trolling by a decade. :slight_smile: Sometimes I wonder if their method has been used by trollers on the SDMB: “Hey JDT, get that Pit Thread started NOW!” “But I can’t! I’m in FAVOR of circumcision!”

As for the smarty-smart kids, you gotta remember we’re dealing with the top 0.001% of a future society which involves selective breeding and genetic engineering. It’s not that far-fetched, really. OSC once received a hate letter from a teacher who said she was around gifted children all the time, and they don’t talk like that…he wrote back to tell her, “Sure, they do. They just don’t talk that way around YOU!”

My best friend is a huge fan of the Ender books, and finally convinced me to at least start them. I read Ender’s Game in one night, and I agree with just about everyone, in one way or another.

Priam nailed it, though–how you feel about the book is going to depend almost entirely on your own childhood. Personally, I cried for at least the last fourth of the book, if not more, and I have no desire to ever repeat the experience, or read any of the sequels.

I thought it was a great book–never, ever ever want to read it again.

I just wanted to back this up. Such is the beauty of OSC: he can make you believe things you wouldn’t normally.

I’ve read all of the books (there are seven or eight now) and liked all of them.

I agree that if you were smart, isolated and bullied as a kid, you’ll feel for Ender, and get a lot more out of the book than if you lived a more ‘normal’ childhood. I knew kids that talked like the kids in the book, so I think that’s a less than valid criticism.

It’s a good book, and a fun read.

Uh…no, I can’t agree with this.

Ender’s Game was good. Xenocide was good, except for the religious backwater. :rolleyes: Believable it may be, I don’t care to read about crap like that, and it’s turned me off from re-reading it.

Childhood of the Mind was awful, and esoteric. shrug Maybe it was just over my head.

Ender’s Shadow was decent, if only to see a different point of view.

The rest…sucked eggs.

I had never read it, though I’d certainly heard praise enough for it. Then I read this essay. If the author is even half-right about the book, then blech – there’s no way I’m reading that.

I found them enjoyable in a mindless way. I like how they’re all basically a retelling of the same period of time from different points of view.

In the most recent (Shadow of A Giant), it’s revealed that there is one baby left from Bean and Petra’s stolen embryos and the mother thinks it’s Achilles’ baby… and is going to raise him as a psychopath

That should be a neat plot line to follow.

I will give you that Ender, Speaker and Xenocide are the best of the three, with the Shadow books being good, but nothing at all like the first three.

Co-incidentally, I stumbled across that essay today and my opinion was that the author had an axe to grind. Some of his analysis is fairly reasonable but a lot of it is horribly flawed.

I have to say, “Gay Sex and Death in the Science Fiction of Orson Scott Card” (his 4th citation) had me giggling for a good 5 minutes.

See KGS second spoiler.

I thought the kids leading adults to suicidal crashes fellated with great allacrity.*

*NoClue: That means it really sucked. :slight_smile:

I’m not really up to doing an elaborate point-by-point on the essay at the moment, but one glaring leap that is taken would be the assumption that Ender is somehow still innocent at the end of the novel. The entire book is, to my mind, a long expansion on the theme of falling from grace. Far from Ender being an innocent killer absolved of all blame, he is shattered by every act of violence. He goes from child prodigy to broken man in a few hundred pages, so I hardly say the text is condoning violence and genocide without consequences. The message I always derived from the book was not that intentions purely make rightness or wrongness, but that Ender was the only person with a true moral compass in regard to events. Where the adults, always focused on the goal, refused to punish him for his clearly guilty actions, Ender atones by punishing himself. The only penance he could end up finding was bringing the aliens symbolically (and, in later books, truly) back to life.

And yet, at least of genocide, he is clearly innocent from blame. Are we to be considered guilty if we boot up Command & Conquer and utterly destroy the enemy base without knowing it was in fact a real base actually filled with civilians? We had absolutely no knowledge, no inkling, that we would be killing other people with the click of a mouse. Should we then stand trial for war crimes? I should think any reasoning human being’s answer would be “no”.

While the essay raised valid points, it felt too much like someone presumed a thesis and then searched around for evidence to confirm it. Just as OSC perhaps went too far in defense of intentions-based ethics, I feel Mr. Kessel has taken actions-based to an equal extreme. The truth, as is often the case, can be found in the muddled middle.

Of course, the peculiar irony being that OSC himself holds a more action-based morality than a humanistic morality based on motivation, and a faith-based morality above all.