Apr 13, 2008

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (and Margaret A. Edwards Challenge Wrap-Up)

Ender’s Game is the story of Andrew Wiggins, nicknamed Ender. In a futuristic world where population laws limit the number of children a couple can have, where children are trained for war, and where humanity has twice been threatened by an alien species known as the buggers, Ender is selected for military training at Battleschool when he is only six years old.

Ender is selected because he is gifted, and at Battleschool he quickly proves that he excels like no other before him has. As the most talented among the talented, he is being trained to lead the human forces in the anticipated third bugger invasion. But this training means that he keeps being pushed further and further, and as a result of this Ender spends most of his time isolated, being bullied and envied, and feeling lonely, miserable and scared.

It’s really hard to discuss the key aspects of this book without spoilers. I know that many of you have read it (Chris has been making sure of that :P), but for the sake of those who haven’t, I’ll make an effort to keep this post free of spoilers. Ender’s Game is a very gripping novel that raises a lot of pertinent questions. What is innocence? How far can someone be pushed for the sake of the common good? What will fear drive us to do? What is blame and what is blamelessness? What can be excused, and what cannot? Do the circumstances justify certain actions? Can we ever forgive ourselves for certain things?

Ender had my sympathy from the start, and he kept it all through the story even though he does some terrible things. First because regardless of what he is put through, Ender is only a little boy, and he is always portrayed as such, brilliance aside. But above all what made me like him so much was the fact that he is more aware of the consequences of his actions than everyone else around him, including the adults – or rather, especially the adults.

Ender’s Game is a complex novel that can be taken in many ways. To me, what this story is about is the importance of compassion and empathy, and the often tragic consequences of miscommunication and distrust. I’m going to have to quote Debi’s review here: “I'm not naive enough to believe that war can always, in all circumstances, be avoided. But I am naive enough to believe that it usually can, and it usually should.” Me too, Debi.

What made this book jump from "good" to "really good" for me was the very last chapter – it moved me a lot. I’m not sure if there can ever be atonement for certain things, but sometimes there is little else to do but try. I was immensely glad that Ender was given a chance to try. And I loved how by the end of the story every side was humanized.

While I think that to suggest, like some have, that this book could be read as an apology of the Holocaust is beyond silly, I do think that it explores some ethical grey areas, and that it raises some questions for which there are no easy answers. But it makes us think about those things, and uncomfortable though that may be, how can it be anything but good?

Other Blog Reviews:
Trish's Reading Nook
Everyday Reads
Library Queue
Lost in a Good Story
Read Warbler
Nothing of Importance
Bold Blue Adventure
Dog Ear Diary
Stainless Steel Droppings
Words by Annie
My Year of Reading Seriously
An Adventure in Reading
Literary Escapism

I read the following books for the Margaret A. Edwards Challenge:
My favourite was Powers by a wide margin. Not because the others weren't also really good, but simply because I thought Powers was pretty much perfect (just like the other books in the Annals of the Western Shore series.) My least favourite was probably Psyche in a Dress, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. I did, a lot. It's just that the others were even better. It was my first time reading Lois Lowry and Madeleine L'Engle, and I intend to read more of both of their work in the future. I know that I really have to read The Giver, and I'd like to read the rest of the Time Quintet at some point.

This was a very enjoyable challenge. My thanks to Becky for hosting it!


  1. wow, this sounds like a book I would really like. I'm after finishing a book which is also set in the future and where humans are not allowed to have children anymore, because everyone can now live forever, called "The Declaration". I know it's very different from Ender's Game but surely one I would recommend!

    the challenge looks like it made you read some really good books, and I'm glad you managed to complete it:)

  2. One day I will get around to giving Orson Scott Card a chance...

    Congrats for completeing the Margeret A Edwards Challenge, I want to read Powers and A Wrinkle in Time from your list.

  3. I'm glad you liked Ender's Game. It is a favorite of mine :) And congratulations for finishing the challenge so soon!

  4. I keep hearing good things about this book, so I guess I need to look out for this book soon!!!

    And congrats for completing the challenge! :)

  5. I too have heard a great deal about this one. I really should quit stalling and give it a try. Thanks for the great review. By the way, I have moved my blog (formerly PfeifferBooknotes) to Booknotes by Lisa at http://booknotesbylisa.blogspot.com if you want to update your blogroll. I just got everything changed over and have been painting all week, so there aren't any new posts as of yet. But, I start on my new job tomorrow, and I'll get back into a routine soon.

  6. I've heard such good things about this author and especially this book. Actually, I think my sister is currently reading it for high school--perhaps I can borrow her copy when she is finished! Congrats on finishing the challenge--this is the first I had heard about this particular one.

  7. I couldn't agree with you more that it's the last chapter of this book that makes it jump from good to really good. It was that last chapter that made me go on to read Speaker for the Dead and really fall in love with OSC's work. I've read the same thing about this book being an apology for the holocaust and that's just ridiculous. People come up with the most ridiculous things.

    You gave such a wonderful review of this Nymeth and I'm glad that you enjoyed it. One thing I love about Card is that he's not afraid to address issues that others won't touch, but does it with a certain grace if that's the word. He doesn't offend (well not usually). I hope you read Speaker for the Dead some time. It's my favorite book.

    And I need to read Powers like now! You've said such great things about it and I enjoyed Gifts so much.

  8. I have seen blogger reviews pop up now and then for Ender's Game. I really like your take on the book and definitely must give it a try.

    Congratulations on finishing the Margaret A. Edwards Challenge!

  9. Thanks for the great review! I've heard the title floating around quite a bit, but I did not really know what the book was about. I'll have to add it to my TBR list!

  10. Very nice review, and I agree with Debi's quote, too.

  11. I'm one of the few who didn't enjoy reading this book.

    I think I commented on Chris' blog before that what spoiled the experience was that I guessed halfway through what was happening so when it actually happened well, things fell apart for me.

    That being said I like Alvin's character a lot. So I'm more than willing to read Speaker for the Dead this time (and I have signed up Xenocide as well for one of the challenges I joined which is the third book in the series).

    Oh well. So far though I haven't really enjoyed the other OSC book I've read. I don't know. Maybe OSC and I just don't jive. Hahaha.

    Great review though. Makes me want to reread it and see whether or not my bias colored my perception of the whole story.

    And I agree wholeheartedly with your quote from Debi's review.

  12. Glad you liked it. It was the revelation at the end that sealed the book for it.

    Are you moving onto the next book in the series? When I read Speaker for the Dead, I was a little surprised because of its departure in tone from Ender's Game. It's more adult, but it shares Card's theme on the need to understand and communicate with an alien other.

  13. Congrats on finishing your challenge!

    I've skipped most of your review because I'm going to be reading Ender's Game myself soon for the Cardathon challenge. I can't wait as, judging by your summing up, it's quite an interesting read. I'll come back read this when I've read it.

  14. Ender's Game was one of the first really striking sci-fi novels I read in college, and I just adored it. I can't even remember why I picked it up, but I gulped it down in no time. :)

  15. Ender's Game is an amazing novel and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, is even more amazing, if such a thing can be said. I highly recommend continuing Ender's adventures with a reading of Speaker!

  16. Valentina: I haven't heard of The Declaration, but it sounds good! I hope you enjoy Ender's Game when you get to it.

    Rhinoa: I know you're not all that much into sci-fi all that much, but I recommend his fantasy book Enchantment. Sleeping Beauty, Slavic folklore, enchanted forests, magic, the Baba Yaga...I can't imagine you not liking that one!

    Becky: Thanks again for hosting!

    Melody: You do indeed :P

    Lisa: Thanks for letting me know about your new blog, I'll add it to my google reader. I look forward to reading your posts again!

    Trish: Do borrow it from your sister! I'm sure you'd enjoy discussing this one with her...it raises a lot of questions.

    Chris: It is ridiculous...I guess people just project whatever they want onto books. And I also like the fact that Card addresses those issues that most of us won't go near. He does it well too. I do want to read Speaker for the Dead! I think that the fact that my favourite chapter on Ender's Game was entitled that is a sign :P Plus it's one of your favourites, plus I want to "meet" the Pequeninos! And yes, you have to read Powers, but I recommend reading Voices first. The stories are independent, but having read it first will make Powers more, er, powerful :P especially the ending.

    Literary Feline: I hope you enjoy it!

    Laura: You're welcome :) I hope you enjoy the book.

    Robin: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it :)

    Lightheaded: While I didn't guess what was going to happen, I wasn't surprised when it did either...does that make sense? :P This was only my third book by Card, but so far I enjoyed them all. But I know what you mean... there are some authors I just can't get into either.

    Dark Orpheus: That is a theme that appeals to me a lot, so yes, I plan on reading it!

    Cath: I look forward to reading your thoughts on this one once you're done.

    Andi: I found it hard to put down too. Very gripping.

    Carl: I will!

  17. Lois Lowry is such an amazing author, isn't she? I'm glad you liked Number the Stars, and I hope you get the chance to read more books by her. She is great!

    I actually sent you an email already about Ender's Game before I saw you had posted a review. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

  18. Kim: She is amazing indeed. Thanks for the e-mail! I'll reply later today.

  19. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Nymeth! I never imagined that it would get to me the way it did. I loved that list of questions you wrote...it really pinpoints what truly put me in awe of Card's writing talent. He wrote a book that was so incredibly accessible to kids, in a way that allows them to explore some of these really tough issues that life will eventually throw their way. Another positively brilliant review, Nymeth!

  20. Debi, I really was impressed with the way he made all those questions so accessible to young people. It takes talent to do that, and to write a book that examines ethical issues but doesn't moralize.

  21. I really love Ender's Game. It's always been one of my very favorite books. I've read it numerous times and at every reading come away with something new.

  22. Yay--now having read the book I can leave a "real" comment. :) The last chapter was so rewarding for me as well. My husband couldn't wait for me to find out about Ender's "final examination", but that didn't surprise me and I felt a little let down. But then when Ender went exploring and found the ruins and the castle...I found it to be the perfect hopeful ending of peace and rebirth.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.