Orson Scott Card is an author who's words I've read several times and nodded along too in agreement, and yet I had never once read any of his fiction. I've read works of his dedicated to the craft of writing and his knowledge there finally convinced me to make reading Ender's Game a priority.
Ender's Game closely follows Andrew Wiggin, known as Ender, as he is selected and groomed for a great destiny within the military defence of Earth. In this future, mankind has found an uneasy peace on earth after surviving two waves of invasion from a ruthless alien race known only as "buggers". As a planet they collude to build a massive fleet and harvest from the brightest and best children the future stars of this war machine.
Ender is one such child, only he is worked harder than all the others, as he is the most promising. The story does a wonderful job, in the classic "hard SciFi" way that focuses primarily on the technology and the world around it, of unfolding a detailed "what if" scenario to completely flesh out the world and events to follow.
It asks and answers questions such as, how do you train children from a young age to be armies, to lead armies? How do you train them to fight in zero gravity? To think in zero gravity without the limitations of earth-like thinking? How do you fight an interstellar war? How do you help children cope with the mental strain?
Much of the novel is gruelling, and tortuous as we follow along through Ender's trials and triumphs, such as they are, and it is all fascinating. I did feel it wore on me. There wasn't much for hope, or compassion in this story, and there felt to be precious little positive emotion in it. I believe this was by design as Orson Scott Card set out to make us understand the unbearable cost of what was done and from the payers perspective, from Ender's.
Many people will and should enjoy this book, especially young people, because in many ways it celebrates the ability of youth to achieve great things and is at it's heart an underdog story, albeit a brutal one. Given the main events it'd be easy to expect this to be a cautionary tale, but only in the final pages does this really occur and then it feels more like a segue into a sequel then any real message.
My main complaints against the book are it's muddled theme especially in regards to the end. While this is written and titled as if it's the story of Ender, it's treated in end and at various stages much more like the story of Earthlings in the Third Invasion. I think this allowed OSC to explore many more ideas he had but ultimately took away from the power of his central material and at various times made us more interested in largely unimportant characters (Ender's siblings).
I guess in the end I just wished there had been some moralistic message after going through Ender's trials with him. What was there was handled in such a wash of denouement exposition it didn't really resonate. Orson Scott Card exhibits a very analytical understanding of cause and effect in relation to human emotions, relationships, and society and science. His work is solid and well written here, but to my disappointment, it is not Lord of the Flies in Space.
I give Ender's Game 9/10.