Sunday, May 27, 2018

"Ender`s Game" by Orson Scott Card (1985)

"The enemy`s gate is down!"

What is it all about?
"Ender`s Game" is a military sci fi novel set in a more or less unspecified  future where humankind is preparing itself for the third invasion of the insectoid, hive minded "Buggers".

Part of the ongoing war effort is to train children, with promising traits, to military leaders on a space station orbiting Earth. The children are isolated from the rest of humanity and subject to constant assessments through exercises in conflict solution and strategic/tactical thinking.

These exercises are more or less camouflaged as games and find their culmination in the never ending battle for high scores in the "Battle Room":  A cavernous zero G chamber, where promising recruits are given authority over "toons" to fight battles in a 3D scenario.

Even though a lot of promising children have passed through that machinery and achieved high ranks in the growing space fleet, the administration is on the lookout for a near messianic leader figure and tactical genius to save humanity. 

For this purpose a planet wide vetting of children has been implemented to find HIM or HER (*), a candidate with extreme potential is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin with the perfect mixture of raw intelligence, empathy and killer instict.

Ender is a "Third" (pariah like status) and a rare exception to Earths strict two-child policy only allowed by Earths (more or less) united government due to the great potential shown by Enders older sister and brother.

Peter, Enders brother, was deemed brilliant but sociopathic whereas Valentine, Enders sister, flunked because she was to soft.

Ender is brought to battle and  immediately is subjected extreme pressure from all sides (some children, envying Enders brilliance, even try to murder him) as he is forced to continuously forced to think out of the strategic box to lead his "toon" to victory. The story culminates as Ender manages to destroy the entire race of the "buggers" in what he and his friends believed was a computer battle simulation.

Why I like it?

Ender`s Game is, like all of Card`s sci fi novels, "soft science fiction" where the focus is on sociology, religion and the individuals rather than technology. As the story develops more and more of the worlds current geo-political state and technological level is revealed and a lot hinted between the lines. 

I like that. A LOT! 

What stirs me every time I read the book is the vulnerability of the protagonist and the violence he is exposed to at times (The fight in the battle schools battle room gives me chills this day today). Being a father and painfully aware of how vulnerable a six year old actually is, does not ALL.

This book was not my first run in with the work of Orson Scott Card: I once borrowed (and never returned) the novelization of the James Cameron movie "Abyss" from my sister. The novelization of a movie was usually "mehh..." but Card`s take on the film and the depth he gave the characters blew me away. Still one of my favorite books!

Personal attachment

I took "Ender`s Game" (in Danish : "Ender`s Strategi") home from the library during my studies at the Officers College and inhaled it...a few years later I fell over it again during my first trip as Merchant Marine Officer...and it actually helped me over a rough patch I had at that time.

Later "Ender`s Game" was partly responsible for my addiction for Audiobooks as a friend gave me the abridged version. And it has been on my playlist ever since.

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