A great story and a rare work of science fiction that deals predominantly with children. I’ve read this book twice now and recently finished listening to the unabridged audiobook (it was well read, with multiple voice actors). Card allows us to get deep inside the skin of Ender from the age of about 6 to 12 as he enters Battle School and later Command School. It’s a story of a genius boy undergoing trial after trial set forth by his peers and Battle School teachers. The orbital school is a great setting and the mock (and real) battles are engaging. The children seem more mature than their years would suggest, but we’re reminded that they all are extremely smart and well vetted. Ender graduates to Command School under the tutelage of Mazer Rackham, the hero of the previous Bugger war. Ender, without realizing it, began to command ships in real battles with the Buggers (instantaneous communication possible via the Ansible, a direct nod to The Dispossessed), while he assumed he was just playing computer simulations. I thought that was a fantastic twist. I also liked how the book was “strategic”, by that I mean Ender’s tactics, his thoughts on attributes of a good commander and how his older brother and sister manipulated politics back on Earth. Hyrum Graff, the International Fleet colonel who oversees Ender’s development is also strategic in the scenarios that he makes Ender face.
After the final battle that results in the destruction of the Bugger’s home world, the book unwinds somewhat anti climatically. There is a brief world-wide conflict as the destruction of humanity’s unifying foe causes forces to reorganize. This is minimized by Peter’s machinations though Locke, his political alter-ego. Ender and his sister Valentine depart to govern a colony and this is where things get interesting again. On that former Bugger colony planet Ender discovers a place that he thought only existed in a fantasy game used as a psychological assessment tool back in Battle School. It was built by the Buggers as a means to communicate with Ender once they realized they may lose the war – a war which they ironically wanted to end peacefully. These final chapters of Ender’s Game feel more like a postscript to the main story (they were written as a set up for Speaker of the Dead). While I understand the progression of events and how it made sense to use the Ender character as the Speaker, it does feel somewhat awkward. I guess because the pace and setting feel like they belong to a different book. My other (minor) criticism is the lack of vulgar language used by the children in Battle School. It feels cleaned up, and Card admits to it (apparently earlier drafts contained expletives), since he was uncomfortable with kids learning that language from him as it was a book essentially about kids. Finally, Ender never actually fails at anything when it comes to dealing with other people. He never loses a battle, either mock or real, despite overwhelming odds. I think having him lose on occasion would have heightened the tension with each battle he fought, because after a while (and certainly by the final battle) it was simply assumed Ender would overcome every challenge presented to him. However, despite these criticisms, Ender’s Game is a great story and one of the best in the sci fi cannon.
(Amazon) Ender’s Game