Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review - Ender's Game

Ender's Saga, by Orson Scott Card
1. Ender's Game 02/27/2012 * * * *

From Goodreads:
"In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel."

My Thoughts:
Ender's Game has an interesting premise, good plotting, great pacing, and some extremely fascinating characters, and a great twist at the end that I totally didn't see coming, even though I think I should have, in retrospect.  In spite of all that, it's difficult to put my finger on exactly why I liked this book so much.  This is the first time I've read it, and I'm really not sure how I've managed to avoid it for over twenty years, but i wish I had read it sooner.  It's a fantastic story of a lonely little boy with too much pressure and not enough childhood, struggling to survive and excel in a brutal environment, and while there are plenty of good moments when the reader can cheer for Ender's successes, it is also often somewhat sad.

Nonetheless I think it is an amazing story, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Sci-Fi, although it really feels like more of a character study with sci-fi elements.  My one complaint is that at times - especially in the beginning - it was a little confusing, as there isn't a clear storyline of what has happened before and what is happening now; the reader sort of has to piece it together and makes some guesses as to how we arrived at this point. 

The only thing that keeps me from giving the book five stars is that I'm not 100% sure that it would be as good in a re-read.  In spite of that I fully intend to read the rest of the series in the not-too-distant-future.


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