Third; ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card

I am finding it hard to write today; I have awoken grumpy and lethargic, and this is not the right frame of mind to be in when you want to write about an awesome book. It is raining outside, dark inside, I am partially confined and I cannot find my award for ‘Worlds Biggest Moaner’ anywhere.

As someone who does not have enough motivation or bravery to meet their own potential (apologies for the self-deprecation, I am not seeking sympathy, only stating fact) it is interesting that this book is about child geniuses; the genetically modified wonders. As shallow as I can sometimes be I value intelligence over looks, looks are great but discussion keeps you going. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is an intellectual win, it keeps you thinking, engaged, and when not a lethargic mess, inspired.

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.Synopsis from Goodreads

Ender’s Game was recommended to me by a friend, and I subsequently put it aside for six months with the assumption that I would hate it. I am not sure what I thought Ender’s Game would be about; my preconceptions were completely inaccurate. Enders Game is just what you need in a science fiction novel, intelligent, gripping and convincingly able to blur the lines between right and wrong.

Ender’s Game could have easily been ridiculous, especially considering the difficulty for a science fiction novel to transcend the decade it is written in, but it was not. The Formics (‘Buggers’), an ant like race of creatures, have waged war on earth and its colonies twice. Another invasion cannot be risked, Earth needs a tactician the likes of which have never been seen before, this time Earth is preparing for a pre-emptive strike to hit the Buggers where it hurts, their queens. On Earth children are bred, genetically modified geniuses, to be trained as soldiers in the war. But they need someone exceptional to lead the invasion and eventually they find one, in Ender Wiggan.

Andrew Wiggan, self-titled Ender, is a social outcast, not only due to the monitor he has carried for six years but also due to his status as a Third. Earth has a two child policy, to be allowed to have a third would need exceptional reasons. All part of the programme to produce brilliant officers, Ender’s older siblings Peter and Valentine both fail the process; their parents were allowed to produce Ender in hopes of a success where the others failed. Exceptionally gifted Ender is intelligent beyond his years; I yearned to reach in and mother him as he is constantly manipulated and lied to, all for the sake of the greater ‘good’. Yet you come to realise that mothering is exactly what would hinder his progression, he needed to be a solitary power to achieve the government’s goal. His siblings, Peter and Valentine, are equally as exceptional but lack characteristics the other possesses; characteristics which Ender so marvellously combines and struggles with.

At first Peter and Valentine were two halves of Ender; the devil and angel on his shoulders. Away from Ender Valentine is left with their sadistic brother Peter, a psychopath with lofty political dreams. Valentine, to my interest and surprise, develops well in Peters company, adapting to Peters influence without being thoroughly corrupted by it. However, she is no longer the team mate against Peter that Ender remembers, and this tarnishes their once perfect union. Valentine is a symbol of innocence and protection from Peter, and as she grows this is lost. While this is a slow progression of cynicism on Valentine’s part, Ender has difficulty accepting what is for him a sudden change.

Ender is a damaged soul with no clear life purpose past the Buggers. I enjoyed Ender’s inner conflict, if he is both Peter and Valentine he sees himself as both good and evil; fighting with all he has not to be his brother. Ender has the ability to fight and kill but feels the guilt afterwards; Valentine lacks violence where Peter lacks empathy. I assumed Ender’s selection would mark the end of Peter and Valentine, to my surprise I was treated to a more political aspect of Ender’s world where both siblings revolutionising the world Ender comes to save. This added depth to the novel, it could have worked without them but flourished the more with them. I was gripped.

Once Ender graduates early from his initial training Card could not have surprised me more with the inclusion of Mazer Rackham, previous destroyer of the Buggers. It was a marvellous touch, Mazer denying Ender knowledge while teaching him was a sneaky risk. However, Ender could only succeed thinking everything was a game, he was too young for the pressure of reality. Ender’s eventual victory felt bitter-sweet; he had been bred for only one reason and is left with no ability to function outside of this role or the attention that comes with it.

While I enjoyed the entirety of Ender’s Game, its ending was the best bit by far. Ender discovering the Buggers did not know there was intelligent life when they first attacked, that they were sorry and were planning to leave Earth alone was magnificent. Ultimately Ender was more like the Buggers than his own race; they both shared a common guilt for destroying each other. For Ender to preserve a race he once destroyed, to claim a small segment of redemption is fascinating. I could not help but wonder if the world who came to love him would shun him just as quickly if they knew, but perhaps that is in another book.

I try not to say this often but get this book, it is a game changer. Pardon the pun

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