Book Review Wednesday: Ender’s Game (4 stars)

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Book Reviews

With all the hype lately, most have heard that there’s a new movie coming out called ‘Ender’s Game’. Here’s the trailer:

As I do when I come across a film I like the look of, I checked out the book.


Yup, see films, think of books. That’s how my mind works. I get disappointed when a film I like isn’t based on book.

Anyway, here’s the blurb:

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.

Sounds exciting, huh? I really liked it, but I found it more sad than exciting. You’ve got this little kid, and from the age of six people are just shoving way too much responsibility on his shoulders. I’m one of those people who thinks that kids ought to have more responsibility than they have these days, but even I stop before putting the weight of the fate of humanity on a six-year-old.

I’ve read a couple reviews of this book that say Ender and the other kids act too mature, and some that say they don’t act mature enough. I think that’s the point of the book. These kids are being raised in a pressure cooker, and some like Ender aren’t even allowed friends to help them through it. They aren’t going to be normal kids.

What I loved most was the ethical issues the book raised. What lengths would you go to in order to ensure your planet’s safety? What does it take for a person to be considered evil?

Some issues were raised that I really agree with, like concentrating on colonising other planets instead of just squabbling over territory and worrying about overpopulation and the fate of the world. Whether by asteroid, age or alien attack eventually the earth is going to die, but the human race doesn’t have to die with it.

If I were to describe Ender’s game in one phrase, it would be ‘Thought Provoking’. The characters are deep, even the aliens are well explored. It made me think, and I love it when a book does that. This book left me with a lot to mull over, but the biggest thought was this: we’re all pretty scared about alien races, or threats from the big unknown space while we sit happily on our little planet, but as the human race we’re pretty darn scary ourselves.

I gave this book four stars. The only reason it wasn’t five was because the kids did get a little annoying at times. I don’t really hold that against them, but it took away just a little from the enjoyment of the book.

Looking forward to seeing the film. I hope it includes some of the ethical issues that make the book so interesting, and doesn’t decide to drop them for ‘crash, bang, pow, destroy all aliens.’


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