Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

IMG_2599Kindergarten was not the easiest time of my life. I remember being upset with my teacher for taking my friend’s side of an argument in which he falsely accused me of having no muscles. I could not believe she would not agree with me that I needed muscles to move my arms. GAH! I also broke my toy nunchuck on the playground, and another one of my friends was a compulsive liar… It was rough.

However, as much turmoil I had to go through, take a look at little Ender Wiggin. Ender lives in a world that has survived two alien invasions from a species known as the buggers… and a third invasion seems imminent. Ender is the third child of his family, which is extremely uncommon due to population laws. Of course, this opens the door for persecution and bullying by other kids in his class, and when he gets home, supposedly safe from his tormentors, his older brother Peter torments him more than ever. In fact, if his sister, Valentine, did not intervene, it’s hard to say how far Peter would go… Ender does not want to find out.

Peter is really smart too. In fact, he is a classified genius, and the government showed much interest in him for their Battle School, an academy orbiting the Earth where the best and brightest children are sent to become the Earth’s future commanders, admirals, and generals. However, Peter is too aggressive.

So the government asked his parents to try again, and along came Valentine. She is also a genius, but too much of a contrast from Peter, too relaxed. Thus the government allowed (or mandated) that the Wiggins have a third, and Andrew “Ender” Wiggin was born. Here is the genius child, a balance between the temperaments of his siblings. The government seems to have an invested interest in Ender, and at the age of five Ender is sent away from his family in a shuttle up to the Battle School.

There are not many books that I have read more than once, but I have read Ender’s Game three times now. I have grown to love the book more with each read. When I was younger, I really appreciated the sci-fi adventure. I liked the imminent alien war. I enjoyed the battle games the boys play in school, and seeing how Ender becomes a living legend.

However in this most recent reading, I paid more attention to Card’s ability to build the psychology of Ender. The boy is surrounded with conflict. He’s a third. He suffers his brother’s wrath. He suffers the brutality of jealous classmates and receives little to no help from the authority figures in his life. 

Yet, despite all of these things, there seems to be a touch of destiny upon Ender. He is deeply loved by his sister. There are strong and vital friendships that he establishes in Battle School, and even the high ranked officials have in-depth conversations about the boy’s future. Even Ender’s enemies eventually learn to respect him. Ender is both loved and hated.

Ender also sees the contrast between Valentine and Peter and how that spectrum exists within him. “I am not Peter” seems to be a reoccurring statement, but truthfully, there is some Peter in Ender. And Ender could not fulfill his destiny without that part of him. Ender is Valentine and Peter; he is a lover and a fighter.

The interesting thing about Card’s writing here, though, is that Ender wants to rid himself of the violence he possesses. Most of us would agree that we are not at our best when we act in violence. However, for Ender, it is his ability to take on Peter’s persona that makes him the only hope for Earth. It is the violence in Ender that will hopefully bring peace to others… ironically, to Peter as well.

The Epilogue to Card’s masterpiece loudly spoke to me as well, but I would much rather someone read the book than to read my paraphrased synopsis of how it ends. Nonetheless, I have included my thoughts about the amazing ending below. I will trust you decide whether or not you should spoil the ending.

The Ender’s Game movie releases November 1st. Movies such as X-Men: The Last Stand (I am still traumatized) have taught me to temper my expectations for a movie, but I am cautiously optimistic. Truthfully, even if Hollywood can only tell the story of defending the world from an alien invasion, the movie should be a great sci-fi action movie. However, if the film can tell the depths of Ender’s story, then the film could be something very special.

I have really not included many details about the Battle School, and that is where the true meat of the story lies. I deeply encourage you to try to pick up a copy if you can.

Pages: 357 FOA Pages: 26,742

Speaker For the Dead (SPOILER)

Ender in some regards is the chosen one. The boy genius completely and utterly wipes out the bugger race believing he is playing an advanced computer game rather than an actual war. The deception allows Ender to do what must be done without having to make the moral decision to commit a xenocide.

After Ender processes what has happened after awhile, he decides to take Valentine’s offer to explore new colonies in space. The two, along with other pioneers, build settlements on one of the buggers’ homeworlds and are hopeful to help Earth relieve itself of the population problems.

While exploring the new world, Ender finds a cocooned egg… the egg of a bugger queen. The hive minded buggers knew their end drew near, and the last great queen prepared a seed that can continue their race. (Since they are hive minded, the collective memories and knowledge of the buggers are preserved in this egg.) And the egg communicates with Ender.

Ender learns that in the first bugger wars, the buggers did not realize humans were an intellectual race. In the second war, the buggers entered the Earth’s solar system to establish communication, but obviously the Earth’s forces attacked as quickly as possible. When Ender’s fleet showed up at their home world, the bugger queen realized that they had not been forgiven. And truthfully, the wars were due to a mistake… a mere lack of communication.

Now Ender has destroyed a species of intellectual beings… due to a mistake? And he now holds their future in the egg. At the end of the book, Ender writes a book entitled Speaker For the Dead in which he writes about the histories of the buggers and their customs. And he and Valentine strive to find a place where the buggers may be born again. Maybe Ender’s fate does not have to be about war after all. Maybe there is a part of his fate dedicated to peace.

Card ends Ender’s Game with a theme of redemption. Earth has been liberated… except from itself. The buggers have a chance to start anew. And Ender, the young man whose childhood was dedicated for war, has a chance to right his wrongs and live peacefully.

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