Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.
But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military’s purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power. Peter seeks to control the political process, to become a ruler. Valentine’s abilities turn more toward the subtle control of the beliefs of commoner and elite alike, through powerfully convincing essays. Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails.
I wanted to like this book so much… but I was quite disappointed.
The idea of this story was interesting enough. But it all felt like a massive built up to something, and then the book ended. It was a constant repetition of Ender playing some game as his training to become an officer. But this was the whole book. There was no danger. It was just a game everyone was overreacting about. Ender could step out of it whenever he wanted to.
In the future we are told about in this book, children are being trained to become a soldier from the age of 6, up to 12. We are never told why children, unless I have missed it. These are also supposed to be highly intelligent children, but they don’t seem that extremely clever to me. Also, even though it is a ‘school’, there don’t seem to be any teachers or classes. The kids are supposed to fight in a war against the buggers, a war humankind already won 80 years ago. Better to be safe than sorry I guess… When I say ‘children’, I am mostly talking about boys. There are in total 3 female characters in this book: Ender’s mother, his sister, and 1 girl at battle school.
“All the boys are organized into armies.”
“A few girls. They don’t often pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them.”
Why??? There are loads of women fighting in the army. But in the future we will be too ‘mild’, or unable to pass tests in school that are easy for boys. The girl at battle school is the first one to crack under the pressure and Ender’s sister only is asked for her help when Ender needs some love and ‘mildness’ to get on with his important mission.
Then there is the age thing… If the author had made them a few years older it would have been a lot more believable. I had a massive WTF moment when Peter (10) told his sister (8) not to worry too much about her oral examination, seeing as it’s not as bad as anal. Ok… And then we get to the school full of 6 year olds, and half of the jokes/insults involve balls/dicks. The way these kids treat one another is horrible. Am I the only one who finds it weird for a 6 year old to beat someone to death? Or… It just all felt so wrong to me. Also, these boys spent a lot of time being naked. Again, why? Why go to the gym naked? That doesn’t seem very comfortable to me. Why undress to beat up a kid in the showers?
Getting back to the horrible way the kids act towards one another. Everyone is an asshole in this book, apart from of course the ‘mild’ girls. All characters, including the protagonist, are flat and undeveloped. Ender never does Anything wrong. He wins all the battles, and also in physical fights he is a martial arts expert. And it is not as if he is working hard to be so good at all these things, he just is. Although the whole universe seems to be plotting against him, he is dealing with it just fine. Sure, he gets a bit tired and grumpy, but apart from that there is nothing wrong with him. He has no friends (and actively pushes away everyone who tries to be), several of the other boys in school try to kill him (this is not an exaggeration), the adults know about this but encourage it and give him more shit to deal with… Ender just has a few nightmares. I didn’t care about him, or any of the other characters.
And then there was the plot twist. Although I was happy there was a plot twist, or anything to take us out of the constant repetition of bullying and gaming, this did not work for me. One, it was a dick move. Two, the story would have been so much more interesting if this was not saved to me a massive surprise but put in earlier. That way it would not have felt like a massive build up to something that never happens.
And I haven’t even discussed yet how it blows my mind that everyone knows Peter is a psychopath who threatens to kill his younger siblings and enjoys torturing squirrels, but no one gets him help. Hello, parents??!!
I hope I haven’t pissed off the people that do love this book, cause there are plenty. It just didn’t work for me.
Have you read Ender’s Game? What were your thoughts, do you agree with Milou? The book group chose this as BotM back in September 2013. Feel free to take a look and add your thoughts/comments – just beware THERE ARE SPOILERS!