“Ender’s Game”

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This was my “beach” reading book,picked up in downtown Mobile for a song. I actually found it very engrossing; it took me say a day or so to read it.

The basic plot fits in well with today’s trends in adolescent literature. Think Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and even a bit of The Giver. A child genius is raised by the military to fight a future alien invasion of Earth. In the house of this, he plays a series of games, each more unfair then the last. The duplicity of adults is actually pretty major subplot in this book. Factor in a bit of dystopia and a brutal series of gladiatorial games between children, you come pretty close to a medium between Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.

I am constantly fascinated by the idea of a space-faring future humanity facing an inexplicable alien onslaught. Whether it takes the form of Halo, Starship Troopers, or Ender’s Game (there has to be others, and if you know of them please tell me), the idea creates both a great sort of dramatic tableau, but also the setting for a series of philosophical and sociological conflicts (for example, Does Humanity Deserve to Survive? or Is communication with a truly alien species possible? What is the cost of survival, in terms of personal but also social terms? What is the value or worth of one individual in cosmic struggle between species?) It tends to be a great meditation on militarization; as the humanity of the future is either a bit fascist or run by monolithic corporations.

Ender’s Game shies away from the full dystopian drama of its setting. The Deus Ex Machina ending of the book, complete with a suspiciously happy ending for pretty much everyone led me to suspect that the book really is written for 10 to 15 year olds. For example, Ender is the third child in a society where only two children are allowed. The first child Peter is a brilliant, yet psychopathic murder who literally sets out to control Earth. Instead of a showdown with Peter at the end of the book, we learn that Peter leads Earth with peace and justice (he just needed to be control). Both the dystopian aspect of a society that allows only two children and the subplot of a murdering genius psychopath are allowed to peter out (pun intended) about halfway through the book.

It is this sharp avoidance or real danger or truly scary plot points (and a hesitance to grapple with larger issues, I would say as well) which indicates this this is more of young adult book. A huge part of the book takes place essentially in Ender’s head; there is a lot of child psychology here; this book is essentially about a boy being raised to be the perfect soldier. Curiously and not coincidently, Ender’s Game is also a required read for leadership programs in the Marine Corp.

Ender’s Game the movie was apparently released in theatres not all that long ago; I didn’t see it, but I do plan to watch it on Netflix eventually. Ender’s Game as a book does not strike me as being particularly easy to make into a movie, but I guess given the success of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, I shouldn’t be too surprised that some movie producer has decided to make it work (it has a similar feel of these other adolescent movies).

Adults don’t need to read this book, but if I had a 12 year old boy, I would urge him to read it.

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