Ender’s Game: A Darker Side of Childhood

I obviously love to read. I think this love has defined most of my life choices and goals. Why? What is it about reading? It is books like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  Which I read last Fall for the first time, becoming enthralled not only with the excitement, the high stakes, the inordinately thought out future landscape, although all of these things did hold my interest. But mostly, it was a deeply felt connection with Ender that I’m not sure I can or want to explain.

For me connection with a character is the biggest determinant on if I like a book. And I will search throughout a book for some way to connect with the main character. But this connection went beyond my usual surface connection, like the main character and I have never been in love before, or both have divorced parents, or both like to read. When a friend asked me this deeper connection, and I replied, “nothing good” I was thinking about a mutual hatred of change, constant evaluation of situation and plotting, and a feeling of isolation, all of which were present but did not define my childhood.

I think the book served to expose an often un-examined truth of childhood. In Ender’s Game, the adults manipulate every aspect of his environment in order to “train” him to be humanity’s savior. In doing so they take all illusion of control away from him and replace it with enormous responsibility. Not so different from the mandate children receive to grow up and “follow their dreams” and “change the world”. Being a child is in many ways perilous, in social terms, in terms of physical safety, but also in terms of holding the weight and promise of the future.

But enough about me, if you haven’t read it, Ender’s Game is one of the seminal science fiction works and follows young Ender Wiggin who, hated by his sadistic brother, over shadowed by his sister, agrees to go to Battle School where the Earth’s most talented children are placed into groups and participate in fight simulations.  The odds are stacked against him, and things get gruesome at times…but what holds the reader’s interest., as well as the adults observing Ender, is the question of his character and psychology.

The book received much praise and critical acclaim, but also has some strong objectors, primarily due to claims of glorified or excused violence. In fact, some have gone so far as to compare Ender to Hitler (now what does that say about my connection with the character!). The book was violent, in a way that I would never have read this during my teens. That seems true of more than half the successful YA books written today and forgiveness of a violent hero is nothing new. Think Richard III or Achilles or even Gilgamesh.

If you loved Hunger Games, you will love this book. But other people will probably love it to. If you read it, based on friends and the Internet’s reaction, you will probably love or hate this book. And you know how the song goes “love me or hate me it’s still an obsession.” I don’t exactly know why I’m trying to sell it though, since I think I was one of the last people to get around to reading it.

For further reading and reviews:

There’s a lot more on the internet. I promise.

8 thoughts on “Ender’s Game: A Darker Side of Childhood

  1. I think this book is really polarizing, and I love polarizing things. (I wanted to include something about that in my review, but couldn’t find the right space for it.) I love things that inspire feeling in people, whether those feelings are negative or positive. And I find it interesting what does and doesn’t polarize people.

    Great review (as always)!

  2. It’s sometimes dangerous to compare books in the “if you loved this, you’ll love that” mode. I recently read Hunger Games, and while it was interesting, I wasn’t blown away by it. If I’d read it first, I wouldn’t have followed up a recommendation for Ender’s Game. But having first read Ender’s Game many years ago, and many times since, I have to say that Hunger Games just doesn’t measure up in any real sense.

  3. Very fair point. While I liked both books, I would say Ender’s Game is the superior. What I meant was that if you love Hunger Games you should read Ender’s Game though, not the other way around.

    1. I understand. But the point I was making is that if the person reading your review *doesn’t* love Hunger Games, that statement would put them off trying Ender’s Game because they’d assume the two books are similar.

      1. I saw a lot of similarities between the books, but I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from reading Ender’s Game. Thanks for addressing this.

  4. Poor Ender… I don’t think the comparison to Hitler is fair, since Ender didn’t know what he was doing. I felt bad for the kid.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s