02 March 2010

Book Review: Ender's Game

Title:  Ender's Game
Author:  Orson Scott Card
Published: 1977  Pages:  324
Genre:  YAL, SFF

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

I like to think that most people have read (and adored) Ender's Game, so I'm going to do something a bit different with this review.  I'm going to comment on the book according to the challenges it covers - especially since it covers so many of the challenges I'm participating in...in which I'm participating.

42 Challenge and Sci-Fi Reading Challenge
Both of these challenges call for participants to read books within the science fiction genre.  Ender's Game conforms to the conventions of science fiction perfectly:  1. Events take place in outerspace. 2. Advanced technology is at the forefront of the plot.  3. The war is between humans and aliens.  4. The setting is futuristic.  5. The aliens have supernatural powers, and the lead character has superhuman intelligence.  And so on and so forth.  Not only does it meet the requirements, so to speak, but also it is a wonderful representative for the genre.  The sci-fi elements do not overshadow the human elements of the story, something I look for in all books.  The setting and the details are science fiction, but thematically the story is applicable across all genres and all readers.

YAL Challenge
This challenge wants participants to read books written for a younger audience.  Ender, the protagonist, is only 6 years old when the story begins and at the penultimate moment he is not yet 16 (possibly 13 or so?).  Many of the other main characters are also children, and it is often stated that the real enemy is adults.  The thinking in the book conforms to a popular YAL element:  children are considered to be more creative and adaptable than adults, putting them in a position to better act upon events and solve problems.

Outside of subscribing to the conventions of YAL, Ender's Game is a wonderful story for younger readers and adult readers alike.  I can't say that the characters are easy to identify with; I never really had a "this could be me" moment.  But I think people can relate to the situation because of Card's ability to evoke concern for and pride in Ender.  Younger readers will probably focus on the difficulty of Ender's situation, paying attention to his loss of family and friends.  Adult readers may find themselves considering the position of the adults in the novel - how far will we go to save humanity?

101 Fantasy Challenge
The difference between the fantasy and science fiction genres has long been blurred.  Often lumped together, sci-fi and fantasy are very distinct for me.  While this made the 101 Fantasy list and hence counts for the challenge, I find myself struggling a bit as I don't see Ender's Game as a fantasy novel.  The elements are science fiction.  Fantasy novels are typically set in pre-industrial times or worlds and incorporate magic and supernatural elements.  Ender's Game does not do any of this.

Flashback Challenge
As the name suggests, participants re-read books from their past in this challenge.  One of the mini-challenges is to re-read a book you read in your childhood, and Ender's Game fits the bill for me.  I can't really compare the two experiences as they are so many years apart, but I remember I loved the book the first time I read it, and I love it now.

Unlock Worlds
The inclusion of Ender's Game on any list of banned or challenged books saddens me.  Orson Scott Card wrote a bit about the issue here.  Apparently the book is banned for profanity and sexual content; although having just finished the book, I can not remember either in the pages.  A third charge is that it promotes anti-adult attitudes in children, but I'm not sure a book is necessary for children to feel as such.  Card seems to think the primary reason the book is challenged/banned is due to his being a Mormon.  Interesting...  I am adamantly against the censorship or banning of books for any reason; and in the case of Ender's Game, I can't think of any reason a young reader shouldn't be allowed access to the book.

On a side note, I am distraught that Card is anti-homosexual, and I kind of wish I didn't know that.  It hasn't changed my experience of reading the book dramatically, but I think it may effect future readings if I have that in the back of my mind.

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

Becky's Book Reviews; As Usual...I Need More Bookshelves; A Striped Armchair; things mean a lot; Trish's Reading Nook; Stainless Steel Droppings; Bart's Bookshelf; Stacy's Books;

Question:  If an author disagrees with you about something fundamental but doesn't include their point of view in their books, do you still read their books?  For example, I find Card's stance on homosexuality deplorable and ignorant, but I enjoyed Ender's Game (before knowing about his anti-homosexual stance). If you knew some author was say a neo-Nazi, would you read his/her work?

Challenges: Unlock Worlds101 Fantasy Reading Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Sci-Fi Challenge, YA Reading Challenge, Flashback Challenge, Reading Resolutions42 Challenge, Take Another Chance,


  1. How bizarre that this is on the list of banned books!

    I too did not know about the double meaning of "bugger" when I read the book - I mean, I knew there was a double meaning but it never would have occurred to me that Card was using it analogously. Nevertheless, I would have read this book and all his subsequent books which I avidly read that continued Ender's story. For me, knowing an artist is anti-whatever does not stop me from reading him or her; I don't have to like them as people. However, I could see the argument of not wanting to contribute to their financial well-being if they are still alive, especially for those who donate to causes to which I personally object.

  2. From wikipedia:
    However, [Card] has written that "Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society."

    W-o-w. I read Ender's Game last year and enjoyed it; but it's kind of hard to like an author who, you know, thinks I'm not an "acceptable, equal citizen" because of who I am. It makes me feel a bit gross inside, I must say.

  3. That's a tough question. I assume Card opposes homosexuality for religious reasons. While I strongly disagree, I don't disrespect someone's religious beliefs, provided he's not doing anything actively hurtful to people whose lifestyles make him uncomfortable. Of course, by that token, I should accept someone's openly racist views as long as he's not burning crosses. Hmm ... no answers here. But yes, I'd still read Card's books.

  4. I didn't realize Card's position until I read the entire Ender's series (which I loved. In fact, I became a bigger fan of Bean).

    You pose a very interesting question and I don't know if I have a black and white answer. If the author was a neo-nazi, I'd probably mentally ban him from my mind and reading choices. At least my guttural reaction was that, whereas with Card, I'll still give due props for the Ender's series.

    So I thought about the why's of that and I guess because I immediately associate neo-nazism with violence and anti-homosexuality with ignorance. Of course, I think that just speaks more about my associations than anything else.

  5. I loved this book!!!!

    But now I wish I didn't know the anti-gay thing about Orson Scott Card.

  6. I just added Ender in Exile to the SF challenge list, and I saw your review. I don't think it was *written* for young people; it originally came out in regular SF. I hope that doesn't mess up your challenge!

    I think Card does a pretty good job of disliking the "sin" and not the "sinner." Homosexual acts are against his religion; Mormons are pretty clear on that. But he's included gay and bisexual characters in his books, and they aren't bad people. Some come to bad ends, but that's pretty much true of everyone in a Card book. So I don't have a problem reading his books, although I'll probably be on the opposite end of most political debates with him.

    I do have to say that the family set-ups on Ender's colony in Ender in Exile are just plain odd.

    Another example of the author's identity changing how a book is read is _Education of Little Tree_, which I believe was written by a white supremist.

  7. This was one one of my favoritereads in 2008.
    I did not know Card's stance until I listened to his interview at the end of the cds and was curious enough to do a little digging. It makes me think less of him, but not his books.

  8. I've been wanting to read this series, and your post reminded me of this! I really want to get more into sci fi and this sounds like a fun way to do so.

  9. I don't really see how Ender's Game is considered fantasy either. I've loved most of what I've read by Card, but loathe some of Card's views. To each their own.

    I've been out of the loop, but thanks for participating in the SF Challenge.


Talk to me baby!