With its high stakes interstellar conflict, menacing alien threat, sympathetic child protagonists and a twist ending that would make The Sixth Sense jealous, Ender’s Game is an instant classic and one that has captured the imaginations of both science fiction and non-science fiction fans alike. Whether it deserves the number 1 ranking on this list is up for debate, but it certainly has a place in my mind as one of the most striking, original and strangely moving books I’ve ever read.
Ender’s Game Summary
Set in a future in which humanity has been in conflict with an alien race known as the Formics (or the pejorative “Buggers”), the novel follows the progress of 6 year old Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a gifted child who was the result of a government program to develop new commanders to help in the fight against the Buggers.
After a schoolyard altercation results in another boy being seriously injured, Ender is whisked away to Battle School – an elite training facility where young prodigies are tested on their military instincts and groomed for the upper command levels. Ender quickly shows himself to be at the top of his class through his ingenious use of military tactics during a succession of zero-gravity war games.
While Ender’s success makes him a target for older, resentful commanders, he keeps moving up the ranks and is eventually promoted to Command School where he gets advanced military training from the famous commander Mazer Rackham. In Command School, Ender’s tests and games become increasingly exhausting and consuming until he is finally forced to make a ruthless decision that has devastating consequences…
Ender’s Game Review
Much like Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Ender’s Game centers around a group of children who, over the course of the novel, seem to grow in our minds into full fledged adults whose emotions and actions seem at odds with their actual ages. And while Card has been criticized by some who object to the level of violence and cold, military cunning that he ascribes to these children, the youth of these characters only served to add weight to the sadness I felt for these kids who had been raised to be self-sufficient and trained since birth to view life as a conflict to be won or lost, all while having to deal with the petty jealousies and competitive cruelty that every survivor of childhood knows all too well.
The fact that these “Innocents” are competing against each other to kill a faceless enemy for the better of mankind is seen as an inevitable result of the fear that the Formic race has instilled in humanity. And while obvious similarities to our own current state of war and paranoia can be made (and references to earth bound politics, rivalries and warring factions are made throughout), the book doesn’t focus as much on the overall implications of the Bugger threat as it does on Ender’s struggles with his own abilities and the consequences of his actions.
My main regret with this book was that I didn’t read it when I was younger. I’ve literally had people recommending this book to me since I was 14, but only just got around to reading it about 5 years ago. Although the childhood conflicts and emotional turmoil still rang true to my grown-up self, I think that I probably would have had an even greater visceral reaction to the story and the struggles of Ender if I’d been closer to his age when I experienced it. Oh well, better late than never I guess.
Ender’s Game Quotes
“As a species, we have evolved to survive. And the way we do it is by straining and straining and, at last, every few generations, giving birth to genius. The one who invents the wheel. And light. And flight. The one who builds a city, a nation, an empire…. Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you. To do something.” – Colonel Graff
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them-….. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist” – Ender Wiggin
Enders Series: Speaker for the Dead | Xenocide | Children of the Mind
Enders Shadow Series: Ender’s Shadow | Shadow of the Hegemon | Shadow Puppets | Shadow of the Giant