Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child.
Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender's childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. In simulated war games he excels. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battle School is just a game.
Released: January 1985 Pages: 324
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction Source: Library
First Look: ***** This book is, apparently, a well-loved classic of YA sci-fi. It's another one of those cases where I read it mainly to see what the hype was about. It looked interesting, too. And there's a movie coming out. (Regardless of what I think of the book, the trailer is cool. I'll see the movie eventually, mostly out of curiosity.)
Setting: ***** Throughout the entire book, the setting seemed...distant. I got the sense that something big was happening out there in space, but I couldn't get a clear picture. Once Ender got to the Battle School, this was even more the case. Apparently they're training to fight aliens, and that's all well and good. Except that we never see an alien firsthand. We never see the damage that they're doing to the Earth, or any hint of the threat that they pose to humankind. How am I supposed to care when I'm never actually shown a reason why this world is in danger?
Characters: ***** I didn't feel one way or another about Ender. I neither liked nor disliked him. This isn't a good thing; it means that I didn't feel like he was real. I knew things about him, yes, but there wasn't anything to make him come to life while I was reading.
One thing that bugged me was that he was always so good at everything. Everything. Every test he was given, he excelled in. Every time he was put under more pressure, he came through. This is going to sound odd, but I'm a huge fan of making characters fail at some point throughout the story. Failure brings out a different side of a person, and it would've made Ender seem more human.
Valentine's constant passive behavior towards Peter was annoying. I understand that Peter is a manipulative, even murderous little child, but Valentine never once tried to get help. I kept mentally yelling at her to get away from him. He's not that scary.
Plot: ***** My first thought after finishing this book: "I just read a 300-page-long training montage." That's what it felt like. I typically don't have a problem with training scenes, but it gets annoying when we never get to see the real thing. (Or so we think, anyway, but that would be a spoiler.) The plot just consisted of Ender trying to make his way through the battle simulations. And then being thrown into a more difficult situation and acing more of the battle games. And again. And again. To me, it felt repetitive, and it was too easy to lose sense of what the overarching conflict was.
The twist at the end was cool. I'll give it that.
Uniqueness: ***** It's hard to rate this category, as this book is, if I'm not mistaken, one of the books that set the standard for YA sci-fi. Even now, it felt unique to me.
Writing: ***** What was going on with the point of view? It was mostly third-person, except for some random first-person sentences here and there. It took me a few chapters to figure out that these were supposed to be Ender's thoughts. If these thoughts had been italicized, or even had a "he thought" tag, I would've been fine. Without anything distinguishing them from the rest of the narration, though, it sounded weird.
The other aspects of the writing didn't bother me as much, but didn't impress me, either. The narration did nothing to help me connect to the story.
Likes: Yay for stories about kids in enclosed spaces. I'm fond of those, for some odd reason.
Not-so-great: "[Girls] don't often pass the tests to get in [to the Battle School]. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them."
I give you the following GIFs of girls demonstrating those "centuries of evolution":
|Witch King: "No man can kill me!" Eowyn: "I am no man!"|
Have I made my point?
Overall: Ender's Game disappointed me. It had a cool premise, and I wanted to read it to see what the hype was all about, if nothing else. Unfortunately, Ender seemed a little too perfect. I felt like I was reading a 300-page-long training montage, and the narration made weird switches between third and first person. The twist, at the very end, was cool, though. Overall, I give this three stars. It had its good points, but also its not-so-good. I'm not sure why everyone seems to love this book so much.
Similar Books: It has a high-tech futuristic setting and a genius/prodigy main character like A Confusion of Princes, and involves a little bit of space travel like Glow or even Across the Universe.