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madbkwm

madbkwm

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card At Christmas this year, my husband's uncle (who is fairly well read) mentioned this as one of his favorite books. His kids then chimed in that they loved it as well. Then, I was looking through a 40 under 40 list and Ender's Game came up on the list for one of the participant's favorite books.

Unfortunately, I found it to be highly disappointing. Maybe my problem is that I am fine tuned to reject anything that smells of a Jesus-story (although I did like Harry Potter), but the amazing skills of this 6 year old were just too much. Yes, he is a genius and yes, he is the chosen one but my God he is still 6-11 years old during the bulk of the book. Along this same thread, I was frustrated at the lack of internal consistency: none of the adults blink an eye that 11 year old Ender is commander of the biggest battle known to man, but the world would be astonished to know that his 13 year old sister and 15 year old brother are capable of political analysis. Really?

I was also disappointed that the whole Battle school was filled with geniuses (right, that is why they were chosen for this) but Enders was so remarkably better. In years and years (not specified but at least 10, maybe 20? 30?) of having kids do "battles" no one comes up with this unique feet-first strategy? No one ever thinks outside the box until Enders comes along? Really?

Along with that, how exactly do these battles prepare them for the video games that come later? Of course it turns out (surprise, surprise) that it is not really just a game, but in fact actual battle...but this is very different from the in person zero gravity battles that they did in school. What was that training? Why weren't they spending more time in the video game room earlier? If training is what is so important, why would they train at something physical that is ultimately UNNECESSARY?

I was also bothered by his relationship with Valentine. I get that he was taken out of the real world at the age of 6 and his most important relationship was with his sister. But then, he continues to see her as the most beautiful female and the person with whom he wants to spend all his time...huh? What about puberty? Are they giving these kids some hormonal suppressants in their food? I mean really, by the time they get to Command school they are (mostly) 16 year old boys who never think about women or sex? Huh?

Ender's superiority over his siblings is not mental, it is that he is just the right combination of badass and empathetic (Peter is one end of the extreme and Valentine is the other) and ultimately his ability to beat the buggers was through his empathy, which was enacted because they tricked him into thinking he was just playing a game. Well, then I say (as should all feminists) shouldn't Valentine have been a better commander? Maybe she wouldn't have been ruthless enough to get through battle school (which again seems unnecessarily rough given that ultimately Enders just sits at a counsel surrounded by his friends), but if she had then since she was more empathetic she would be even better at understanding the buggers. Oh yeah, and it turns out she isn't a complete push over because she is the one who wrote for Demosthenes. Further, even though they were looking for the supreme leader (and so rejected Peter and Valentine), they were also trying to populate their school...so why wouldn't they have recruited all three of the genius Wiggins children? Peter would have fit right in with Bonzo or Bernard and I can imagine Valentine and Petra as BFFs. :)

But all of that aside, it turns out that because Enders was so open to the buggers, they could read him. And so, they found in his mind the brainfuck that was the Giant's Drink video game and BUILT IT FOR HIM DURING THE WAR IN THE HOPES THAT HE WOULD COME AND ULTIMATELY RESCUE THEIR RACE. WTF? Really? And okay, even if I do buy this ridiculous idea, they had to pick which of their many colonies on which to build it and it turns out that they picked the one that Enders would actually come to? Huh? What if he had never left Eros? What if he had, but the colonists went to a different former beehive? Am I supposed to believe that they built one of these on all their colonized planets so that if he ever came to any of them he would find it? Or did they just build the one and it is even more serendipitous that he found it? They used manpower and resources DURING THE BIGGEST BATTLE EVER to build playgrounds because they saw a picture of it in the mind of the only human with which they ever communicated. Really?

The main point of the book is that we shouldn't start wars with creatures with whom we can't communicate...that we shouldn't assume different is bad and instead, that we should embrace other cultures and learn from them even if communication is difficult or seemingly impossible. Because yes, in fact, they meant us no harm. The mass (and militaristic) mentality is bad and we should analyze the situation and always use empathy to understand our enemies (because then they might turn out to not be our enemies after all). La, la, happy music and dance off into our relativistic spacecraft and live forever.

Ultimately a waste of the time it took to read (despite only taking about 4 hours). The only highlight (as my husband keeps pointing out) is the prescient thinking on Card's part about technological advancement. It was written the year I was born, but predicts ipads (the desks are nothing more than tablet computers), internet (which had been invented in 1977 but was not prominent) usage, and highly advanced computer games.