Ender’s Game is a classic sci-fi novel by the famed author Orson Scott Card. Originally published as a short story in 1977, it was expanded into a full-length novel and most recently updated in 1991. Revered by many for its commentary on the lives of gifted children and straightforward writing style, it has stood the test of time as a novel any sci-fi fan should read. It is also the entryway to various sequels and spin-offs, such as Speaker for the Dead, Ender’s Exile, and Ender’s Shadow. There is no better time than now to get started if you haven’t read this book, as a movie adaptation taking full advantage of today’s technology is arriving in theatres in about a week. What makes Ender’s Game such a beloved story?
The novel centers around a young boy nicknamed Ender in his formative years. Several of these years are set in Battle School, an orbiting station that selects bright children from all over the world and trains them for combat. Ender soon finds that he is a master of strategy and quickly moves up the ranks, all the while having to deal with the excessive demands made of him and trying to work out potential conspiracies within the Battle School itself.
The timeframe of the novel is several years and it really does feel expansive. Characters weave in and out of the plot and references are made to previous events as if they happened in the distant past. This gives the impression that Ender is growing and changing though time, recalling past mistakes and triumphs alike. Each big event feels momentous and there’s always something happening that is deserving of attention. It’s a scope that few novels attempt and even fewer pull off, but Ender’s Game is among them.
The interactions between various characters is also genuine. Though the children of the story are quite smart for their age, there’s no mistaking them for adults. They use childish slang and speak matter-of-factly with relatively simple grammar. Their conversations also flow smoothly and are easy to understand. As mentioned before, there’s a surprising lack of subtext or symbolism in this story. Ender can be trusted to say (or think) exactly what’s going on from his point of view.
However, things are a bit difficult to understand even with surface-level meaning and frequent mention. In our time, we expect novels to go into detail about their settings and characters, especially if they occur outside of the present day. In Ender’s Game, however, very little explicit detail is given concerning how things work or what they look like. There are also new terms thrown around that obviously carry a lot of meaning in the world this story takes place in, but it’s too easy to just forget them and be left just as confused when they’re brought up again. Readers who don’t want to strain their brain by keeping close tabs on small details and picturing things by themselves can find this frustrating. This doesn’t take away from the strengths of the novel, but it is a concern all the same.
All in all, Ender’s Game is a thoroughly enjoyable journey though Ender’s energetic and unpredictable young life. This novel definitely deserves its place in the pantheon of sci-fi classics and is highly recommended to anybody who enjoys the genre.
Final Verdict: If you like smart people, don’t like analyzing, and can accept having to use your imagination occasionally, Ender’s Game is a great read.