book-reviews

Ender's Game

by Orson Scott Card

Rating: ★★★★

Ender's Game is the story of Ender, a child genius who is snapped up by the military and flung into some ruthless training course, ready to defend earth from a race of mysterious alien aggressors known as 'buggers'. Ender thinks and fights his way through the military version of high-school, overcoming obstacle after obstacle, until finally facing a final examination which is more important than he guesses. Meanwhile, on Earth, his genius siblings are finding their way to political power.

The story is engagingly told, being partly a coming-of-age tale of childhood heroism and partly a sort of sci-fi mystery. What differentiates it from similar attempts is the strong step-by-step demonstration of how a person with intellect can deconstruct and rise through the systems surrounding them. Ender does not so much excel at the military academy as stage a revolt within it, and his siblings literally subvert the world order for little reason other than because they want to.

Writing a genius is a difficult task, and the level of insight Ender brings to his world is somewhat limited by the imagination and ability of the author, rather than by the demands of the plot or the world. If anything, the lack of certain approaches Ender invents goes more to belittle the average intelligence of the military organisation he is working within, which comes off as near incompetent at times, while also skittering between absurdly under-regulated and oddly proscriptive.

With its empowering message about how adults can be bested by and even rely on a child's intelligence, this is certainly an ideal read for a teen or preteen, especially those with above-average intelligence, Ender's Game has some interest for an adult as well, though perhaps will lack the intrinsic charm of identification. The science is soft and easy to read past, so those afraid of hard science-fiction should be able to stomach it without much trouble.