Since I did a fantasy book last week, the laws of the universe dictate that I must do a sci-fi book this week.
#4: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Again with the dystopian future novels! Oh well.
In the world of Ender’s Game, religion has been mostly outlawed, population is controlled, and the United States has essentially sealed itself off from the rest of the world (do I sense a trend?) and things were looking pretty dire in general. Then, because there is nothing like a common enemy to create unity, the Formics (lovingly called the Buggers by humans) came from outer space and the Earthlings have barely survived two encounters with these aliens and their superior technology.
Meet little 6-year-old Ender, the product of some genetic experimentation to make the perfect general for a planet anxious about another invasion (since it’s been 100 years or so). So they ship him and all the brightest children on the planet into orbit to attend Battle School where they learn military tactics and practice leadership and fighting. And they play a curious video game that only Ender seems to have beaten. Back home on Earth, Ender’s big brother and sister are waging a war via essays on the internet for the minds of the people and, ultimately, power.
Can Ender defeat the Formics? How? And then all kinds of surprising awesome stuff happens that I can’t ruin!
The book is a marvelous study of what could likely happen were an unfriendly alien species to appear in our skies. Every character is very thoughtfully presented and, at times, depressingly realistic. Some psychological extremes are examined in the characters of Ender’s big brother, Peter, who is very hostile and violent, and his sister Violet, who is almost completely passive. Yet all three children are devastatingly brilliant, which makes for an interesting mix. Also the way that the adults in command try to shape Ender to being what they perceive to be the perfect general is interesting, because it is done quite subtly.
There are more books after this which follow the twin arcs of Peter and the Battle School grads on Earth, and Ender and Violet in space. All of the books are amazing and you just get wrapped up in this world and the characters and sometimes they let you down and sometimes they surprise you. And, they might even get you to ask yourself some surprising questions.