Book Review : Ender’s Game
Author : Orson Scott Card
Throughout reading this book, I kept thinking ‘Seriously? This came out in 1985? Wow, just Oh WOW!’.
Ender’s Game is set in a world where humanity has repelled two alien invasions by a species called ‘buggers’, but at great cost – this happened some 50-60 years ago. There is an anticipated third invasion, and the need for a supremely talented Battle Commander, and so, gifted children are monitored, and if found suitable, sent to ‘Battle School’, where they live and learn military tactics and strategies, and are given command over armies and platoon that wage mock battles in a simulated environment.
All of this usually happens at age 6.
Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins, is a ‘Third’ – couples cannot have more than two children by law, but because Ender’s older siblings showed much promise (but ultimately were rejected for battle school), the ‘authorities’ give the Wiggins’ formal permission to have a third child.
The story starts off with Ender getting his monitor removed, getting bullied and pushing back, and then getting bullied at home by his almost ‘psychopathic’ elder brother Peter, and protected by his elder sister Valentine – all of this happens within the first chapter itself. It’s a fast paced book!
Ender gets picked up for Battle School and there on starts a journey that at times left me in tears for Ender and for everything he is put through so he can be the saviour of mankind.
As a theme, there is savage indictment of how adults wring children through the sieves of expectations, using end goals as justification. There is also a great deal of hope and an emphasis on Ender’s greatest quality being his refusal to be broken down by the mental and emotional games the adults play with him. Ender is an insanely compelling character and I ended up crying for his lost childhood while marveling at his sheer tenacity.
At times, I had to put pause on reading and just go and hug the 6 year old around me and tell him that I love him; at one point I told him I’m reading a book about a gifted boy sent off to military school to play games, and he looked at me and said ‘Chachi are you thinking of me while reading?’, and I had to ask myself just who was I really crying for – my lost childhood, Ender’s, or the fact that due to the ongoing pandemic, Nirek no longer goes off to play outdoors, or be schooled at a formal classroom with other kids around.
The writing is mesmerising and the pace, though fast, doesn’t compromise on the integrity of the narrative – there are no loose threads and even if you choose to not read the sequels, this book by itself is a complete and riveting story. I personally felt that it’s a great way to also encourage teenaged readers to learn and think about some of the deeper issues that impact our world even today, under the cover of superbly written sci-fi, which by the way doesn’t seem outdated at all despite the exponential advances in technology from 1985 till date.
Last year, Elif Shafak’s ‘Forty Rules of Love’ made me cry, even as it took me on a spiritual journey. This year, it’s ‘Ender’s Game’, and if you’re wondering how a Science Fiction novel can also be deeply spiritual, read it for yourself!
Don’t take the shortcut of the movie though, it won’t leave the kind of impact the book makes. The movie works as a great way to get over the hangover of the book thought, so it’s a must watch once you’ve finished reading, and are wondering how to stop feeling the way you feel.