Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Some how in my youth I missed out on reading Ender’s Game. I am wondering how it happened. I liked the sci-fi genre but spent most of my time reading Philip K. Dick. Reading the book is an interesting experience. While the story is told from a child’s point of view, its themes are adult.
The themes and topics of the novel are complicated. I found the us vs them issues to pervade the novel— human vs. bugger, children vs. adults, free world vs. communist. The idea of competition and survival were highly relevant in the Cold War period. But, it is a universal struggle that people and animals face. Card does a nice job dealing with that on many levels to high light his themes for the reader.
I am also reminded of the classic example of “Game Theory”, The Prisoners’ Dilemma. A game that encourages both plays to betray each other rather than co-operate. As in the case of Human-Bugger relations without communication there is no option but destruction.
Card also addresses human manipulation through words and language. He gives power to words and shows that a lack of words has power also. This is a theme seen most clearly with Peter and Violet. But, also comes forward in the Human-Bugger relationship.
SPOILER ALERT!!! Read no further….
Still, with everything going in the novel I was truly caught off guard by the ending. Ender’s roll as the Speaker for the Dead and the power that words and understating that Card highlights through Ender’s transformation were unexpected. Although, I do find it to be the most interesting aspect of the story.
I find the pseudo-religious aspect of pouring out your life to a third person who then tells people who then retells it when you’ve passed intriguing. It seems that Card is telling us communication is vital to understanding others point of view. But, he presents us with a structure where the point of view of the other is not reveled until the other is dead. Does death make it easier for us to accept the other as a whole? Do we reserve judgement for the dead because they cannot speak for themselves? Or is that that they are no longer a threat thanks to their departure from earth? Being magnanimous is now easy for us because the other is no real threat?
I am very interested to follow this book up with Card’s Speaker for the Dead.
Finally, I listened to Ender’s Game on audio book. It was a dramatic narration with multiple actors and was a very agreeable way to follow the book. Included at the end of the recording were a few comments from the author about the book and his writing which I also enjoyed. This is another case where the audio version is worth it!