And it came down to this: In the moment when I [Ender] truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them….I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again.The 1986 Hugo Award and 1985 Nebula Award winning novel by Orson Scott Card is about a little boy named Ender. It begins when he is six and ends when he is still a preteen. If Ender were a teenager or a young adult the book would have a very different impact on the reader.
Briefly, the government has been looking for someone to lead the war against the buggers, aliens who once attacked earth. While Ender’s older siblings were considered promising, his brother was deemed too violent and his sister too passive; so the government asks the family to have a third child. Ender spends his early childhood attached to a device that monitors his every move. When Ender is six, the government removes the device and takes him away to a battle school on a space station, allowing no contact with his family. There the children, mostly boys, play various games. Some of the games are used to analyze the children in different areas. Others are used to gauge the children’s ability to perform and lead in battle. But, Ender realizes from the beginning that the games aren’t fair. First, the school purposely tries to isolate him from his fellow students and even any adult who might care. Then, the school continues to put Ender in situations where he is at a disadvantage from the other students. The ending of the book is the ultimate, an atrocious, betrayal of anyone, especially a little kid.
Given the plot, why did I still find this an enjoyable book? Ender is a very sympathetic and interesting character. He has a good conscious. Despite the manipulation of the adults, he manages to form some loyal friendships. Despite having the odds against him, Ender continues to find ways to win in the games, school, and his life. Also, the zero-gravity war games the students engage in as part of the school are fascinating—this from a woman who normally doesn’t like battle scenes in books. I enjoyed the strategy; it vaguely reminded me of basketball. In general, I enjoyed reading how Ender’s mind sized up situations and created strategies.
Ender’s Game is the prequel to Speaker for the Dead, another Hugo Award winning novel, which takes place when Ender is a middle-aged man who is trying to deal with the aftermath of the final game.