SciFi Discussion – Ender’s Game

Last Tuesday Manchester SciFi book club got together to discuss Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The main characters are three particularly intelligent children who shape the world at the time of conflict with insectiod space aliens known as the Buggers. The main protagonist, Ender Wiggin, is sent off to the Battle School space station where he develops his skills as a strategist. While Ender is unknowingly killing the buggers, his brother and sister, Peter and Valentine, use the blogosphere to gain political power and prevent warring factions from destroying each other on Earth.

Did We Like It?

Whilst some of us may have tried to hate it, the majority of us did enjoy Ender’s Game. That’s not to say it was without fault. Criticisms included uncompelling characters, children who were too self-aware, too many descriptions of battles and a quick ending that felt like it had been tacked on at the end.

The author is a playwright and that came across in the writing style. Initially written as a short story, the first edition of the novel was published in 1985, with a second edition printed in 1991. The second edition contains an introduction which helped readers to understand the circumstances of the characters and the plot. Those of us who had not read this introduction felt that they had not understood the book as well as those of us who had read it. One criticism of the book was that if it had been better written, it would not have need the introduction. It was postulated that Ender’s Game is one of the author’s earlier works and that his writing style has probably improved.

At beginning of each paragraph there was a short conversation by two of the characters controlling Ender’s progress through Battle School. We thought this was not really necessary since Ender was mostly aware of what was going on, however it added extra characters into the story which helped break the battle scene monotony.

Whilst the book seemed to end too quickly, we did like the twist at the end and would perhaps like to read the sequels. When we’ve nothing better to read, that is.

Ender’s Game is quick to read, which was a plus as some of books we’ve read in the past have been on the long side or slight tough going!


Mork Calling Orson

Ender and all his friends got on too well, reminding us of the style of a good children’s film. This aspect of the book was a bit Morkish. The characters are a bit two dimensional. Bean was compared to Scrappy Doo: quite a character with crazy ideas who didn’t really do anything.

Ender was what Graff and Anderson made him, whereas Peter’s character was more interesting. An evil little boy who bullied other children and tortured squirrels but who learnt to control himself. He gained the power he wanted through his fictitious on-line personalities Locke and Demosthenes.

In fact, Peter used his power to stop war on Earth, whereas Ender practically wiped out the Buggers, albeit unknowingly. When standing up for himself against children who bullied him, Ender unknowingly killed them in his bid to put a stop to their behaviour once and for all. Ironically it was Ender who did not want to harm people.

Do nasty children become good? Some of us weren’t convinced. It was noted that Alex grows out of ultra-violence in Anthony Burgess novel “A Clockwork Orange”.

Is Ender’s Game SciFi?

Yes! Most of the story was set in a space station and there were plenty of space ships and space battles. The Dr Device weapon enable Ender to destroy the Buggers home planet, using a technology that made adjacent atoms destroy each other. The relativistic effects of space travel were included in the ending.

The children in Battle School had portable desks for playing computer games and messaging. Peter and Valentine wrote articles on social networks. In 1985 this technology was not main stream but obviously is now in the form of laptops and the internet.

Is the hive mind of the Buggers plausible? Obviously duh! Have I not heard the Borg? We noted that insects typify our concept of space aliens, which are generally an entity that has a familiarity but which at the same time is wrong.

Homophobia

Accusations that author Orson Scott Card is a “Massive Homophobic Asshole” appear to be substantiated on Wikipedia. Despite the aliens being called the Buggers, we did not think that the story had anti-gay undertones. The ending of story looked towards a future where people and Buggers could be understanding of each other, so it is disappointing that the author should exhibit such intolerance in the real world.

Summary

Ender’s Game is not particularly well written and the characters not particularly well developed. Although its a bit too much of a children’s book, it was an enjoyable read.

Quote of evening:

“Does the Ender justify the means?”

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

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Next Sci-Fi Book:

  • January 17th – Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

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Written by Daniel.

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