Book Club book #1: Ender's Game

Posted in: Book Club, Books, Reviews

Eager to put the Amazon Kindle app to good use (I really only had 1 book on it, the Infinity Blade short-story tie-in, Infinity Blade: Awakening), I joined a book club a couple of months ago that some of my friends started. Since then I've been exposed to books I mostly haven't heard of and thus would never have had the opportunity to read - I mostly keep myself in the sci-fi/fantasy section of the local library and select books with interesting premises or really impressive covers.

Somewhere between joining that club and now, I got the idea to start writing about each book we read, and my general impressions of those books with 2 objectives in mind: to give me something more to blog about, and to help me remember what it was we have read.

Book Club has made me realize that I have forgotten so many stories over the years. Every now and then I find myself thinking of a fragment of a story that I imagined from a book I read so long ago, but can no longer remember the character's name, the book title, or the book author, leaving me grasping at straws and searching blindly through Google to try to find out what book was attached to that memory I created.

Books aren't the only thing in my brain floating freely without a good link to other brain cells; I've found memories of other events and gatherings, names, faces, and places, all swimming in my mind without a solid anchor to tie them down. During my high school and university years I used to pride myself on my memory, but with so many more years of experiences trying to fit themselves into my head, I've found that I do have some sort of memory limit after all, with the consequence being that lesser-linked memories are starting to give way to the newer ones, leaving what feels like the ghosts of situations that may or may not have happened in my mind.

Anyway, my fading memory is another blog post in itself. On to the first Book Club book: Ender's Game.

Ender's Game

Book, $5.69 USD on Kindle, written by Orson Scott Card, http://www.amazon.com/Enders-Game-ebook/dp/B003G4W49C/
Ender's Game

I first came across Ender's Game and Orson Scott Card about a decade ago when someone listed that book as one of their favourites on their MySpace profile. I then had the name Orson Scott Card drilled into my brain when I started reading a lot more, around the time I started full-time work and wanted a way to kill time on the commute to/from work, and his name was plastered all over the spines of books in the C section of the sci-fi/fantasy area of the library. At neither time did I feel compelled to read that book, so I probably wouldn't have followed it up now if it weren't for it being the first book we had to read for book club.

Somehow, older stories never interested me, what with being annoyed and made impatient by the prose of much older era stories like Moby Dick and Heart of Darkness. Sure, those books are over a century old, but I've attached the feeling I get from those older books with anything written before 1990. With that in mind, I thought Ender's Game would be one of those books I'd have to will or force my way through. Being told that it was "a children's book" helped, making me anticipate a much-reduced period of annoyance.

Good thing I'm just an idiot for thinking that anything pre-1990 is full of long-and-winding prose, because there wasn't a single drop of that here, and I wasn't once annoyed at having to read this book.

Ender's Game is a science-fiction story set in a far-off future which actually reminded me of what our modern-day world would be if we had a space division of the military, numerous fleets-worth of space craft, and aliens to fight several light years away. The aliens, colloquially termed "Buggers" in the story, had attacked Earth twice before, and in anticipation of a third attack, Earth thought to make a pre-emptive strike, recruiting some extraordinary talent from the youngest members of society to command our fleets.

Ender, a young boy and promising recruit based on years of having some mind-tracking device attached to him (it seems every child in his country (or all those in this coalition of nations?) gets one in their early years), is selected by the military to go into training to fight in the upcoming strike against the Buggers. He and his family are approached by a Colonel Graff, who gives him the choice to join the fight for the survival of humanity.

The only thing that's really different in this book compared to anything else I have read is the use of child soldiers. It took me a while to get a proper voice for Ender and co. because the voice I attached to these characters in my head was so much older than everyone actually was. It wasn't at all jarring for me to imagine that children could have such deep thoughts - I imagine that the smarter children amongst us are more than capable of thinking such things - but because they acted so much older and grew up so much faster than what most kids would do in a first-world western society, my mind kept assigning much more mature voices to the child characters.

Despite showing such maturity, I was constantly reminded that Ender and co were just kids, mainly because of the way their commanders, full-grown adults, were able to manipulate them so easily. It happened during the first meeting between Ender and Colonel Graff where he sugar-coated the 'save humanity' option, and almost every time after that where an adult was involved it was because Ender needed to be steered back onto the rails that the adults had laid out for him.

Ender never gets a choice in this story, just a whole bunch of options that lead to the same conclusion. When I was reading the book, it made me particularly angry. Now, looking back on his on-rails journey, it just makes me sad.

Ender's Game never had the massive impact on me that it seems to have on others (judging by praise for the book, and comments made by a certain fellow book club member who now keeps bringing-up Ender's Game like it was some sort of meme): the resolution wasn't unexpected, and the ending kind of dragged along for me and felt like a blatant setup for a sequel (which in turn felt unnecessary because that same fellow book club member kept telling us that the rest of the series is kinda crap) when this book, without that ending, easily could have stood by itself.

At the end of it, what I really wanted was to see was more development from Ender's brother and sister, who throughout the story had some plan to stir the shit in society by trolling the world in the book's equivalent of the Internet. I was more eager to see how that would pan out, but when that plan ended in what felt like a footnote in the overall plot, I was left wanting.

That's not to say the periphery ruined the book - it was just something I wish was developed a lot more than it was. The main story, the main characters, and the main themes, were all great to read about, and I found myself reading the final chapters into the wee hours of the morning - 1:37am on a "school night" if my accompanying Facebook post to the Book Club group is to be believed.

7.5 out of 10.