Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card

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Winner of the 1985 Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for best novel in 1986

Ender’s Game is a science fiction classic that divides people. I have recently developed a passion for science fiction and so was keen to find out why this book is talked about so much.

The book focuses on Ender, a six-year-old boy, who was born specifically to help fight against an alien invasion. He leaves his family on Earth to attend Battle school where he is trained to become a ruthless killer.

I have to admit that the synopsis did not appeal to me at all. I have no interest in fighting, especially when it involves six-year-old children, and aliens don’t normally appeal either. I was therefore surprised by how much I enjoyed the first section of the book. I immediately connected with Ender and his conflicting emotions about leaving his family.

“I know you, Ender. I’ve been watching the monitor disks for some time. You won’t miss your mother and father, not much, not for long. And they won’t miss you for long either.”
Tears came to Ender’s eyes, in spite of himself. He turned his face away, but would not reach up to wipe them.

I found the way Ender was manipulated into hurting other people fascinating. It was thought-provoking to see how easily a gentle individual could be changed by a series of small events.

Initially I loved reading about the Battle School, but I found that the exercises became repetitive and I began to lose interest. As the book progressed the fighting intensified and I became increasingly bored. Luckily everything was changed by the ending, which I thought was fantastic.

I found this book very hard to rate. I have a feeling that in a few years time I will have forgotten about how much that middle section irritated me and will only remember the amazing beginning and end sections. They were so powerful, original and thought-provoking that I can see why this book is a classic. I’m sure I’ll remember Ender for the rest of my life and so I’m going to give it a (generous?) 4.5 stars.

This book teaches us important lessons about the fragility of our peaceful society and gives a scary prediction of the future. Recommended.

Have you read Ender’s Game?

Do you recommend I read the rest of the series?


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51 Comments

  1. Teresa says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! That ending is stunning, isn’t it? And I did find that the tedium of the middle section faded in my memory over time.

    As for the rest of the series, I did read the second book (Speaker for the Dead) and thought it was okay, but not as good as Ender’s Game. It’s really a different kind of book altogether. There’s also a parallel series about Bean and Ender’s brother and sister. I liked the first of those books (Ender’s Shadow) quite a lot (Bean was my favorite character in Ender’s Game), but the second book (Shadow of the Hegemon) didn’t hold my interest at all.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, It’s good to know I’m not the only one who found the middle bit tedious and that the memory of it fades over time.

      I didn’t realise there was a parallel series – I thought they were all sequels to Ender’s Game. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Ender’s Shadow. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  2. Meghan says:

    I loved this book when I read it – I don’t really remember if I was bored by the middle section or not, but the ending definitely made the entire thing for me. I have yet to read any further books in the series although a friend gave me two of them. I’ll be interested to see whether others recommend them to you!

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I’ll probably read the next in the series whatever people say, but it wiould be nice to know if it will be good and whether I should be buying the rest of the series as I see them :-) Let’s hope we enjoy them all!

  3. Sandy says:

    I’m always intrigued by how you review a book and why you rate them as you do. I know there have been many books that have gotten mediocre reviews from you because they fell apart in the middle. Strangely, even though this one did as well, the two ends were so strong you still loved it. That must be some really excellent beginning and end. I’d heard so much about the book but really had no concept of what it was about. I would not have even considered picking it up until now.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Sometimes it is hard to rate a book, but in general I just think about how much I am likely to be recommending a book to others. If a book is one of my all time favourites and I try to make everyone in sight hear about it then it will get 5 stars. If it is one of my favourite reads of the year then it will get 4.5 stars. I’m sure I’ll be raving about this one in the future – it is unique and I’m sure will leave a lasting impression on me. I’m pleased you’re at least considering picking it up now :-)

  4. I have to agree with Meghan and Teresa regarding this book, too — I don’t really recall when I read this book about 10 years ago if any specific part was slow, but I love this book because of the end! The ending was so fantastic and incredible, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and whenever this book comes up, I am passionate about talking about it with people because of the ending! Stunning!

    1. Jackie says:

      Natalie, Perhaps I’ll have forgotten about the middle of this book in ten years time and will be raving madly about it :-) I’m pleased that you loved it as much (more?) than I did!

  5. I read this twice, and loved it enough that I will probably read it again soon. I also read all the other books in the Ender series. I think it deserves its status as one of the best scifi books ever!

    1. Jackie says:

      rhapsodyinbooks, I think Flowers for Algernon deserves the status of best science fiction book ever (that I’ve read so far!) but this would come in a close second!!

  6. Andi says:

    This is not usually my type of book. I also shy away from battles and aliens and all of that. However, I happened to pick this one up because of a book discussion group as an undergraduate, and I fell right into it and loved it. Glad it worked out so well for you, too! Time does erase the battles and training bits. lol

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, It’s great to know that you’ve forgotten all those battle scenes too :-) I’m trying to plot them from my memory!

  7. I read Ender for a class in library school and was surprised by how much I loved it! I have since read one more and the series and plan to read as many as possible. So glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Jackie says:

      A Bookshelf Monstrosity, It is interesting to know that you had to read this for a class. I wish I’d had to study it :-)

  8. I meant to say “one more in the series”. Oops.

  9. I’ve read several of his other books, and quite enjoyed them, but have not got round to this one – which is generally regarded as a modern classic. So I’ll look out for it I think – glad you enjoyed it, even if the middle dragged.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, It sounds as though you’ll love this one if you enjoyed his others. I hope you get round to reading it soon.

  10. Shannon says:

    I quite liked this but it didn’t fully satisfy me (my review: http://www.giraffedays.com/?p=610). It’s funny you mention forgetting the middle, because I have! My recollection of the ending’s a bit fuzzy too :D

    1. Jackie says:

      Shannon, I’m amazed you’re finding the ending a bit fuzzy – I hope I don’t forget it :-)

  11. Beth F says:

    I haven’t read this yet. Now I’m feeling like I missed out.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, Only one way to change that ;-)

  12. mee says:

    I’ve been wanting to read more sci-fi after Flowers for Algernon too. This definitely sounds intriguing and it’s a famous book too on top!

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, This isn’t quite as good as Flowers for Algernon, but I think it might be another good SF book for you to try. I look forward to seeing what you think of it.

  13. Jenny says:

    Ender’s Shadow (though not really its sequels) is quite good, but if you found the middle sections of Battle School dull, you might not want to have them all over again in another book. But Speaker for the Dead is excellent, in my opinion. As Teresa says it’s a very different kind of book – it engages more with the alien culture the characters encounter, and the culture clashes are kind of the focus of the book. That’s something I find really interesting, so I liked Speaker for the Dead.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I think I’m going to have to read all of them – just so I can find out for myself – I’m so intrigued by all these different opinions :-)

  14. That’s it, I have to read this book! Off to the library website to request it…

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, Great news! I hope that you enjoy it :-)

  15. I loved this book. It was so thought-provoking, and I couldn’t help but sympathise with poor Ender for most of it. The ending is fantastic, isn’t it?

    Glad you enjoyed it. I don’t think 4.5 stars is generous :P

    About the rest of the series: I’ve heard Speaker of the Dead is good, but the rest aren’t great, so… I haven’t read much else, so can’t share from personal experience.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, Poor Ender :-( I just wanted to hug him and take him away from all those nasty people. It isn’t often that I want to adopt the characters from novels!!

  16. Joanna says:

    I thought the same as you about the middle fighting bits, but only remember the good stuff, like you predicted. :-) I have the second book waiting for me, I’m intrigued enough to continue.

    1. Jackie says:

      Joanna, I look forward to seeing what you think of the second book. My memory of those boring bits is fading already :-)

  17. Melissa says:

    I loved this book and I’ve read all of the rest of the series. I would highly recommend reading Ender’s Shadow, but I don’t think the rest of the series is for everyone.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melissa, OK. It sounds as though I should try to get hold of Ender’s Shadow next – thanks for letting me know :-)

  18. Steph says:

    I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, but a friend recommended this to me a few years ago because it’s one of her favourite books so I gave it a go. And I was riveted! I stayed up late into the night, frantically flipping the pages so I could see how it would all turn out. I really enjoyed the book, but I did feel a bit offput by the religious overtones that occur near the end, which made me think that I wouldn’t be all that interested in continuing with the series. It was a good one-off read for me!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I haven’t read much science fiction, but I’m going through a bit of a phase at the moment. I wasn’t offput by the religious bits at the end so perhaps that means the rest of the series might be OK? I’ll let you know sometime soon!

  19. Jeane says:

    I felt about Ender’s character much the same way you did. How could such a loving person be forced to do such terrible things? and a child at that! This is my favorite ever book by Scott Card (and I’ve read quite a few!)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeane, It does pose some interesting questions about whether we all have a dark side. Poor little Ender :-(

  20. Susana Mai says:

    Read the rest of the series? Yes! But not the sequels (i.e. Speaker for the dead, xenocide, and children of the mind) but rather the companion novels, which follow Bean (i.e. Ender’s Shadow, shadow of the hegemon, shadow puppets…). In the shadow series, things get much more political, and are largely concerned with what happens to Earth now that the world’s powers are no longer concerting their efforts to fight the buggers. Chaos, as I’m sure you can imagine, quickly ensues as these powers fight over the war’s most valuable resources: the battle school children. The story feels 10x more relevant, especially in the climate we face today.

    Besides, I’ve always found Bean more interesting than Ender. His back story is multilayered, and Card just does some of his most ‘OMG brilliant’ work. But yeah, enough with the intense summary, I just strongly recommend you keep reading. If anything, I like Bean’s arch more than I ever liked the original, Ender’s Game.

    1. Jackie says:

      Susana, Thanks for the explanation. I’m not sure about political – I sometimes find it hard to enjoy books with politics, but I will certainly give Ender’s Shadow a try soon – I love the sound of a more multilayered character :-)

  21. stacybuckeye says:

    This is one of my few 5 star rated books. Loved Ender. I’m afraid to continue with the rest of the books for fear I’ll be disappointed!

    1. Jackie says:

      stacybuckeye, I could foresee a time when this gets promoted to 5 stars :-)

      I feel the same way about my favourite books – I still haven’t read another Rohinton Mistry book as I’m scared it will ruin my love for A Fine Balance. Stupid really!!

  22. Jenners says:

    Yay! You liked it!!! I read this ages ago and it always stuck with me … the ending was brilliant! I never read the rest of the series, and people I’ve talked to who did said it wasn’t really worth it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Yes. People do seem to be divided about the rest of the series. I’ll have to read them and find out which side of the fence I fall :-)

  23. Alyce says:

    The ending of Ender’s Game was amazing and I had to read through the last chapters again just to soak it in. I thought the second book wasn’t too bad, but couldn’t finish anything after that. They really change in topic and tone, and I thought Ender’s Game was by far the best.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alyce, I did think about re-reading that ending – amazing is a very good word for it :-)

  24. Kathleen says:

    I tend to shy away from science fiction. I’m not sure why but I guess I just don’t have enough experience with it to make qualified choices about what to read. This book doesn’t appeal to me on the alien/battle level but anything that explores the fragility of our human existence is fascinating to me so maybe I would enjoy this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I normally run away from anything that mentions alien battles, but I assure you that this is a bit different and the emotional depth will make you love it. I hope that you decide to give it a try.

  25. Jeanne says:

    I love both of the series of sequels–the Speaker for the Dead sequels, and also the Ender’s Shadow sequels. The Shadow ones are more action-packed, while I find the Speaker for the Dead ones more thoughtful.

    And as always, I’d like to caution readers not to buy Card’s books unless they want to help support his American Mormon homophobic causes. Get them out of the library, because he’s a fantastic writer.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeanne, Interesting. I’m torn between thoughtful and action packed. Perhaps I love Enders Game becasue it successfully managed to combine the two!

  26. Sam Taylor says:

    I thought this was fantastic, Jackie – I read it in one go, something I haven’t done for ages. It was the sheer brilliant simplicity of the concept that made it work, I think. Thanks for the recommendation…

    1. Jackie says:

      Sam, That was quick!!

      It is great that you enjoyed it, but I am amazed that you read it in one go – it took me about three days. You must have started it very early in the morning or missed a lot of sleep :-) Either way I’m pleased that you liked my recommendation.

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