Book Review – Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card is the first of several novels that follow the life of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. The war with the Buggers has been going on for decades, and while Earth had defeated their massive fleets in the past, Earth needs a commander who can lead them to victory once and for all.  They do this by selecting genetically engineered children for battle school, and they have to endure intense training to become the best soldiers possible.  This book follows Ender’s training.

The above premise is quite simple, but there are facets to this story that were somewhat unexpected, making it much deeper than I’d thought.  It’s a very quick read, and at the pace I read books, this was the fastest book I’d read all year.  It is very easy to read, as it is very direct and to the point, with brief descriptions and quick action.  It’s not particularly detailed in the narrative, but the dialogue drives much of this book.  We hear Ender’s thoughts and everything he says.  Although it spans several years, the book is only 324 pages.

There are several central characters, including Ender, his older brother Peter, older sister Valentine, the head of the battle school Colonel Graff, and several other students of the battle school, particularly Alai, Bean, Petra, Bonzo, and Bernard.  Ender starts off as a 6 year old boy, and his character is compassionate, intelligent, and sometimes lacking in confidence.  He’s a mix of Peter’s aggression and Valentine’s pacifism.  Although much of the story involves Ender and the people at battle school, Peter and Valentine do play an important part in this story back on Earth.  I particularly like the characters of Alai and Petra, as they have a lot of integrity and are good kids.  Sometimes Ender’s attitude bothered me, so I couldn’t completely empathise with him.  Although I was rooting for him, he often seemed to do some things too perfectly.  Colonel Graff was an infuriating character.  He was supportive, yet too harsh.

The story took place almost exclusively on the battle school space station, though occasionally back on Earth.  The setting wasn’t described in detail, but I could imagine it well enough.

The plot seemed straightforward in the beginning.  For much of the book, I could read without many surprises.  However, it was quite interesting.  The battle tactics were very detailed and the psychology of living in a space station and using zero gravity were quite good.  I enjoyed reading when they were getting used to the battle room’s zero gravity.  Later in the story, things started becoming more intense and the motivations were more mysterious.  It had me guessing what was going to happen.  By the end, I was very surprised.  It was a very good ending that provides many possibilities for further books, which of course there were several.

I had a hard time thinking about how to rate this book.  I wasn’t feeling the story as much as I would have liked.  I couldn’t identify with the characters as much as I wanted.  It was almost excellent.  However, it was very, very good and an easy book to read.

4.5/5 stars.  It’s too good for a 4, but didn’t impress me enough for a 5.  But it’s very highly recommended.