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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction Reviews

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
(Atom, £4.99) ISBN: 1-904233-02-3
Daniel Alves

Ender’s Game opens itself to everyone as a possible audience. Though a science fiction novel, the vocabulary is not typical of its genre. It doesn’t often use specialist terms that would mean nothing to people unfamiliar with this type of writing, nor does it require a dictionary to read. Coupled with the vast amount of themes, from the more obvious science and military to the more subtle morality and psychology, this novel is very accessible to anyone. However, regular fans of the genre should not feel as if this book is too ‘light’ for them and not worth the read, as it encompasses a vast array of interesting scientific theories and uses them as part of the story instead of as a critical essay.
The book is set just over one hundred years from now, and unknown to most people, the world is said to be at great risk of a third invasion from an insectoid species known as ‘the buggers’. There’s more to the two previous victories than the government is willing to reveal, and despite the hysteria surrounding the ‘hero’ of the battle Mazer Rackham, the fight had events of dubious merit within it. Although the government uses his ‘heroic deeds’ as propaganda to win support for their cause, they fully know the truth, which strikes a mortal fear into the heart of everyone who knows it.
This fear creates the elite ‘battle school’, a place where the most intelligent young minds are tested and trialled brutally in order to see who, if anyone, is skilled enough to become the next military commander of Earth’s forces. One such child is six year old Ender Wiggin, the main character of the story and a tactical genius.

From the very start, Ender is forced into being different, making his superior intellect obvious and alienating him from his peers. To continue with what he has, he learns to stay away from other people, keeping to himself where possible. Early in the book he is bullied by a peer, verbally at first and then physically. Ender defeats him and almost kills him, but walks away before it becomes fatal.

Devices like these are used throughout the novel, and very purposefully, which is why this book raises so many questions to the reader that reflect modern thought. In the very first paragraph we hear a couple of unknown people talking about Ender and how they plan to make everyone feel like his enemy. This is not malicious, but rather to condition him to be used to overwhelming odds, and not expect outside help. It grips the subject of morality, asking the reader to make a judgement on whether this kind of treatment on anyone, let alone a child that symbolises innocence, is fair, even if it’s for the survival of humanity. More importantly, it asks these questions as the reader reads them, which forces the subject to become present and contemporary.

This novel has also been used in recent times for psychological studies because of the mental strain that is always forced on Ender, threatening to break him at any second. Despite his quiet exterior, he is always breaking inside with no one to turn to. His only source of comfort, his sister Valentine, is forced away from him when he is taken to battle school. The novel in its entirety could very well be described as a tribute to determination and will power.

The use of a child as a hero in an adult world is nothing new, but the book is so finely crafted and written, so varied and so very cold towards Ender, that human empathy compels us to read on and discover his fate.

© Daniel Alves, November 2007

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