Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ender’s Game: a Sci-fi missing the mark, but a thematic one that hit home for millions of readers.

“Ender’s Game,” a 352 pages novel written by Orson Scott Card in 1985, is a work of science fiction that is widely regarded as young adult fiction at its best—a recommended read on the Marine Corps Reading List since its publication. Though the novel’s setting is sci-fi proper (alien invasion anyone), science is meager throughout; there is a story and quite a nice plot, but nothing new on the sci-fi front. What ultimately enticed millions of readers and brought the novel its fame is Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins, the protagonist himself and the humanistic themes exploited here and there. The hugely popular novel has grown into twelve novels, twelve short stories and 47 comic issues.

The novel opens on-almost-a post apocalyptic world: earth had barely survived two invasions by the aliens: the ‘buggers.’ Belligerent factions of the world are miraculously united and decide that the best defense lies in attack. So, they plan to shift the battle to land of the buggers before the next wave of invasion. Everything is set: warships and veteran soldiers and the incredible secret weapon—but what lacks is the ‘one,’ the ultimate commander. The military authority searches the masses, and eventually conscripts every promising child. The youngest of a string of genius siblings, Ender, is picked at the age of six.

What follows is the quintessential ‘coming of age’ novel; however, Ender is much younger, and the themes are more mature and universal.

OS Card’s prose is curt, more on the dry side; dialogue is plenty, yet bland and impersonal and not as smart as the characters are supposed to be. The themes discussed throughout the novel are universal and the writer does a nice job being ambivalent most of the time. However, commercial sensationalism, constantly justifying and sanctifying the protagonist, and the implausibility of the subplot (one in which brother-sister domineering of Earth by fake personas) are major plunders that eats glory out of this work and bereaves it a ‘classic’ status.

The novel is an enjoyable read, especially the first hundred pages and the last fifty. Recommended reading for the coming of age youth, especially those looking for an inspiration.

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