Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Treat #1: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

For the inaugural Thursday Treat I have chosen my all-time favorite book to talk about, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

I think that the experience you have surrounding the reading of a book really adds to your own personal feelings towards that book. When I first read this, it was the summer after my 8th grade year and it was an assignment for the summer before my freshman Honors English class. I had never read any science fiction before and I instantly fell in love with Ender and his world.

I credit this book with helping me discover my love of science fiction. Without it, I don’t think I would be as obsessed as I am now.

So, for those of you who have never read it, let me paint a picture for you.

In Ender’s world, parents are only allowed to have two children. Each child is monitored by the government for a period of time to evaluate their intelligence. Peter and Valentine Wiggin, older siblings to Andrew Wiggin, weren’t at the right intelligence level the government wanted, so Ender’s parents were asked to have a Third, and ended up with Ender.

Ender is also evaluated and is determined to be a right fit for Battle School. At the age of five, he is taken from his family, placed on a shuttle, and sent to Battle School (which orbits Earth). There, Ender is trained for war against the nemesis of Earth—the Buggers, an alien race that had already attacked and retreated once before. The children train in a room where armies are pitted against each other and they much win to score points and honor for their army.

Alongside Ender, there are hundreds of children in Battle School also training for a war that is sometime in the future. Violence and manipulation run rampant in the school on part of the highly intelligent children and the staff who run it. It is a vicious and challenging place and all who are there wonder, when will the war begin?

I love this novel, even with its faults. The idea of training children for war is a powerful one and it grabs hold of you, right to the very last page. When we presented this in my ninth grade English class, we talked a lot about the saying, “The ends justify the means.” If it means we’ll win, why not train children for war?

While Ender’s Game is surely a standalone novel and can be read as such, there are two parallel series that branch off from it. One is called the Shadow series, and follows the other children Ender fought with as they return home after the war, It contains a lot of political talk that can really hook you and isn’t as heavy on the science fiction. It is also newer than the other series, with the last book, Shadow of the Giant, being published in 2004.

The second series, and my favorite of the two, begins with Speaker for the Dead which was published in 1986, one year after Ender’s Game. One of the coolest things about Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead is that they both won back to back Hugo and Nebula Awards. No other science fiction author has achieved that. This series only has two more books after Speaker, Xenocide and Children of the Mind. Children of the Mind is actually one of my favorites in the series and my senior quote in the yearbook comes from it (yes, I am a nerd). This series is a little heavier on the science fiction aspects and takes place a number of years after the events in Ender's Game, unlike the Shadow series which is immediately after. I also find this series to be a lot deeper and more powerful.

Another thing I love about this novel is the power of some of the lines even when you take them completely out of context. Card has a way of truly mastering language. Here are some of my favorites:

“Sometimes lies are more dependable than the truth,” (2).

“Carn Carby left, and Ender mentally added him to his private list of people who also qualified as human beings,” (184).

“Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be,” (231).

“I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them they way they love themselves,” (238).

“I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher,” (262).

“I don't care if I pass your test, I don't care if I follow your rules. If you can cheat, so can I. I won't let you beat me unfairly-I'll beat you unfairly first,” (293).

“We have to go. I'm almost happy here,” (323).

I hope you add this to your reading list if you have never read. It truly is a powerful novel and one that really stays with you long after you have finished reading it. It has stayed with me through numerous re-reads and discussions and is still the number one book I recommend to everyone I meet, especially fans of science fiction.

If you want to learn more about Orson Scott Card and all of his novels (many others that are also amazing), please visit his official website:

And Orson Scott Card has no idea who I am and I am sure he doesn’t care either, so this is not a shameless promotion.


  1. I do love Ender's Game and as soon as I have time, I'm going to read all of the other books too. Now I have an idea of which ones to read first though :)