With the upcoming movie I thought it was appropriate to write a brief review over Ender's Game, a book that is adored by many and often considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written. In fact, it's not unusual to hear this book mentioned as one of the greatest novels of all time. It's been a while since I read the book, so you'll have to forgive me if I have forgotten a few things. Let's get to it.
Hi, Orson Scott Card, it's nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to meet with us. It's a real honor. Now, I was hoping you can help me with something; nearly everyone I know whose read this book absolutely loves it, I mean just really, really, really, loves it. Not many books get more popular than this.
I first read this book in the seventh grade and, to be honest, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. I did not like it. Heck, I'm not even sure I finished it; my memory is fuzzy. I know I thought it was boring, which is odd considering you would think a book that is mostly about beating up bullies, playing video games, and playing laser freeze tag would be the opposite of boring. Guess I'm just not that into laser tag (sorry Barney).
But, you know Card, after hearing and reading about the book's endless praise I decided to reread it last year, thinking my 12 year old self must have missed something. Unfortunately, I still don't understand what everyone's on about. I still found this book to be mostly a snooze fest, Card. Hey! Where are you going?!?! Stay! It's just an opinion! You can't always run away from criticism! Okay, good. Sit back down. There you go. Now, where were we? Oh yeah, the book's a snooze fest. Okay sure, the book does have a lot of action in it, but man do you make it repetitive. There are several scenes where Ender and his team play laser freeze tag against another team in zero gravity, but after two of these scenes you get the idea that no one can possibly beat Ender, even if he was bound head to toe, gagged, and dropped from a plane into an active volcano (I exaggerate slightly but you get the idea). This makes the following laser tag scenes all the more predictable and unnecessary. Look, we get it Card, Ender's brilliant, or at least that's what you tell us over and over again, but I'm starting to have my doubts because some of Ender's supposed "brilliant" military strategies kinda end up looking like a lazy research job on your part. You even see some evidence of this, Card, in the trailer of Ender's Game where Ender orders his ships to fly below the ice and shoot the enemy from below, causing a military officer to gasp and comment "no one's ever do that." Apparently Ender is the only one who can come up with the idea to attack the enemy in a place where they can't see you or retaliate.
So, Ender's "brilliant" and of course the other "brilliant" students are jealous that Ender's smarter than them so they decide to bully him. You clearly want us to feel sorry for Ender, but the trouble is, Card, it's difficult to feel sympathy for a character who's great not through hard work but because he simply is. It's further difficult to connect with Ender when he never acts his age, and neither do his friends, for that matter. I understand everyone at the Academy is supposedly brilliant but, as Mozart demonstrated, being brilliant doesn't mean you're mature, and at some point in Ender's Game you would expect children to act like children. Okay good point, I'll concede there's a time or two when a character is immature but for the most part the children act like cardboard.
So Ender's suppose to be the antithesis of a boring character but you constructed him out of cardboard and made him falsely brilliant, Card, and he ends up being the exact opposite of what you intended. Now you know who wasn't a boring character? Ender's older brother, Peter. I mean he had some pretty cool stuff going for him; he was a massive jerk but there was more to him than met the eye, something you didn't get with Ender. But then you involved Ender's brother in a wholly unbelievable and uninteresting subplot detailing what he and his sister are up to while Ender's away in space. How am I to believe that children influence the world by posting angry essays on the internet?! I understand that this is Science Fiction and that that entails a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but you really asks too much of the reader here Card.
Writing quality can really make or break a book. For Ender's Game your writing is neither bad nor good; it's there to tell a story and not to distract you, a point which you make yourself, Card, in an Amazon review you wrote in order to defend your book's criticism. I find it odd, Card, that you felt the need to defend yourself on Amazon of all places, but based on your strange essays on homosexuality it's clear that you have a few screws loose. Hey! Where you goin -- oh well looks like we lost him guys. He had too much. Let's continue! So, Card has some strange beliefs in regard to homosexuality; for instance, he believes that all homosexuals were molested as children and that's what drove them to homosexuality in the first place. How nutty is that? Some people claim that Card's latent homosexual desires are featured in certain shower scenes in Ender's Game but I've never found much merit to these claims.
To its credit though, Ender's Game has a decent conclusion, even if it is deliberately anti-climatic. And it does have other redeeming qualities; it contains themes about war, death, manipulation, isolation, guilt, and the military complex. But if you were to criticize this book for being a children's version of Starship Troopers you wouldn't be wrong. Unfortunately for both books, the authors write with their heads up their asses, but at least Orson Scott Card's pointless diatribes don't appear until the second Ender's book, Speaker for the Dead.
Ender's game isn't terrible, but it by no means deserves the "best Sci-Fi book of all time" title, much less greatest book ever written. The best of Science Fiction arguably belongs to Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, or WE. There's a 99% chance that any book you see mentioned on a "Greatest Sci-Fi books of all time" list will be much better than Ender's Game.
Sci-Fi books have a history of being transformed into terrible movies (e.g. Dune, Solaris, Starship Troopers, I Robot) and based on the trailer it doesn't look like Ender's Game is going to be any different. For reasons I can't figure out, a lot of movie trailers seem to be on this kick to show you everything that's going to be in the movie, rather than just function as simple teasers. There might be a few surprises at the end, but the trailer makes the movie look as repetitive and predictable as the book. Not to mention I don't have much confidence in the Wolverine Origins director, Gary Hood, to improve upon the book.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars