Ender's Game (Ender's Saga)Review
by Orson Scott Card
Genius children train for interstellar war.
The prose is straightforward, with lots of dialogue. The action scenes are clear and direct without going too far into technicalities. It is more character-focused than the typical sci-fi story, a rare treat.
I thought the sideplot with Ender’s siblings was forced and far-fetched for many reasons (mainly that, realistically speaking, genius is not genetic and reproducible). If their sideplot didn’t exist, the book would still be the same, so that’s how I gauge it as pointless. It felt like the author tried to use it for symbolism and closure but I wasn’t convinced.
What surprised me is that the big reveal was not as big as I thought it would be. Maybe I’m just emotionally numb; maybe the author could’ve done better to set it up. Prior to the climax, the protagonist was written in a depressive and apathetic haze, in the “valley of despair.” The author forgot to lift the character out of despair, to give the character a taste of a liberating freedom: the joy of “not giving a shit anymore” that would’ve made the climax hit harder (learning he was strung along and tricked). Instead the author only briefly touched on positive, intrinsic motivations. Even then it was framed more as a “double negative,” in that Ender was excited about cheating and flunking just to screw with the adults. I think Card made a mistake by glossing over positive scenes. There was a moment of camaraderie that only shined for 2 short paragraphs before going back to neutrality gloom.
Apparently, the spin off series Ender’s Shadow retcons some of these issues, so keep in mind that Ender’s Game is simply the first book in a series and possibly Card’s weakest, where a lack of foreshadowing also knocked down the climax.
Trope-wise, the use of dreams was lackluster. The author was going for mysticism but it felt shoehorned at the end. Basically, Card set up a world with advanced computing (quantum computers? haha) that was almost mythical, then the potential of “part-science, part-magic” was ignored in favor of “make love not war.” However, the overall dilemma and big question philosophies are fresh even after so many years after publication: play vs. work, nature vs. nurture, good lies and bad truths, and I read it pretty fast. Ender’s Game has glowing recommendations for a reason.
Word Count: 116393
Average Readability (US Grade Level): 6.75
Percent dialogue: 26.33%