Guys. This book was first published in 1977, the year I was born. I was sort of a late-comer to enjoying things like sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic novels, so there is no way in hell I would have read this as a teenager.
Now I want to kick teenage me. Because this book is amazing. Undeniably a classic in Y.A. lit and in sci-fi lit. I wish I’d read it earlier, because this is one of those books that I think you would have two totally different perspectives about, depending on when you’d read it. I’m almost anxious to put it down, have five years pass and read it again and see what I get from it as a (sigh) forty year old.
At the start of the book, Ender Wiggin is a six year old boy. He lives on an Earth in our far future. And Earth which has twice nearly been anihilated by an alien race called buggers. The countries of Earth have banded together to try and create one military to destroy the buggers for another battle that is no doubt on it’s way.
The best and brightest children are selected to enroll in battle school. So far, no pupil has been brilliant enough to be considered for the roll of Commander. Until Ender Wiggin is selected. A genius among geniuses, Ender’s mind for strategy and his quick thinking under pressure and above all his desire for survival are apparent at his young age.
Drafted by Colonel Graff, Ender enrolls is battle school and quickly makes several enemies. Other children, only a few years older than Ender, but not nearly as brilliant. The Colonel and the other adults in battle school push Ender, beyond what any young kid should endure, but only so he can prove himself, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to survive. He quickly rises through the ranks of battle school, being tested in ways no other child has. All the while, Colonel Graff, who has enormous affection for the boy, feels the tugs of guilt over Ender’s treatment.
Back home on Earth, Ender has left behind two parents, and an older sister, Valentine, and older brother, Peter. All of Ender’s motivations come from two places, his love of his sister, and his fear of his brother. Beyond simply fearing Peter, who is a terrifying bully, Ender’s main concern is with making sure he never becomes like Peter. Peter finds a way to begin his desire to take over Earth, and he manages to get Valentine in on it.
After a fight with one particularly nasty bully, Ender is promoted out of battle school and sent to Commander school. But at this point, Ender has had a breakdown and is granted three months rest by Graff. Valentine and Graff are the only people Ender will see and, after one of Valentine’s visits, Ender agrees to go to Commander School.
What happens there? A lot, but I don’t want this to be too spoilery. Just take my word for it, this is a fantastic book, and you need not be a sci-fi fan to appreciate it.
- This book reminded me a little bit of Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, where you get to the end and you feel a little ambivalent about the nature of the good guy/bad guy dichotomy. It’s a good feeling, and it really does make you think about books in a different way, from differing points of view.
- I honestly can’t say what I think of Graff. He seems to really like and care for Ender, but his actions nearly always put the bugger war ahead of Ender’s well-being. Which is fine, it is his job after all.
- I thought Ender’s genius would get old by the end. But it doesn’t, and sometimes his genius can get in the way of his emotion for the reader. But I think that’s how it was intended. Because there is a gap between Ender and his classmates, even the ones who he considers friends. He’s always better than they are, so he can’t relate to any of them very well.
- The last chapter is so heartbreaking in its own way. Again, don’t want to talk about it because spoilers.
- Anyone read the sequels? I loved the ending of this book, so I’m ambivalent about trying the sequels out.
- Also, a movie is coming out at the end of the year. It has Harrison Ford as Graff. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be terrible, and it’s hard for me to explain why. Maybe because there isn’t a six year old on the planet who could effectively portray Ender? I don’t know. It won’t stop me from seeing it though,