|Submitted by chokipokilo |
(Mar 21, 2009)
After reading/hearing endless praise for this book from readers ranging from junior high school to thirty year-olds with degrees in literature I decided that I would make "Ender's Game" my first attempt to break into SciFi.
First the redeeming qualities. This is an easy read and doesn't take too much intense focus to capture the details. Card's history as a playwright is evident in his use of dialogue, which I consider to be a worthy style of writing, especially since you don't get bogged down in description. This leaves the reader free to imagine the world more on their own and fill in the descriptive gaps. There's also a good deal of action, mainly in the Battle Room, which is clearly Card's main reason for writing the story in the first place.
That leads me to where Ender's Game fell short for me. First, writing a novel about a concept of a battle simulation instead of characters is, in my opinion, a terrible place to start. While the Battle Room was well thought out, the plot certainly was not. For characters we get a boy genius, and his sister and brother (also prodigies). Not a bad start, except that the extent of the genius of these children is simply too much. Most criticism I've read for Ender's Game is based on it being unrealistic. For me it's not the the book is unrealistic, that's why you read SciFi and fantasy in the first place. The problem is that the unrealism hurts the story and the advancement of the characters. The three child prodigies are flat out too smart. It's one thing for an intelligent child to succeed easily over their average peers, but in this case Ender is so genius that he succeeds in everything he does with very little actual effort. He easily dominates everyone at Battle School, despite the fact that it is a school for geniuses and most of the children he's contesting have a wealth of age and experience advantage. Besides unrealism this also makes for terrible rising action, as the character really doesn't struggle at all. Sure Card tries to pretend he's struggling with being accepted...at first...and that he's nervous about retaliations from other children. These problems are just as easily overcome as the Battle Room challenges, leaving not a hint of suspense throughout the story. I think it would have been better if Ender lost some games and had to work harder and go through trials and failures. Given that he's supposedly at a school exclusively for other child-geniuses, it really wouldn't make him any less of a super-prodigy if he was simply able to barely keep up with his older, more experienced opponents instead of surpassing them with little to no effort, and it would have made the story much more engaging.
I see that a lot of readers say they relate to the characters, and I can only assume they mean Ender since he's really the only character in the book. I find that hard to believe. More likely, these people want to relate to the character Ender because of some inflated sense of grandiosity that plagues most teenagers. Only a handful of people in history really relate to Ender; Alexander the Great and Albert Einstein are a couple of examples, since they had that same level of genius that defied any sort of rationality. As for me, I couldn't relate to Ender at all, probably because I'm not a genius and have no illusions as such.
I don't know if Card has ever heard of rising action or climax, but his novel was devoid of either. The end came too abruptly and in exactly the same fashion I had begun to expect at that point. No sense of suspense whatsoever. Besides that, this book seems to be written for children but with scattered grown-up themes. The writing is simply too basic, and it astounds me how many adults with experience in real literature recommend this book.
As for the political storyline of Ender's brother and sister, I think it should have been taken out of the novel completely. It barely relates to the main plotline in any way. Card chose for this portion to take the easy route and not include any of the actual politics being described and simply tell us that something is happening because of Peter's plan. He could have deleted about seventy pages and simply said, "the children used their genius and the internet to become powerful names in the political structure." That one sentence encompasses the whole chapter, which, as I've stated already, is basically irrelevent. I'd recommend to anyone reading the book to skip that absurdly long chapter altogether.
In the end I felt Ender's Game is underserving of all the hype it gets. Little plot, no buildup or suspense, not much in the way of pros, basic writing style, unnecessary and lengthy storylines, and an impossibly unrealistic character. If you have graduate junior high school I'd skip this one.