Name of Book: Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Audience: Ages 12+
Summary: Aliens, known as the buggers, have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. Although it has been years since the last attack, the world wants to make sure humans win the next encounter, so the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses, and then training them in the arts of war. Fearing that the next attack is imminent, they cannot wait for the children to grow up to adulthood, they must use them now.
Into the unending pressure of military training comes six-year-old Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who struggles to keep his humanity even as the adult teachers, rivals among his fellow students, and the strange unseen influence of the alien invaders all threaten either to destroy him or to make him into someone he can’t bear to be.
His genius raises him to the top of the intensely competitive games in the Battle Room, an immense null-gravity chamber where armies of youngsters engage in mock combat. But his real struggles are off the playing field with a dangerous older boy named Bonzo Madrid, who doesn’t believe that the world is big enough for both Ender and him to live there peaceably; with his teacher, Mazer Rackham, who won the last war on a fluke and now is trying to prepare Ender to win the next one by skill rather than luck; and with himself, as Ender wrestles with his own demons, desperate to remain a decent human being even as he sees himself being transformed into exactly the same kind of monster as the buggers themselves.
In the last battle of his training, Ender finds out that their mock combat was really a navigation of fighter pilots several light years away, who under Ender’s leadership have destroyed the bugger planet. Faced with the reality of actual xenocide, Ender goes on a quest to find a home for the last remaining Queen, who is the future of the bugger population.
Literary elements at work in the story: This science fiction novel is set between Earth, which is run by a unified World Government and Outer Space at the Battle School for training young children combat skills. Often times children act older than they actually are, and they like to be given credit for the knowledge and skills that they have. In fact, they are often smarter than the adults that train them. This book uses children and characterizes them in such a way that they are really small adults. They are brilliant children, in fact, they are the brightest children in the world who have come together to be trained for battle against the alien population, known as the buggers. The children are involved in world politics and they face adult situations. They have conflicts that they must address amongst themselves with very little adult intervention, and their ultimate goal becomes survival of the fittest as they are trained. The third person narration allows the narrator to be omniscient and omnipresent through all circumstances and events. Throughout the violence and conflict that Ender must face, his love and care for his sister keeps him human. And it is through this love that he is able to feel remorse after the final battle and seek a way of peace with the buggers for the future.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The fabulous thing about this book is that all gender, race, cultural, economic differences that are present in this current world have all faded away as the world has had to unite as one human race, so they can defend Earth together. The children that attend the Battle School are from all over the world and from all different economic backgrounds. The real enemy portrayed in this book is the alien population.
Theological conversation partners: Religion is out of vogue in this futuristic world and there is great pressure to keep one’s religious beliefs underwraps. The world is working out of their own strength and ability to defeat the Buggers once and for all. The children are being raised to be hard and determined as they compete with one another to be the best and brightest to fight to save the world. The book is violent and children die in the process. But this book ends with the thought of hope. Faced with xenocide, the annihilation of the entire bugger species, Ender makes a choice to find the last living Queen and a safe planet where the alien population can grow and live again. Often times, it is easy in our own lives to get so caught up in the moment that we lose sight of the picture of what we are fighting for or why we are even fighting in the first place. We tend not to think about the long-term consequences of our actions, until it is too late. This book forces us to take a step back and rethink our relationships with others and the consequences of our actions in the midst of conflict. This book is the first in a series of books by Orson Scott Card that features Ender as the main character. Each subsequent book in the series is for a more mature audience as they cover material that is not as interesting for an adolescent audience. However, there is a parallel series, entitled Ender’s Shadow, that will appeal to an adolescent audience throughout.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Which character in this book can you relate to the most and why?
- Compare and contrast the way the children in this book are treated by the adults with the way that you interact with the adults in your life. What’s the same, what’s different? What do you like about the way the children in the book are treated? What do you dislike about the way the children are treated?
- While religious faith is present in some of the characters within the book, it is frequently downplayed. Where did you see God in this book? How did you know that it was God?
- The buggers are not human as we understand humanity, but what human qualities do they display? What qualities do an individual need to be considered “human”?
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 5-8 (Ages 10 -13), Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., Fantasy/Science Fiction, High School Students, Middle Schoolers Tagged: | aliens, children, humanity, Peace, violence, war, war games