I thought I’d kick off these reviews with a modern classic. You know, because if you haven’t read it, you should. And if you have, then good for you. You’re officially awesome.
So here it is, my review of Ender’s Game. Enjoy.
For the few of you who haven’t actually read this book, here’s the basic premise: a young boy (see cover) is taken from his family at the ripe old age of six years old to live on a space station, where he is trained in a school on how to be a total badass so that he can potentially grow up and lead mankind against a massive alien threat known affectionately as the buggers.
The entirety of the tale is really pretty simple, but that’s not what sets this book apart. First, the book is about children. You have to understand that before you read this, because life is entirely different when you’re seeing it through the eyes of a child. Kids aren’t supposed to see death, they aren’t supposed to know despair, and they aren’t supposed to die.
In other words, just because it’s about kids, that doesn’t mean it’s for kids. Oh, sure, kids can read it and still enjoy the book, but this is a story that will resonate with adults on an entirely different level for a multitude of reasons. To a child reading this, they’ll see a book about aliens and kids being strong, doing things that they could only ever dream about; adults will see a story about loneliness, leadership, and the impossibility of being told you need to do all the things that no one else can do. Because you’re special, and because you have to. It’s something that every soldier understands, which is why this book has come to be on the lesson plan at, not only public schools around the country, but also at military academies (on the topic of leadership).
So, you might be saying, that’s all well and good, but how’s the writing? Well, Orson Scott Card uses something called the American Plain Style, which has been pointed out a few times by his readers as being “a little too simple”. This is true to some degree, because he never really goes into too much depth about the scenery or anything because, as he has said, he wants his readers to “imagine the story themselves”. A lot of writers and critics might find this a little off-putting, but in the man’s defense, I don’t see a problem with it. Personally, I think too many authors get far too bogged down in describing a scene, so much so that the reader may lose interest in the story. I’ve seen books go on for pages about how beautiful a meadow or a river is, and believe me when I say that I usually skip right over them (I mean, honestly,we all do it sometimes). Now, yes, there are certain books that need those types of things, but in a novel with a stronger focus in psychology and action, there’s not much of a reason to stop and smell the metaphorical roses.
There are also a lot of good ideas in this book. Ideas which have since gone on to influence some major science fiction novels, films, and video games. It really is a miracle that this book still hasn’t become a film, especially with all the garbage being produced nowadays. Of course, there’s a whole plethora of issues behind that, so I won’t get into it right now.
I could say that the book has a fantastic twist ending and that there are so many memorable characters that you’ll feel like you know these kids by the end of it (and maybe you do), but let me just say that it’s good. It’s damn good, in fact. This is the book that I recommend to everyone I know, and even to the people I don’t. It’s the book that got me into science fiction, and consequently into writing. But most of all it’s a book about a kid stuck in a situation he can’t do shit about, wishing for a lot of things but never getting any of it. It’s a story about loss, deception, love, fear, the joy of doing what is right, and the guilt that comes along with it. I cannot recommend it enough.
This is one of the few novels that should be recommended reading in high schools across the world. If it was, more kids would sure as hell be reading.
-J. N. Chaney