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Mama Deb
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Ender's Game

I just finished rereading Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.

The plot of this novel is Harry Potter. But worse. In many ways, Harry's life is a nightmare - at the age of fifteen months he loses his loving parents and is inches from being killed himself. He spends the next ten years unwanted, neglected and abused. Hogwarts and the Wizarding world seems like a paradise at first - he's free of the Dursleys, he's rich and powerful and famous. Except that there are people out to kill him and the Wizarding world is as petty and prejudiced as the Muggle, and a lot more dangerous.

Ender's world is worse. Like Harry, he's unwanted at home, where he's tortured, and his classmates tease him. Except that Ender has to contend with his sociopathic older brother instead of a spoiled cousin, and he's teased because he's a third child in a world where families don't legally have more than two. He was born from government fiat. "Thirds" are despised and fair game.

His talents are recognized (after he kills a boy) and he's sent to a special school where they will be honed.

Harry was eleven. Ender was six. And while Harry has friends and parental figures, Ender has followers and distant teachers who push him along and isolate him. And lie to him in a way that makes Dumbledore look open and honest.

By the time Ender is eleven, he's destroyed an entire sentient race. At the time, he believes it's a game. (He's also killed another boy, unintentionally. They don't tell him that, either.)

Harry will be eighteen when the series ends. And although he will have to kill Voldemort, he will know what he is doing, and one hopes no one else will die. And he will have friends by his side. Ender was alone.

And that climactic chapter. I cried.

(And then there's all that odd eroticism, as when ten year old Ender sees the beauty in an eight year old boy's childlike body. Which was just skeevy.)


I can no longer stomach OSC (you know about him and the deep end, right?), and I think it's both sad and horrible the way he turned his back on himself and his characters. As one of my friends pointed out many years ago, *all* OSC's early novels (and IMHO all his good ones) are about abused children. Adults in his world are not kind or wise, and the best thing that can happen is for the abused children to love each other, without letting the morally-crippled adults tell them how or who.

What's surprising to me is how many readers apparently think Ender was victorious at the end, not thoroughly duped and manipulated. Or am I mis-remembering? I haven't re-read the book in years, because I find OSC when good too emotionally searing.

Adults in his world are not kind or wise, and the best thing that can happen is for the abused children to love each other, without letting the morally-crippled adults tell them how or who.

And that's what I think I liked the most about early OSC. It really was all about "all you need is love". But believably so.

Hunh. I'd heard Ender's Game was one of OSC's better efforts. Mind, OSC is now on my permanent boycott list so I won't be reading anything of his, but reading this review... If Ender's game was one of his better books, I shudder to imagine what his less popular books might be like.

I've read a few of Card's books (pre-decision), and while I never considered the money wasted, they never stayed on my shelves long. I never re-read any of them more than once, which is pretty rare for anything on my shelves. (I have relatives who ask me why I hang on to these ratty old books, they're in such terrible shape... Never occurs to them to wonder how they got in that shape. *grin*)

OSC can write. He can put words together and create a readable, and often unforgettable book (If he's not fictionalizing the Book of Mormon, I mean. Homecoming was *dire*.)

I'm a completist. This mean I'm going to finish the Alvin Maker series.

I love early OSC.

Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are magnificent as are Wyrms and Songmaster.

I *cried* over Songmaster.

Don't forget Xenocide. Gloriously Bright is an incredibly complex and memorable character. All three of the original Ender Trilogy (I can't stomach the later books in the series) make fine reading, IMO, but I can't read anything else he's written.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  

Mmm, it was a brilliant book.

Still a nightmare, though.

It was an excellent, compelling book, as was the short story from which it was expanded. (Usually that trick doesn't work.)

Nod, but as is often the case, the shorter work is better. I read the original when it was first published.

I loved Ender's Game. It got me hooked on 'hard science' fiction.

And you have the comparison backwards...Ender's Game was published well before HP.

I knew that - I got this copy of the book in college. It's just a very similar plot.

the first time I read that book I cried for hours. OSC is good, haven't read a book by him in years of course, because disgust will put a damper on things you want to read, but between the Ender's Trilogy, Songmasters, Hart's Hope and Sonate without accompagnment... there's quite a wow factor.

I did find Hart's Hope hard to read. It's so very, very nasty. And if you ever read his book on writing SF and Fantasy - he designed it that way.

Not like you need any more comments :-)

Just a few thoughts.

1) It is important to think of Card in context. One of the reasons he was so popular was he boke a lot of new ground in the early 80s. He wrote fantasy set in the United States, an area that had lagged seriously in a field overwhelmed by Tolkien clones. His investigation of themese such as child abuse were new then, and done in a way that raised interesting questions (and hadn't been done to death yet).

Ender's Game is designed to be complex. Yes, Ender is cruelly manipulated. But the Earth believes it faces extinction from an unknown enemy that may strike again. Is genocide really a crime when the other race swept in out of the blue and tred to annhilate the entire Earth? Only we learn later that this was a mistake -- the other race hadn't even realized we were intelligent. Card avoids simple answers and also raises the tragedy stakes by having Ender realize the complexities. This is the whole idea behind the "Speaker for the Dead." Ender sees himself go from hero-prodigy who saved the Earth to genocidal villain. Yet he accepts, chronicles, and does not confuse speaking the truth with his moral judgements. He does the same thing for his abusive older brother, knowing that in so doing he damns himself in the eyes of history.

2) Personally, however, I found the cheating in Xenocide so bad that it made me retroactively hate the rest of the series.

3) Card's opinion on homosexuality, from what I have read, is more complex than most give him credit for. His position (again, last time I read his writing on this some years back) is that "Mormon Doctrine says you must listen to the Church Elders. The Church Elders say homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, you cannot be a good Mormon and a practicing homosexual."

This itsef is not bad logic. I'm not going to tell Mormons what they should or shouldn't beleive. But he ten makes a leap to the idea that Mormons should also prevent the secular state from conferring "benefits" that "legitimize" homosexuality, such as legalizing gay marraige. Here he makes a classic mistake of confusing his own religious belief (to which he is entitled) to what is appropriate in a multi-cultural secular society.

Re: Not like you need any more comments :-)

Nod. It's complex enough that it *is* rereadable, even after knowing the plot twist in the end, and in the seventies/eighties, it was ground breaking.

And, yes. The moral questions are very difficult - even more so because Ender really had no idea of what he was doing. How much responsibility does he bear?

Doesn't reduce the nightmare factor, though.

And, yes. It's one thing to make a statement about one's religion. It's another to make it the law of, as you say, a multicultural secular society.