Tag Archives: Nicholas Sparks

Ender’s Game Review

In this blog, I take on a very important topic to some: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I have some very strong opinions on the book and the movie.

Tread lightly, sir. So, last summer, at the behest of one of my nerdy friends, I finally got around to reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I’d been bugged to do it since I was a teenager by the nerdy wing of my friend group (basically all of my friends when I put it that way), but just hadn’t wanted to do it. Still, wanting to be able to talk about the movie intelligently, I finally picked up the book and gave it a read.

Now, a note on Science Fiction and Fantasy in general. I do not often read these genres. I love Bradbury and Asimov and Philip K. Dick and Lewis and Tolkien, but that’s about where my interests end. Generally, I’ve found that I do not appreciate the sort of hard Sci-fi and Fantasy that often lacks real and interesting characters. (Plus, with Fantasy, I feel like it’s such a narrow genre, it ends up often feeling like a constant attempt to replicate Tolkien. You can read more on my feelings on the Fantasy genre here.)

You’re going to alienate your only reader, you know that, right? So, I would say, with that qualifier, that I did not particularly enjoy either version of Ender’s Game. And yeah, it boils down to character. The thing about Ender that bothers me the most is that the kid is flawless. He’s super capable at a super early age, never loses in any competition or fight, and every time he displays some violent behavior, he’s wholly justified because it was out of self-defense.

I know Sci-fi does not depend heavily on characters, and as one of my dear friends put it, “It’s about the big picture.” In this case, I suppose we’re talking about themes. And yes, Ender’s Game does make some interesting comments on the morality of war, even just war theory, but for me, that’s not enough. If Card wants to lay down a philosophy on war and how society justifies it, he’d have been better off writing an essay, rather than creating thin type characters to preach his message for him. I mean, we destroy Ayn Rand for this all of the time (rightfully so), but at least she had a fully fleshed-out belief system that no reader could miss (because she beats us over the head with it … again and again and again and again … ).

Well, it’s just you and me again. I feel like this story, while exciting, does little to let us identify with the main character, except perhaps through wish fulfillment. Think about it. Here’s a smart little kid who beats the daylights out of any bullies that cross his path. He’s not an amazing physical specimen. He’s not an athlete. But he kicks so much ass. What nerdy little kid couldn’t want to be that? And I feel like that’s the secret of the success of this book. And that aspect isn’t a knock. It works. We see this sort of wish fulfillment in lots of genres. For example, the Romance genre is full of wooden characters that are impossible to identify with as read people, and yet it’s super popular. This is real fantasy (and yes, I’m talking to you, oh whittler of mannequins and self-proclaimed Hemingway of your day, Nicholas Sparks {WARNING: do not read that interview unless you feel like both laughing out loud and getting angry.}).

You’re a wooden character. Fair enough. So, I think this book does something special for a readership that wants to escape their life and embody one much more unrealistic and exciting. I don’t think it’s a particularly good book, despite its heavy themes. This is just my take.

The book was better than the movie, right? Well, so, I watched the movie adaptation the other day at a very sketchy $2.50 theater. In this case, I kind of enjoyed the movie better. Though the movie was essentially set up like one long video game, it was nice to have victory after victory after victory by Ender trimmed down. And I feel like the movie makers did a decent job of trying to humanize the boy more, though not by much. I’m not saying I loved the movie. In fact, I think I enjoyed my bag of popcorn and cup of Mr. Pibb about as much (though I do love Mr. Pibb … I like it even beter than Dr. Pepper).

You apologize. Sorry nerd fans. Maybe I don’t get the story. Maybe I don’t get the genre. I try to be open-minded about Fantasy and Sci-fi, but generally I am disappointed by my excursions into those genres. What am I missing? Am I approaching them wrong? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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“Blind Puppy Cancer”

I often compare Nicholas Sparks’s ability to earn emotional impact to watching a blind puppy with cancer walking across the road and getting run over by a truck … so I decided to write my own blind-puppy-with-cancer story. Enjoy!

Marie pulled her low-cut, lavender tank over her head, slipped on her favorite tight jeans, then checked herself in the mirror. Her hair was perfect. She never wore makeup, except at her mother’s funeral. She’d wanted people to be able to trace the lines of the tears down her cheeks. From the chair in the living room, she snatched her leather Coach purse and stepped to the doorway, but from the corner, inside a tiny baby fence, came a weak bark from her eight-week old Bernese Mountain puppy named Buckles.

Marie turned from the door and stood over Buckles. He had water. He had food. In fact, he had plenty of food. He wasn’t eating. The vet said he didn’t have too long left to go, that his vision was basically null, and that she shouldn’t get too attached. She wasn’t wearing makeup that morning.

This was her first dog, and the little runt had cost her hundreds of dollars to get in the first place, and since, his vet fees, his destruction, and his incontinence had all but drained her account.

“What’s-a matter, Buckles?” she said, gently kicking the plastic fence that he rested his nose against.

The puppy snapped its head backwards and let out another string of weak barks, but settled back down in his original position, his wet nose pressed against the cage.

“I’ve never seen a puppy look so old,” she said, tempted to lean down and rub his head, but remembered what the vet had said. Don’t get attached.

She turned and stepped back to the door without looking back at the sick dog.

“Have a good day, Buckles. Hope you have fun.” She realized how cruel that statement was, with the little puppy, basically a baby, in pain, blind, unable to eat, and trapped in a little playpen, surrounded in his own filth.

Still, she stepped out the front door, locked it, and bounded down the stairs of her apartment.

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