Tag Archives: Orson Scott Card

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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