That’s not a statement I make lightly. While my other favorites – Stranger in a Strange Land, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Death World – have all effected me in different ways, none has moved me as much as this strange tale of a little boy who spends his life training for the ultimate war.
The plot is deceptively simple. In a society where population is strictly controlled, Ender Wiggins is a third child. The government gave his parents permission to have one more child than the norm because their first two children, both prodigies, showed such promise for the military. Though their first son was overly aggressive and their daughter overly empathetic, Ender seemed the perfect combination of the two. At the ripe age of six, they collect him for training as a solider in the war against the “buggers.”
Anyone who reads about Ender’s trials – even before he enters the Battle School – and doesn’t feel for him must have a heart of stone. Once in his new environment, a space station, effectively cut off from everyone he’s ever known, he trains with other brilliant children in the ways of the soldier. Though there are classes, his most valuable training takes the form of games – from video games and simulators to a weightless Battle Room where the child soldiers hold mock combats. Poor Ender faces enemies here as well, none of them the aliens he’s training to fight. He’s forced to confront his demons, his allies, and evaluate every situation he’s thrown into.
Near the end of the book, a climactic situation takes place, and though the book goes on, it seems at first to be pointless. Hasn’t the plot been resolved? If Ender’s Game ended there, it would still be a fast paced, emotional, heart-wrenching read. But it doesn’t, and those last pages propel Card’s novel – in my opinion – into one of the greatest novels written in any genre.
Without risk of giving away the rest of the story, let me say this novel is about so much more than one little boy and the hell he’s put through. The book constantly faces the reader with basic questions of morality and humanity. How high is the price for humanity’s survival, and when is that price too high?
When I picked this book, I had no idea what it was about. I’ve never been a big fan of war stories. However, I’d seen Ender’s Game listed on NPR’s list of Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books and decided to give it a shot. Every adult, whether you enjoy genre fiction or not, should read this book. It’s incredible.