Friday, April 22, 2011

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
ISBN: 978-0613824224
Tandem Library, 2002 (originally published 1985)
352 p.

Plot Summary: Ender (aka Andrew) Wiggin lives in the distant future with his parents, his brother Peter, and his sister Valentine. He was born third, which makes him a second class citizen in this world, where three children are not allowed. Earth is in preparation for a war with the Buggers, an insect-like alien race who were said to have attacked Earth long ago. One day, Colonel Graff winds up on Ender's doorstep requesting that he be put through a strict regimen including Battle School and later Command School to help in the battle with the Buggers. Begrudgingly, Ender and his parents comply. Ender spends a few years in Battle School playing a game much like a 2 team version of laser tag in weightless space. Here he learns the skills of commanding troops and battle strategies. Once he wins an unprecedented number of matches in unprecedented ways, Ender goes on to command school where he will find the truth about the Buggers and the truth behind the legendary commanding officer Mazer Rackham.

Critical Analysis: I've read a few of Orson Scott Card's other books and he never managed to recapture the magic of this one. His descriptions of battles are so vivid, the reader can picture every move and every winning strategy. Like any great science fiction book, Card balances the science and futuristic aspects of the story with strong and compassionate characters.

I think Ender's Game is the perfect young adult book; it is not only the type of book that is nearly impossible to put down, it encompasses interesting and difficult moral dilemmas that so many candy-coated young adult books avoid. Card lets Ender question authority and the right to go to war with the Buggers in a way that truly makes the reader consider the same ideas.

Card's slow development of Ender from a boy to a young responsible man is also a method often gone unused in popular young adult fiction. All too often, young adult protagonists are already teenagers at the beginning of the book. Young adults who read those books do not get to sympathize with the problems of growing up as they could with Ender in a harsh environment such as Battle School.

I have no criticisms for Ender's Game, I only criticize him for continuing a saga on Ender's life that all but ignores his YA origins. In the sequel to Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Card immediately ages Ender to the age of 30 and has him start doing dull anthropological work - not exactly a fertile ground for gaining a young adult audience.

Reader's Annotation: In the distant future, a young boy is Earth's only hope to defeat an ever growing army of insect-like aliens called Buggers.

Author Information: Card is a resident of Greensboro, North Carolina and is a proud member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Ender's Game is the book that made him famous even though it started out as an ignored short story. His other works include the Seventh Son series and Enchantment. He's also written a graphic novel, Ultimate Iron Man and helped write for the video game Advent Rising.


Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Ender's Game has been used in many classrooms, Card has even published teacher and student guides for it. As previously mentioned, moral dilemmas and race relations could be discussed using humans and Buggers as examples.

Booktalking ideas: Ender decides that he must try to understand the Buggers if he wants to defeat them. What's the point of understanding your enemy?

When is it proper to question authority? Should Ender have listened to Colonel Graff or should he have thought for himself? Was Ender brainwashed?

Reading level/interest age: Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues: violence, mature issues

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: I've reread this book multiple times, I first read it when I was twelve or so. This is probably the YA book I recommend the most, as I said previously I think it has a wide appeal. It is one of the few young adult books I've seen that serve both as entertainment and can be used well in a classroom.

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