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Ender's Game (Card)

Ender's Game (Ender Wiggin Series #1)
Orson Scott Card, 1985
Tom Doherty Assoc. (Tor Science Fiction)
352pp.
ISBN-13: 9780812550702 


Summary
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—August 24, 1951
Where—Richland, Washington, USA
Education—B.A., Brigham Young University; M.A.,
   University of Utah 
Awards—(see below)
Currently—lives in Greensboro, North Carolina


Any discussion of Orson Scott Card's work must necessarily begin with religion. A devout Mormon, Card believes in imparting moral lessons through his fiction, a stance that sometimes creates controversy on both sides of the fence. Some Mormons have objected to the violence in his books as being antithetical to the Mormon message, while his conservative political activism has gotten him into hot water with liberal readers.

Whether you agree with his personal views or not, Card's fiction can be enjoyed on many different levels. And with the amount of work he's produced, there is something to fit the tastes of readers of all ages and stripes. Averaging two novels a year since 1979, Card has also managed to find the time to write hundreds of audio plays and short stories, several stage plays, a television series concept, and a screenplay of his classic novel Ender's Game. In addition to his science fiction and fantasy novels, he has also written contemporary fiction, religious, and nonfiction works.

Card's novel that has arguably had the biggest impact is 1985's Hugo and Nebula award-winner Ender's Game. Ender's Game introduced readers to Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a young genius faced with the task of saving the Earth. Ender's Game is that rare work of fiction that strikes a chord with adults and young adult readers alike. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, also won the Hugo and Nebula awards, making Card the only author in history to win both prestigious science-fiction awards two years in a row.

In 2000, Card returned to Ender's world with a "parallel" novel called Ender's Shadow. Ender's Shadow retells the events of Ender's Game from the perspective of Julian "Bean" Delphinki, Ender's second-in-command. As Sam to Ender's Frodo, Bean is doomed to be remembered as an also-ran next to the legendary protagonist of the earlier novel. In many ways, Bean is a more complex and intriguing character than the preternaturally brilliant Ender, and his alternate take on the events of Ender's Game provide an intriguing counterpoint to fans of the original series.

In addition to moral issues, a strong sense of family pervades Card's work. Card is a devoted family man and father to five (!) children. In the age of dysfunctional family literature, Card bristles at the suggestion that a positive home life is uninteresting. "How do you keep good parents' from being boring?" he once said. "Well, in truth, the real problem is, how do you keep bad parents from being boring? I've seen the same bad parents in so many books and movies that I'm tired of them."

Critical appreciation for Card's work often points to the intriguing plotlines and deft characterizations that are on display in Card's most accomplished novels. Card developed the ability to write believable characters and page-turning plots as a college theater student. To this day, when he writes, Card always thinks of the audience first. "It's the best training in the world for a writer, to have a live audience," he says. "I'm constantly shaping the story so the audience will know why they should care about what's going on."

Card brought Bean back in 2005 for the fourth and final novel in the Shadow series: Shadow of the Giant. The novel presented some difficulty for the writer. Characters who were relatively unimportant when the series began had moved to the forefront, and as a result, Card knew that the ending he had originally envisioned would not be enough to satisfy the series' fans.

Although the Ender and Shadow series deal with politics, Card likes to keep his personal political opinions out of his fiction. He tries to present the governments of futuristic Earth as realistically as possible without drawing direct analogies to our current political climate. This distance that Card maintains between the real world and his fictional worlds helps give his novels a lasting and universal appeal.

Extras
• Card has won numerous awards, including four Hugo Awards; four Locus Awards; two Nebula Awards; two Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Awards; World Fantasy Award; John W. Campbell Award (World Science Fiction Convention); Mythopoeic Society Award; Margaret A. Edwards Award (Young Adult Library Services Assn.); Whitney Award.

• When asked in a Barnes & Noble interview what book most influenced his life or his career as a writer, here is what he said:

The Book of Mormon. Mark Twain was wrong. It isn't chloroform in print. But, like most books, it can't survive a hostile reading. My reading as a child was not hostile. I found the stories gripping and morally challenging. Though I was not conscious of the influence as I started writing, in retrospect the motifs and stylistic quirks I picked up from the Book of Mormon are obvious. I'd like to think it has influenced my life a great deal more than it has influenced my writing. (Author bio and interview adapted from Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
(Audio version.) For the 20th anniversary of Card's Hugo and Nebula Award–winning novel, Audio Renaissance brings to life the story of child genius Ender Wiggin, who must save the world from malevolent alien "buggers." In his afterword, Card declares, "The ideal presentation of any book of mine is to have excellent actors perform it in audio-only format," and he gets his wish. Much of the story is internal dialogue, and each narrator reads the sections told from the point of view of a particular character, rather than taking on a part as if it were a play. Card's phenomenal emotional depth comes through in the quiet, carefully paced speech of each performer. No narrator tries overmuch to create separate character voices, though each is clearly discernible, and the understated delivery will draw in listeners. In particular, Rudnicki, with his lulling, sonorous voice, does a fine job articulating Ender's inner struggle between the kind, peaceful boy he wants to be and the savage, violent actions he is frequently forced to take. This is a wonderful way to experience Card's best-known and most celebrated work, both for longtime fans and for newcomers.
Publishers Weekly


(Audio version; Grade 7 & up.) The novel asks: What does it take to successfully lead men into battle? The buggers have invaded Earth twice. The last time mankind survived only because of the brilliance of Mazer Rackham, commander of the International Fleet. Years later, a third invasion is feared and a new commander is sought. Ender Wiggin is only six years old when he is plucked to succeed Rackham and sent to the space station Battle School. He is isolated, ridiculed, bullied, and persecuted-but he survives and thrives. Using his astonishing intelligence, the boy learns to be a top-notch solider and, despite his youth and small stature, is quickly promoted up the ranks. By the age of 12, Ender learns the art of command and earns the respect and fear of his fellow soldiers. This audio version was created in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the novel and it's a gem. The audiobook is narrated by a full cast. Stefan Rudniki is particularly good as Ender. Despite Ender's age, this is not a children's novel. Its profound themes (and mild profanity) call for intelligent teens who appreciate a complex novel. —Tricia Melgaard, Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK
School Library Journal


Ender is portrayed as just a pawn in the larger game..., and readers will alternately sympathize with his exploitation and cheer when he is able to make friends in spite of the tremendous forces working to isolate and dehumanize him. The political and philosophical material at the novel's end may get too heavy for some readers, but for the most part, this novel will deservedly reach a new generation through this new edition.
Noral Piehl - Children's Literature


Card has taken the venerable sf concepts of a superman and interstellar war against aliens, and, with superb characterization, pacing and language, combined them into a seamless story of compelling power. This is Card at the height of his very considerable powers—a major sf novel by any reasonable standards.
Booklist



Discussion Questions
1. Is childhood a right? Does a person robbed of a "normal" childhood have any possibility of stability as an adult? Does Ender have any chance of living "happily ever after"?

2. The Buggers communicate telepathically using no identifiable external means of communication. Was it inevitable that war would have to occur when two sentient species met but were unable to communicate?

3. Card has stated that "children are a perpetual, self-renewing underclass, helpless to escape from the decisions of adults until they become adults themselves." Does Ender's Game prove or disprove this opinion?

4. The government in Ender's world plays a huge role in reproductive decisions, imposing financial penalties and social stigma on families who have more than two children but exerting pressure on specific families who show great generic potential to have a "third" like Ender. Is government ever justified in involving itself in family planning decisions? Why or why not?

5. Is genocide, or in the case of Ender's Game where an entire alien race is annihilated, xenocide, ever justified? Was the xenocide of the buggers inevitable?

6. Ender's Game has often been cited as a good book to read by readers who are not fans of science fiction. Why does it appeal to both fans of science fiction and those who do not usually read science fiction?

7. Peter appears to be the personification of evil, but as Locke, acts as a good person. How does Card treat the concept of good versus evil in Ender's Game?

8. In their thoughts, speech, and actions Card describes children in terms not usually attributed to children. In the introduction to Ender's Game he states that he never felt like a child. "I felt like a person all along—the same person that I am today. I never felt that my emotions and desires were somehow less real than an adult's emotions and desires." Do contemporary teens feel this same way? Do only gifted children feel this way or is it a universal feeling?

(Questions from the author's website.)

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