Ender is only a child, but he’s a brilliant kid, physically tough but mainly a master at strategy. Sweet and sensitive, but a born warrior, he’s plucked from his semi-normal life to begin another at a space station battle school. His adult instructors are watching all of the kids there, hoping to find the next great leader, a military commander who can help them vanquish the Buggers, aliens who are regrouping for another stab at Earth. This time, the Buggers will be different, stronger, smarter; a great Leader might be their only chance.
Even for those who don’t like war novels, Ender’s story is brilliant and addictive. The high-tech games – either computer or live action – are incredibly real-feeling. Ender battles the school’s bullies and tries to keep his own inner demons in check. He knows that he’s a smart strategist, but is he a killer? Can he control his own worst impulses, or is he just being controlled by reacting?
My husband and a friend (who is in the CIA) were discussing this book, which they had read as kids, and it seemed to have really stuck with them as one of the smartest and most morally complicated books they'd ever read. I’ve recently had a parent tell me to stop buying books in this series for his son; he felt that they were too violent and a bad influence.
Bibliotherapeutic value: Although many criticize this book for glorifying war and violence, it’s actually a philosophical meditation on the causes of war and violence. Ender is forced to contemplate whether it’s possible to face one’s bullies without becoming like them. He also has to figure out if, by playing his commanders games and doing well, is he controlling the game, or is he just a pawn?
Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. New York: Tor Science Fiction. 1999.
ISBN: 0812550706. $6.99.