Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardI jumped on the book-to-movie bandwagon again and picked up a copy of Ender’s Game last month. It originated as the short story published in August 1977, which Card expanded to a book and published in 1985, receiving both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award. Orson Scott Card has co-produced the film which will have theatrical release on November 1, 2013.

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, Tor Books (1994 edition)

I picked up a copy for $5 from a local secondhand bookstore and it was the Author’s Definitive Edition seen here. It’s a quick read, short page count, and engaging story about a kid named Andrew, who prefers to go by Ender.

Following two alien invations, Earth has created a special agency known as the International Fleet to seek out and train brilliant children. These children are selected from a young age and sometimes even genetically modified. Earth has a two-child policy, but in rare cases they will encourage a third child if the previous children showed aptitude for battle. Ender is a Third and only six years old when he is drafted to attend Battle School. Orbiting in space, the school is an international training camp for children. As Ender is constantly promoted, he becomes further isolated from the other students.

I enjoyed the writing and appreciated the snippits from Graff and Mazer instead of being completely focused on Ender’s experiences. The input from the two adults provided more context and rationale behind Ender’s experience.

I felt that Ender’s characterization was well done. His feelings of isolation, dispair, and anxiety are apt for a young child in his situation. We follow Ender from age 6 to 10 as he traverses Battle School and skips several years to attend Command School. I admit someone spoiled the twist of the story for me, so I wasn’t surprised by the result, but I did think it was very well done.

The secondary storyline involving Peter and Valentine felt like it was tacked on in order to flesh out the short story into a novelette. All the political mumbo jumbo was not clearly explained and didn’t strike me as interesting. Perhaps if the beginning chapters had been structured to include more of the political background it would feel more relevant, but the focus was always on the Battle School. Therefore, I think the final chapters in epilogue style was almost unnecessary, especially considering Orson Scott Card wrote additional stories in the Ender’s Game series.