Customer Reviews: Ender's Game: Ender Series, book 1 (The Ender Quartet series)
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on November 19, 1999
Whenever I talk about this book, it's hard not to make it sound like I am a science fiction junkie. I love and defend sci-fi, but I am not limited to the genre. Neither, I think, is this magnificent book. To label it simply a sci-fi classic would be like labeling "Moby Dick" a great book about boats. All great books, regardless of the genre, say something truly profound about the human condition.
"Ender's Game" not only manages to have a strong message, but it is also a joy to read. The plot is enthralling, the characters are complex and realistic, and the descriptions of the battleroom fill your head with fantastic images that make you wish your school had been like this, without the burden of saving humanity. The subplot involving Valentine and Peter is superb and cannot fail to inflame every reader's megalomaniacal side. Though the book is about children, it never condescends and gives kids the credit for the intelligent creatures they are (a big plus for teenage readers). The characters are exceptionally bright, but they are still identified as five- to twelve-year olds, not as mini-adults. It's no wonder that so many gifted young readers have made the statement, "I am Ender." I hope "Ender's Game" is able to make the rare crossover from lowly sci-fi to recognized, so-called "legitimate" literature.
Not only will you not be able to put the book down, you won't be able to read this book just once.
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on March 6, 2002
This was a book recommended to me by a friend who also happened to tell me the ending before I read it. Remind me to give him a nasty stare!
Anyway, this book starts off with a rather long introduction which the author wrote himself about his influences and motivation for writing Ender's Game. The author has had the idea of a Battle Room since he was sixteen. Only much later did he piece together the story of Ender and his mission to save the earth.
Ender Wiggin is a special boy. He is the youngest (6 yrs old when the story starts) of a family of child geniuses (Peter being the eldest, then Valentine). This story is set in the future where aliens (called Buggers because of their physical and mental traits) have tried to invade the earth twice. Twice the Earth defeated them, but at great cost. The government is scrambling to make sure this never happens again by training the next set of star fleet commanders from childhood.
In this futuristic world, only the government could sanction the birth of a third child (for population control reasons). In a way, Ender was born for a purpose. Peter and Valentine were both tested for giftedness and they both possessed it; however, he was ruthless and evil, and she was too soft and kind. Ender was a perfect balance of decisiveness and innocence, and so chosen from the beginning to go through Battle School. It is in Battle School that Ender learns military strategy and the history of wars between the Earth and the Buggers. It is also in Battle School that Ender makes friends and molds the perfect platoon leaders.
What's really unique about this story is that Ender is forced to grow up so quickly by the "adults." The teachers of the school and high government officials all have one thought in their minds. And that is to eliminate the alien threat at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing the health and sanity of a child. Ender is subjected to so much isolation and abuse throughout the story, that I felt really bad for him. He has to learn to think like an adult through the eyes of a child. His biggest fear is becoming like his brother Peter (who, in Ender's eyes, is a cold blooded killer -- keep in mind that we're talking about the thoughts of a child who hasn't even reached puberty) is slowly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as he matures. The ending of this story is just amazing. I will not give it away!
I recommended this book to a 13 year old boy before having finished the book. Now I'm thinking twice about my recommendation. Although this book's main characters are children and centers around the premise that child geniuses will save the world, there are a lot of adult themes and references to ancient history that probably only an adult would appreciate. I believe references to the Warsaw Pact, the League of Nations, Locke and Demosthenes will confuse the younger readers. Also the themes of murder, deception, isolation, rules of engagement in battle might be viewed as inappropriate by parents for their kids. With this in mind, I urge the reader to consider the maturity of the intended audience before recommending this book even though this is a terrific story.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 28, 2002
I'm sure when it happened. Maybe it started as far back as when Jules Verne and H.G. Wells first began reflecting our society through the mirror of alien worlds, but at some point in the last century a surprising trend became evident: The most brilliant minds in the literary universe were writing science fiction. No book emphasizes this point more then Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game", one of the most chokingly powerful books I have ever read (and as a librarian, I've read quite a few).
"Ender" is comparatively underread, though, because its story of one boy's redemption in the face of unspeakable crimes is disguised as a rollicking space-story. So if you are one of those people who as a rule stick to just one genre (or as a buddy of mine told me the other day: "I'll read anything but science fiction") please, PLEASE don't let that stop you from reading this incredible book. And if you do give it a chance, please don't read anything further about the plot; the full impact of Scott's genius is best felt with no prior preperation (that's why I haven't given a plot summerary). When he finally pulls all the threads of the story together, you'll feel like you've just slammed into a brick wall.
This is a novel that stays with you forever, warning you of the ease of losing your soul , and filling you with hope if you're looking to regain it.
Absolutely not to be missed.
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on April 17, 2007
My name is Rachel and I am 16 years old. I am a junior in high school and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card was a reading requirement for my English class. I also love reading outside of school; I do it as much as I can when I have free time. I have read quite a few science-fiction books as well as many other novels from various genres. Although we were required to read Ender's Game, I enjoyed it thoroughly and found myself reading way ahead of the class and unable to put it down.

Although I liked Ender's Game overall as a novel, there were a few components I did not particularly care for. The plot was somewhat split in two, one half concentrating on Ender's story in space, and the other concentrating on the simultaneous happenings on earth and the story of Valentine and Peter Wiggin. The issues on Earth, in my opinion, were not explained clearly enough. It was difficult for me to grasp which parts of the world were plotting to attack which others. Valentine and Peter talk about these issues as if they are "old news" but I seemed to be lost during these conversations. What I did like about the novel was being able to know what was going through Ender's mind at all times. Reading about Ender's struggles from home, to those from battle school, to command school and beyond and how he overcame every obstacle put in his way was enjoyable for me. I also found myself very interested in how Ender was given no opportunity to become close with all other students, but he managed to make a few extremely close friends who learned to love Ender despite his uniqueness.

Card's writing style, in general, was actually one of the main things that made me like this book. At the start of each chapter, Card uses dialogue among the various adult characters, such as Graff and Anderson, to foreshadow the events that immediately follow. He also writes in a way that allows the reader to know Ender's thoughts and feelings; most of the novel is written from Ender's point of view. Card creates a few round characters that we are able to learn a lot about. But he also includes multiple flat characters that we know so little about, but are still critical to the plot.

I definitely recommend this book to any fan of science fiction, but I also recommend it to any dedicated reader also, even if sci-fi is not a particular interest. Young children should probably not read this book because of the complexity of the plot. It might be hard for them to fully comprehend the different themes and certain specific plot points of the novel at such a young age. I suggest this to readers that are 14 years of age or older.
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on April 29, 2015
This used to be my favorite book, I still read it once a year and maybe the Bean books as well.
One thing I did just notice, as I bought a kindle version of the book as my paperback is dying from wear and tear, is that the kindle version actually has a lot of racism that wasn't included in the book I've loved for all of these years. Kind of taints my memories of the book a bit.
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on March 4, 2010
Most reviewers seem to have really enjoyed Ender's Game. Others, such as myself, didn't care for the book at all. What's amusing is that when negative reviewers express bewilderment at all the rave reviews, the enthusiasts often respond by accusing those who didn't like the book of being narrow-minded, etc. But I really don't think narrow-mindedness is the problem. I've found that most of the complaints generally boil down to three factors: Plausibility, target audience, genre fidelity.

Star Wars was far-fetched. When you start out with Wookies, the Force, etc., you pretty much suspend rational rules and adopt an anything goes mentality. You know you're watching fantasy. However, Ender's Game doesn't position itself that way. The storyline, which you can read from the jacket, is that Earth is in the battle of its life against aliens. Desperate to survive, Earth has created a highly specialized training program to groom new military talent. This program searches for young children with a profile of aggression, high intellect and adaptability. Once identified, these kids are taken from their families and then loaded onto a floating battle lab where they're trained to fight aliens.

Now the idea that six year old kids, like Ender, would spend four years training and then get shipped to the front lines is a bit of a stretch. And when you factor in that Ender is not only supposed to fight when he arrives, that he's actually supposed to command an army, credulity reaches a snapping point. Would Earth really appoint a ten-year old to spearhead an invasion? Worse still, Ender Wiggins military training is essentially nothing more than laser tag in a zero-gravity chamber. And this training goes on and on, dominating nearly two thirds of the book. I, and other readers, just couldn't see how this was turning young Ender into the next George S. Patton.

And then there is the issue of the target audience for the book, which appears to be squarely aimed at 10-15 year olds. Many will stridently deny this but the juvenile banter between characters clearly seeks to emulate the thoughts and emotions of children. There is a lot of silly name calling, talk about pubic hairs, etc. And while this may be fine for a young preteen audience, many adult readers will be turned off.

Finally there is the issue of the genre, which seems muddled. Science fiction is more of a backdrop to Ender's Game than a foundation. It's true, they do fight aliens at the end, but that's a very minor part of the book. And, yes, they are on a spaceship. But the same scenes could have been played out practically anywhere. All you need is a zero gravity chamber, some dorm rooms and a cafeteria. The ship feels like a prop so that Card can tell a coming of age story (with a subtext on the innate violent nature of humankind tossed in). All of that is well and good but some will be confused how Ender's Game won science fiction awards when it barely seems to fit that genre.

Please note that I'm not discounting all those readers who liked this book. I'm just trying to articulate where some of the negative feedback is coming from.
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on December 9, 1999
If there is even a slight a chance that you will read this book than please DO NOT read the review from Clayton posted a few days before this one. It gives away away the suprise ending.
I first read Ender's Game over almost two years ago and it contineus to be my favorite. I have now read it more times than I can remember. All of the characters that Card creates are complete people, the pacing is swift and draws the reader in, and the ending is unbelievable. This novel is not just for science fiction fans, or younger readers; it is for everyone. In general, I don't read science fiction and when I first saw the book I thought silly, based on the cover art. I won't repeat the old cliche, but you all know what is is. This turned out to be one of the best books I've read.
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on March 27, 2012

It is the future. Earth has survived an attack from an insectile alien race - barely. Population control laws are in effect. Families are limited to 2 children. Young children are monitored to see if they have military potential, and those that show promise at an early age are whisked away to train in the military's Battle School, in the hopes that by the time they reach adulthood, they will possess the necessary skills to defend the Earth, if the aliens - "buggers" - ever return.

Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is a rare third child in his family. His older brother and sister showed intellectual promise, but his brother was too ruthless and his sister too compassionate to qualify for Battle School. So the Wiggin parents were permitted a third chance to produce a military prodigy. And they succeeded.

Ender is whisked away to Battle School at the ripe old age of 6. The School, located on a space station orbiting the Earth, is populated by military officers and child prodigies. Ender is one of the youngest.

And these are not your average children.

They train daily in space military tactics, weaponry, and combat. Although they are all at an age that we associate with Dora, Spongebob, and Hannah Montana, these kids are nothing like the children currently roaming your local elementary school hallway. They are calculating, intuitive, sometimes ruthless, always dangerous.

One of the main focuses of the School is the battleroom, where the children are equipped with special suits and laser guns that allow them to fight each other in zero-gravity. On Ender's first trip to the battleroom, it becomes quickly apparent that he is a cut above the other students. Some of his peers respect this. Some are threatened by it.

And as Ender works his way up through the ranks of Battle School, his teachers take notice, and wonder if perhaps Ender is the child they've been waiting for. The child who can change everything. The child who can save Earth.

Why I Love It:

Don't let the summary throw you off. Ender's Game may be a book about children, but it is by no means a book for children. The children in this book are nothing like how we picture children (as the mother of an almost-6-year-old, I can say this pretty definitively). Everything about this book is aimed at an adult audience.

Ender's Game is not a thriller or adventure story, although some of the battleroom scenes are exciting. More than anything, it's an examination of the mind of Ender Wiggin, the culture he lives in, and a world under military rule. And it's all fascinating.

Mr. Card writes Ender in a way that while you understand he is just a child, you can still be awed, chilled, and amazed at his thoughts and actions. As a matter of fact, all of the characters are interesting and intriguing, from his friends at the Battle School, to his sociopath brother Peter, to the Commander of the Battle School, Colonel Graff.

There is a twist at the end of Ender's Game. You may see it coming; you may not. I did, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the book one bit. The fact that I have read this book over and over again, in spite of knowing the twist ending, speaks to the strong writing of the rest of the book. The book doesn't exist just to throw you off at the end. The book exists to make you think, to draw you completely into the character of Ender, and to absorb you in the science-fiction world he lives in.
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on July 1, 2009
"Ender's Game" is the type of book that incites profound passion in the readers; either they absolutely love it and think it is the greatest sci-fi novel ever written (actually Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With Rama" is the greatest sci-fi novel ever written) and that this book will save humanity with it's enlightenment, to the opposite feelings and that this book is the worst piece of trash that has ever existed and is more dangerous than "Mein Kampf". There are no opinions in between supposedly.

Wrong. While I find much to fault in this book I also find much to praise. First the faults. Looking at it from a literary point of view I don't like the huge amount of uninterrupted prose, going several pages without dialog. I prefer an even dosage of prose and dialog and using the dialog to expand scene descriptions instead of overusing the prose to do that. Minor point, the author Card has already addressed that as his style. Second point is the age of the characters and the level of dialog they use. Another reviewer was right, simply add five to six years to everyone's ages and it all turns out right. Card is less successful defending his view on this.

While I do not agree that there exists an abundance of obscene man-boy erotica, someone does need to explain to Card what real barracks life is like. Also the brother/sister subplot just doesn't seem to work for me despite the superb prediction of the Internet and laptops.

What many people also get wrong is that the main character of Ender Wiggin is not totally without empathy or remorse; on the contrary he is profoundly aware of the danger of descending into the "Dark Side", he wrestles with his decisions all the time, and Card gives great insight into Ender's inner torment. As the Guru once said, Genius and Self Awareness seldom go hand-in-hand.

What does work is the creation of characters that so many people can relate to. I myself relate to my own fleeing from becoming Ender just as he flees from becoming his brother. On the other hand the character rings so disturbingly true that those readers who cannot personally relate with their own life experiences are appalled by Ender and his compatriots and refuse to accept that any child could ever be like that, though they are unaware of the genuine presence of such people all around them (Boo!).

And that is where this novel works, because it fits its own niche so perfectly. One hundred years from now our descendants will still be debating these very points ad nauseam.
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on July 18, 2008
This book has been recommended to me by various people for the past fifteen years. The main reason is something like this: the Battle Room is really cool, and wouldn't it be fun to be a child military genius? My answer to that is no, not really.

The setup for ENDER'S GAME is something like the Third Punic War. Earth has already fought two wars with the unfortunately-named buggers (insectoid hive-minded aliens), and after winning both by the skin of their teeth they've sent an invasion fleet to wipe the buggers out. The galaxy's not big enough for the both of us, apparently.

Ender Wiggin is a six year-old genius who is taken away from his family to the orbital Battle School, where he and other child geniuses are trained to become the admirals and generals of the future. Ender, though only six, proves himself to be smarter than just about everyone else. He fights repetitive laser-tag games in the zero-G Battle Room, and demonstrates innovative strategies that might be clever for a child, but should be obvious to everyone else. He quickly rises through the grades of the school, playing ever more challenging and complicated games, until he becomes the supposed savior of all mankind. A subplot involving Ender's genius siblings basically taking over the world with the equivalent of political blogs is thoroughly unconvincing.

The main body of ENDER'S GAME is the dehumanization and manipulation of the child hero. He is made to suffer from age five up until he turns eleven at the book's climax. Only at the end, when he expresses remorse for all the terrible things he's done, does he actually become sympathetic, but by then it's too late. The book ends just when it starts to grapple with the ethical issues it has conjured up, which for me was just when it started to get interesting. The worst people are let off the hook, and Ender is set up to be the next Messiah.

Mr. Card contrives numerous ways to excuse everything Ender does, which boil down to "Ender is a good person, so everything he does is automatically good." This is explicit in the dialogue and in the presentation of Ender as a sympathetic hero; the author obviously loves him and expects us to feel the same way. I cannot begin to express just how perverse this philosophy is.

The emphasis is on action, in and out of the Battle Room. Ender doesn't want to fight, but he always finds himself in situations where he has to, and the reader is exploited into rooting for Ender just as Ender is exploited into using his killer survival instinct for the benefit of others. Manipulation is the key to this book. We are meant to sympathize with Ender because he is bullied. Why is he bullied -- is it because the other boys are jealous of him, or because he's annoying, or simply because the plot demands it? A six year old military genius sounds like wish-fulfillment for the author and his fans, and it's a lazy approach to writing a book, since what normal person wouldn't sympathize with an abused child? Even if that child becomes a cold-blooded murderer.

Card's style cuts out every adverb and adjective that might get in the way, leaving his prose spare and efficient and utterly devoid of personality. It's easy to read, but not particularly enjoyable. The dialogue is especially irksome, considering it takes up so much of the text. The children of Card's world do not speak like our Earth-children, even allowing for the fact that they're all meant to be child prodigies of limitless intelligence. Ender and his friends are effectively mini-adults, acting and speaking in adult ways. Card assumes that if a child has a genius IQ, he therefore also has the emotional maturity of an adult. The dialogue given to actual grown-up characters is no better.

ENDER'S GAME is disturbing rather than fun. The simplicity of its style betrays the complexity of its subject. By making his hero a child, Mr Card not only maintains Ender's innocence, but gets around the problem of sexuality: Ender's powerful love for his sister remains chaste, even when she takes on the role of a traditional romantic interest. What worries me most is that the book's appeal might be founded entirely upon the premise of violent child geniuses waging sophisticated wargames against each other. According to the five-star reviews and the endorsements I've heard, that might not be far from the truth.
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