Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Posted June 6, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 14 Comments

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Digital Audiobook narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir, Harlan Ellison, Stefan Rudnicki

Published by Tor Books on January 1st, 1985
Series: Ender's Saga #1
Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 256 pages or 11 hours, 57 minutes
Source: Libby

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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.

Ender’s Game is one of those books that I’ve been aware of for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never read it.  I’ve been reading science-fiction for just about as long as I’ve been reading anything.  I was raised on Star Wars and Star Trek and Logan’s Run and Planet of the Apes.  Give me 70s and 80s sci-fi until the day I day and I’ll be happy as a clam (problematic bits aside, see: Logan’s Run).  In the last few years, I’ve revisited a lot of the older-style science fiction that I loved when I was younger… and I’ve been disappointed.

So, Ender’s Game worried me.

Then I saw the movie when it came out back in 2013.  It’s an adaptation of a much loved science fiction book – of course I saw it!  And then… I was disappointed.  Based on my faltering faith in old school sci-fi, Ender’s Game went on my “low priority” list.

And that was dumb.

Ender’s Game is fantastic.  It was not what I expected.  I prepared myself for something violent, possibly with lines of sexism and racism, and I didn’t find it.  There are no graphic scenes in this book.  There’s women in positions of influence and power, and there’s people from all over the world at Battle School and Command School.  Ender’s Game is representative of all sorts of people, and it tells a fantastic story.  This is a bildungsroman and a dystopia and a war story and a space opera and a boarding school story… it’s just REALLY good.  There’s so much to it, and it’s effortless.

It’s easy to love all the characters.  Bean, Elia, Petra?  They’re wonderful.  Ender and Valentine are perfect enigmas and I was never really show whether they were going to truly be good or evil.  The twists I wanted were there with them.  And the villains, like Peter, are fantastic.  The science is fascinating without being over the top, and because Ender is so young, there’s no romance.

Ender’s Game circles around a little boy who, at his oldest in the heart of the story, is about twelve?  But it is so accessible that I can see this being a good book for almost any age.  It’s accessible for middle grade readers while still being fascinating and relatable to adults.  I never felt that there were overly mature passages or that the author had included offense content.  I’m actually amazed by this – so many books written 30+ years ago are riddled with problematic content… and Ender’s Game isn’t.  It’s such an example of how to speak to the human spirit.  Not cater to a certain age or to the privileged – anyone can read this book and enjoy it.

Well, anyone with a vague interest in science fiction.  Though honestly?  It’s so accessible, you don’t need to love sci-fi.  You just have to be okay with outer space and some advanced tech.  Honestly.

I just… I loved Ender’s Game so much, guys.  I thought it would be slow, but it swept me up.  I thought it would have problematic bits, but it was lovely.  I thought it would feel outdated, but it’s very present.  I thought it would be boring and it was amazing.  Ender’s Game surpassed all my expectation and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Breakdown
Personal Enjoyment
Overall: five-stars

Have you ever procrastinated on a book only to LOVE it?  This is definitely not the first time I’ve shot myself in the foot – good books come out of nowhere!  Let me know in the comments which ones far exceeded your expectations!

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14 responses to “Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

  1. OH MY GOSH! I’m so glad you loved it!!! I’ve seen so many bloggers call this book “problematic”, and I’m like, what is your problem? It’s a masterpiece. It remains one of my all-time favorites. Petra is THE BEST. I love that it’s hard sci-fi, but like you said is so accessible. And the ending! It wasn’t shocking for the sake of it, the message and the ethical questions that result are SO profound. Gah! I could talk about it for days!

    • Amber

      I mean, I think it’s fair to say that the AUTHOR himself is a bit problematic, but the story is really interesting. I think maybe people are reading it for face-value? Because yes, at face value, the idea of genocide and child soldiers is *horrible* but I think that the author *wanted* the readers to be horrified. It’s a dystopian future, and those stories *should* make the reader pause. There’s loads of interesting ethical conversations to be had about Ender’s Game and sometimes I think we over-police things.

      • Definitely, especially the young book bloggers. Specifically what they were upset about (I think) was lack of representation, and I think they thought Petra was too boy-ish. Whatever. I agree, Card purposefully wrote something that’s *supposed* to be horrible, and you as the reader are supposed to recognize how horrible it is.

        • Amber

          Hmm. There was more racial diversity than I expected. I feel like people have not read enough pre-2000s sci-fi and fantasy. I was actually pleasantly surprised with that aspect. As for gender diversity (even just that male/female split), that’s explained. Rep for the wider gender spectrum as well disability and mental health rep are only VERY RECENTLY discussions, so I don’t really expect to see them in older works, and diversity in sexual orientation doesn’t make any sense without a love story element, so it feels irrelevant.

          As for Petra being boyish… well… I thought she was fierce and lovely and everyone is just plain wrong. 😛 I do remember a runaway comment about women not making Battle School because they’re typically too soft – I think Petra’s general success says a lot about proving the system wrong.


          People hear what they want to hear.

  2. Oh wow, such a raving review! This has been sitting on my shelf for the longest time, but I never picked it up. For whatever reason, I was thinking it was a more adult sci-fi book, like with very intense sci-fi language and aspects and all that, but going off of your review, it sounds amazing!!

    • Amber

      It’s definitely not intended to be read by children, as there’s some strong themes and horrible things happen… but it’s not overly gory or stiff. Really, very accessible. Do go in knowing there’s some horrible things that happen in the book (TW: genocide, child soldiers) but I personally believe these are intended as elements of a horrifying dystopia and don’t reflect an “ideal” society….

  3. YES, i’ve definitely procrastinated on a book only to love it. usually i’m put off by covers i don’t find particularly attractive, and i only end up reading the book when i have nothing else left to do.
    + i haven’t read ender’s game, or watched the movie, and i’ve read some mixed reviews, but since you loved it so much i’m tempted to give it a try! 🙂

    • Amber

      I think you do have to like sci-fi to like this one. Additionally, there’s no love story, so it’s all fairly serious. Which works in the story itself, but we’ve all gotten so used to a romance subplot that missing one can be jarring.

      I’m hearing now that a lot of people call this one out for being problematic and while I personally didn’t see the problematicness in the *book* (there are bad things, but they aren’t presented as good), the author himself has some pretty wretched opinions (which aren’t in the book, but I do know a lot of people won’t read books by problematic people, even if the book is good and doesn’t reflect those values).

  4. Oh, I ADORE ENDER’S GAME! I always feel a stab in my heart when people tell me they’ve watched the movie because I heard it was absolute sacrilege to the book (and no one has given the movie a positive review to me). I refuse to watch it. Anyway. I’m SO HERE for every single aspect of this book. I’ve read and reread it and haven’t tired of it once. <3

    • Amber

      Oh man, the movie was PAINFUL. I admit I didn’t see the end coming, but I really didn’t like Harrison Ford in it. I know he’s this legend or whatever, but I felt like most of the characters were so FLAT. The book is DEFINITELY better than the movie here.

    • Amber

      The movie failed to really hit the emotional touchpoints, I think. A lot of the story goes on in Ender and Valentine’s heads, and it’s hard to convert that to film. 🙂 I hope you like the book better!

  5. I saw you talk about this book in your June wrap up so I came to check out your review. Ender’s Game was my gateway into sci-fi!! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I’ve steered clear from the author’s other works for obvious reasons, but I feel like Ender’s Game is an objectively good book. I kind of want to reread it now b/c when I first read it I wasn’t looking for the social commentary as much as just going along with the plot and characters. Good review!

    • Amber

      Objectively, definitely. I’m really glad I didn’t learn much about the author under after I finished it, otherwise I may not have picked it up? It’s such a good sci-fi gateway! My husband, who mostly reads adult epic fantasy, found sci-fi through this book as well. 🙂 I think it’s really accessible and interesting for all ages! I hope you do a re-read someday and discover more layers to a book you already love. 🙂