Monday, May 22, 2006

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

I think in many areas of the book world many genres get a bum rap. Romances are trashy, Fantasy is childish, Science Fiction is for teen boys, and mysteries are for bored accountants who want more excitement. As a librarian I think I've heard almost all the stereotypes there are about books, I think I have also heard all the librarian stereotypes. Yes, some of the stereotypes may appear to be true but they are generalizations. Remember, there are four of us who work in our school's library and I think I am the only one who EVER sported a real bun. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is one of those books that make me glad that I have never paid attention to the stereotypes. It's also one of those books that make me love the genre of Science Fiction.

I've heard it referred to as a cult classic, and as it's now been around for over 20 I guess I can see why some call it that. I can't say if it is or it isn't. Lots of great books seem to get this label when they become wide read. I should rephrase that statement, lots of great genre books seem to get that label when they get a wide readership. You hardly ever hear about a "mainstream" or "literary" book getting a cult following, but genre fiction seems to be full of them. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, and so many other authors of different genres get lumped into this category. Wouldn't it be better to say their books are just fantastic reads? Ah well, off my soap box.

Ender's Game is another one of those books people seem to either love or hate. Taking place in a war torn future for Earth, Ender is a child genius. He is Earth's last chance in an upcoming future battle to save the human race from total extinction. The book deals with guilt, family, politics, friendship, loss of innocence, and so much more to it than that. It is a coming of age novel. It is an action book. It is a science fiction mantra. It is NOT for everyone, but perhaps everyone should at least try it. Card's writing is not overly detailed, but for me that's a plus. I had difficulty with another good book, Eragon by Christopher Paolini, because I felt overwhelmed by description.

Remember what I said about some stereotypes appearing true? Well Ender's Game is labeled as Science Fiction. I work in a middle school library. Ender's Game is very high on the "I Loved this book" list with many teen boys. So that stereotype fits this book, teen boys do read Ender's Game. However, so do our girl students and teachers of both sexes. Hmm. The reviews are mixed among all the readers. Some like it and some do not. Just like all the "literary" books on our shelves. This brings me back to a point I've made a few times in my reviews. You never really know what a reader will truly love. Book publishers can guess by what sells best. I cringe at this because I believe it leads to formula fiction, some good and some bad. Librarians can guess based on what circulates in a library and by what a reader has enjoyed previously, but still you can't always win. Who hasn't had a friend declare the virtues of a book, only to read it and think their friend is crazy? All I can do is tell you how great this book it. The rest is up to you. Try it. If you don't, you may be missing one of the greatest books I have ever read. If you do read it and hate it, then you can call me nuts. Go ahead, I don't mind if you think I am.

Book Description:
Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards

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.

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