Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ender’s Game
by Orson Scott Card

I strongly resisted reading this book. Everyone who recommended it to me liked the sci-fi genre and I didn't. For that reason alone I thought that it wasn't for me. When I finally caved and picked it up I couldn't put it down. I tore through it and went on to rapidly read seven more books in the series. I’ve just finished re-reading it for the first time and I love it even more.

Andrew (Ender) Wiggin is a young boy recruited for battle school. The earth is in the midst of a long war with an alien race and they've been trying to train kids to be war generals.

The book deals with moral ambiguities, children's rights and genocide; all big enough issues on their own, but together they create a book of epic proportions. It spawned two separate trilogies, a companion book and additional sequels and short stories.

In the midst of all these reasons to read it is Ender. He and the other major characters, Petra, Bean, Valentine, etc. are what make the book stand apart from other sci-fi novels. They are such strong, complex people that you can't resist them. Bean's character even got his own book, Ender's Shadow, to explain his past.

Ender's intelligence, along with his helplessness in the face of an overwhelming situation, is a big part of the book's allure. It's easy to forget that at the beginning of the book Ender is only a child. He is taken from his family and forced to train for war. No matter how brilliant he is that would still be incredibly hard.

This is the book that opened my eyes to genre stereotyping. It's the book that made me decide I shouldn't judge by covers or genres. I may not love sci-fi or bibliographies or whatever else, but I can certainly love books within those genres. I think there are books that are so wonderful they rise above any category you could put them in and knowing that has taught me that I should give each book someone recommends a chance. I never know which one will be the next I fall in love with.

BOTTOM LINE: Read it, even if you think the premise isn’t for you, I think you’ll be surprised. 

Ender’s Shadow
by Orson Scott Card

This novel tells a parallel story to the one in Ender’s Game. It begins in Rotterdam where we meet a tiny child nicknamed Bean. Warring street gangs and soup kitchens run by nuns set the stage as we get to know the brilliant boy. Even as a toddler he is a strategist, which of course makes him perfect for battle school.

Sister Carlotta, a sarcastic nun with a good heart sees the unique potential in Bean and manages to get him into the school despite his size. Once he’s there his story intertwines with Ender’s during the same time period as Ender’s Game. It’s fascinating to see the whole story unfold through someone else’s eyes. We see Ender treat Bean like he was treated, picking on him for his size. We already know that Ender hated himself for doing that, but now we see how it affects Bean.

Unlike Ender, Bean’s life was never “normal.” From his first moments life was harder and the stakes were higher. Death was always one meal away and even his birth is shrouded in scientific secrets. Achilles, a member of the same street gang as Bean, is a horribly dark villain. He can smile and manipulate everyone around him and only Bean seems to stay a step ahead.

Bean and Ender are so alike in some ways; both brilliant generals, both small and young compared to the other leaders, but there are a few major differences as well. Bean is much more detached than Ender. While the old boy struggled with the emotional aspects of battle and the guilt that came with injuring others, Bean was more logical. He was a survivalist because he had to be and he is even more intelligent than Ender.

In some ways Bean’s story is the more poignant one. Ender struggles with the whole process of Battle School, but Bean is more aware of what’s really happening and the consequences of their actions. In the end his was a much harder cross to bear. Bean is not a loveable kid, but he is such a well-written character that he stays with you long after you finish the book.

Ender’s Game stole my heart, but Ender’s Shadow cemented my appreciation for the series as a whole. It has the same powerful story as the first book, but it also delves into the political side of things and sets up a world of dominoes which unfolds in the rest of the Shadow trilogy. Read it if you’ve already read Ender’s Game and you loved it.


Anne said...

I have had Ender's Game on my TBR list for a really long time. Great review, I am going to try to get a copy of this one soon!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I first read Ender's Game about 12 years ago and was not a fan of sci-fi at the time (or, I should say, I really didn't know anything about it); that's the book that opened the door for me with that genre. The end! Still can't get over the ending.

Jeanne said...

YES! I love this book, and I love genre-myth-busting (especially about SF; The Sparrow is the other book that often does it).

Now are you going to read the Speaker for the Dead books?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Anne - I hope you enjoy it! Ignore the ugly cover.

Natalie - I first read it almost 10 years ago! The end is just brilliant.

Jeanne - I've read all three of the Speaker for the Dead books and all of the Shadow books. They are so different and yet both continuing series are so good. I love watching Ender change through the Speaker books. I completely agree about The Sparrow too!

Nikki Steele said...

Thank you for your comment about genre stereotyping! I too had to move past that silliness and now try to read in as many genres as possible. I'm thinking it was either Dune or the Wheel of Time series that turned me.

I did love Ender's Game but never read Ender's Shadow. Your review definitely made me put it on my list.

Jenny said...

I read Ender's Game when I was in school -- the librarian had come to visit to tell us about all different books, and Ender's Game was the one I picked up -- so it has a special place in my heart. Ender's Shadow wasn't published until a bit later, and I think it may be a technically better book (better written, a better plot), and I love it, but it doesn't have quite the same emotional oomf for me. Both wonderful though!

Falaise said...

How interesting. I've seen these books around and have debated reading them but have always decided against it - guess I will have to try at least one now!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - I haven't read Dune or the Wheel of Time series! Obviously I need to add both to my TBR list.

Jenny - I love it when you find a meaningful book in such a great way. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Ender's Game in a way that the rest of the books in the series can never quite touch.

Falaise - Definitely start with Ender's Game!

Kat @ NoPageLeftBehind said...

Great review! You've convinced me to pick this one up. I've hesitated to read Ender's Game because I thought it might be too young for me. I read YA sometimes, but this seemed to be geared towards even younger readers to me. Honestly, I think I just came to that conclusion out of thin air :)

Definitely reading this now, thanks for the review!

Jenners said...

I'm glad you gave in and read it. It's been a long time since I read Ender's Game but I remember being riveted by it. Strangely, I never went and read the rest of the books.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kat - I hope you like it! I definietly don't think it's geared towards a young audience. It actually surprised me that it was sometimes categorized as YA lit.

Jenners - Even though it was the second time, I couldn't put it down!