alt altEnder's Game, by Orson Scott Card (Tor, New York, 1991)

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (Tor, New York, 1991)

The short story version of Ender's Game was written back in 1977—more than 30 years ago—and even the novel is 25 years old.  That was right when my reading interests veered sharply from science fiction to children and education, so I missed Orson Scott Card entirely until now.  Extended visits for the birthing of grandchildren put me in contact with other people's libraries:  it was at the birth of another grandchild that I discovered The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and finally learned the significance of 42.

Both Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead are riveting stories.  Although the author feels the latter to be more important, and indeed chose to expand the original short story of Ender's Game only because he needed a prelude to Speaker for the Dead, I liked the former much better.

Card claims Isaac Asimov as his inspiration, but I detect more than a few traces of Robert Heinlein.  The respect for the abilities of children, the school settings, and the military motifs in Ender's Game remind me of much of what I liked best from Heinlein, notably Space Cadet, Tunnel in the Sky, and especially, Starship Troopers.  (I've not seen the movie version of ST, but it doesn't surprise me to hear that you shouldn't judge the book by the film.)  The amalgam of humanist and New Age worldviews at the end of Ender's Game and throughout Speaker for the Dead remind me of Heinlein's works that I did not like, such as Stranger in a Strange Land.  Like Heinlein, Card is a better storyteller than philosopher.

That Ender's Game must have had a special hold on me will be obvious to those who know how much I dislike both the boarding school genre (the early Harry Potter stories won me over in spite of their setting, not because of it) and reading about battles and military strategies (I haven't yet made it past the beginning of The Iliad).  The hook was Card's obvious (personal?) knowledge of the problems of bright children in a world that is more likely to abuse or exploit than to understand, help, or befriend them.  Adding boarding school woes—of the sort that made C. S. Lewis write, "If the parents in each generation knew what really goes on at their sons' schools, the history of education would be very different"—exaggerates the problem, but sometimes a situation must be overstated to be noticed.

I like books that inspire me, and Ender's Game does—much more so than Speaker for the Dead, which I'm sure was intended to be the more inspirational.  Knowing little about leadership, as a subject, I found Card's treatment of it fascinating, and even the game-playing and battle-winning strategies were educational.  Perhaps what affected me most was Ender's skill at turning everything that happened to him into something that made him stronger and better, and the way he patiently endured pain as long as it enabled him to learn.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 6:46 am | Edit
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There's a reason I picked Ender's Game out of all the good books here in Janet and Stephan's library: I recognized it from some relatively recent discussion, whether here, on someone else's blog, or elsewhere, I remember not. I haven't been able find that discussion again, so if anyone here was part of it and will remind me, I'd appreciate it.

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 6:56 am

If you haven't seen ST, don't bother. My only comment when leaving the movie theatre after watching it was, "Well, they obviously waited until Ginny was dead before they made THAT."

It's based on the book even less than "I, Robot." Our family has concluded that 'based on' means, "The script spend some time on the same book shelf as..."

If you like Ender's Game, you may also like "Ender's Shadow" the back story of Bean.

His Women of Genesis series is quite good too...

Posted by katie baker on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Katie! Welcome back. It's good to hear from you again.

I like your family's explanation of "based on." Don't get me started on The Lord of the Rings. :)

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Oh, I'll step into the fire swamp (to mix storylines). What didn't you like about the LoR movies?

Posted by katie baker on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 8:18 am

I thought I said not to get me started.... :)

I've come to accept the movies as valuable, because they've introduced people to Tolkien who never would have read the books otherwise. And of course they did some things well—I particularly like the way they handled the Shire at the beginning. For the most part, I think they did the scenery and settings much better than I had imagined them.

Not so the characters. For one thing, they made Aragorn into such a wimp. The quiet strength and power of a man who has been proven by time and experience, who understands both himself and his purpose, did not come through at all. He had to have Arwen put him back together. I also think the movies made too much of their love story. Sure, it's there in the books—but not with the prominence of the movie. And the public kiss at the end! That struck me as quite out of place.

Another problem is what I referred to in my post about Isaac Asimov's Magic: unmagical magic. The movies did not, in my opinion, catch the spiritual aspects of the story at all. They got the basic story line, and showed a lot of battle scenes, but missed the life of the characters and the deep beauty of Tolkien's creation. I think they tried to show goodness and spiritual life, but to me the effect was to make the characters looked stoned.

I suppose the main problem is that I care so much about the books and the characters. The movies seem to have missed all I like best, while over-emphasizing my least favorite parts (e.g. the battles).

Then again, I don't think I've yet met a movie I liked as well as the book, so maybe it's hopeless.

Posted by SursumCorda on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

I might have mentioned the Ender series - John Kuhns has read a lot of Orson Scott Card, and introduced him to me - I liked all of the Ender books, though I think Ender's Game was probably the best.

Posted by Jon Daley on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm
Ender's Shadow
Excerpt: Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (Tor, New York, 1999) Having read Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead while visiting one son-in-law's library for the birth of a grandchild, it seems only fair to read Ender's Shadow while visiting the other son-in-...
Weblog: Lift Up Your Hearts!
Date: March 9, 2011, 1:19 pm