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"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Just see from the summary if most (older) tween boys (girls, too, of course) could resist:

Ender is the third child in his family who is chosen by the government at the mere age of six to attend Battle School. After close monitoring, which included 24 hour surveillance, it was concluded that he could be The One… a human capable of being the commander to lead the Earth’s forces when the Buggers come back.

Years ago, the Buggers invaded Earth and nearly annihilated humanity. The cowboy antics of the brilliant general, Razor Mackham, were the only reason mankind survived. It has been determined that another leader like him must be found in order to keep humanity alive when the Buggers return.

So, Ender is sent to Battle School in space where he is tested to his utmost limits: and learns to lead armies, battle in all sorts of adverse conditions, and win at all costs with all odds stacked against him. He is ready to move to commander school at the tender age of 11: a full 5 years before anyone else has ever graduated.

With me so far?

Turns out, when he gets to Command School and engages in further training, he is in fact leading Earth’s forces in a pre-emptive all-out attack on the Buggers’ homeworld and outposts. He wins, but only because he made an us-or-them decision believing he was still in mock-battle training.

Then, in a further emotional twist, Ender is left a message by the Buggers who knew he was coming to destroy them, and he now is given a chance to help the Bugger’s re-populate.

This is an all-out rollicking good sci-fi book. Fans of the genre will love it, non-fans of the genre may still like such a stand-out.

On to the ratings and cautions.

First, there is some violence. Anyone old enough to follow and enjoy this story probably will be able to handle the level of violence, but it is certainly for older tweens and not the very sensitive. Ender actually, albeit unintentionally, kills 2 boys who attacked him, and there is a video-game violent description of scooping a dead giant’s eyeball out, snakes in someone’s mouth, and Ender’s brother is sadistic and tortures animals.

The book is, rightly, touted for the moral questions it raises. I would want my tween to have parental guidance here. There is the suggestion of a mindless evolutionary process being responsible for our survival instincts and that this is the guiding force behind our survival. God was once mentioned ambiguously as one possible agent who effects change in the universe. The religious sense is relativistic; in the end, Ender becomes a priest of his own religion on his new planet where no other (equally) competing religions exist.

Kind of disturbing was when we learn more of the Buggers in the end; we see that they would have liked to have forgiveness extended. They (the Queen, really) were ready for unity once they understood humans to be sentient. As is the common case in sci-fi, the measure of worth of beings is sentience, as opposed to being made in the image of a Creator. And while it is unclear, of course, what plan God may have for an alien species’ salvation (not a moral/religious question brought up in the book), just as we learn about the ability of the ant queen to desire harmony, we also learn she terminates her first 2 daughters until the 3rd shows promise of thinking like the Queen does. This one was deemed worthy of keeping in cocoon form in hopes that Ender would later find her and re-establish their colony.

Now, I know they are ant-like and all, but the whole issue of suddenly seeing the light regarding the intelligence and human-like feelings of the ants stirring up our compassion, just in time to have the Big Ant kill babies that fail to show promise of enough compassion/desire for harmony gets a little muddy. It’s all worth navigating with parental input.

Safety Rating: 1 Flag; High Readability


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