Random Review: Ender’s Game

I loved this book. Full stop. ender

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender Wiggin is the specially-commissioned brilliant third child in a family tracked for its ability to create brilliant children. His older brother was too violent, his older sister too passive, and the hope is that Ender (like that third bowl of porridge) will be just right. With the fate of the Earth resting on his six-year-old shoulders, Ender is shipped off to a boarding school in space where the planet’s brightest children are being trained to win an intergalactic war. Cut off from everything he loves and everyone he knows, the powers that be put him through a gauntlet in hopes of turning him into the greatest general the galaxy’s ever seen. Socially isolated, younger than everyone, and pushed to his limits, can little Ender save the world?

This might be the most perfectly written book I have ever read. Nothing is extraneous. The conversations between Ender’s handlers about the ethical implications of what they’re doing, the political subplot with Ender’s brother and sister back on Earth, each army and leader Wiggin learns from or comes up against; it all feeds into the central story. It is so tightly plotted that at times one feels like Wile E. Coyote: you’ve run right off the cliff and extra ten feet before the full impact of what’s happened hits you. My only regret is that I waited so long to read it. Because it seemed like “a boy book” with its soldiers-in-space cover, I’m not big into war stories. This is not a war story: it’s a story about the making of a hero and what that costs at every level.

What I love most about the book is the social dynamic when Ender reaches his training academy. He has been marked for greatness, and intentionally set apart. There are people who take offense and oppose him simply because of this, others who are indifferent, others who are willing to befriend him and share what they know. Card includes a range of ethnicities, belief systems, and moral codes. This is a school for brilliant children, and Card understands at a fundamental level the social structure that exists among the gifted.  Where they are blessed and where they fall short, and the things they need that are often overlooked. I could easily devote an entire Character Study to breaking down each of the people Ender encounters at the academy and how they contribute to his future.

My only quibble is the treatment of women in the book. There are only three of significance: Ender’s mother, Ender’s sister Valentine, and sharp-shooter classmate Petra. Ender’s mother is little more than a caricature: sad to lose her baby boy, secretly religious, the end. Valentine is basically uninterested in war despite her brilliance, and acts as a human blankie for Ender when needed. While she does have some impressive political accomplishments, they are basically spearheaded and engineered by her brother Peter. Petra is an exceptional shot, unable to rise higher in the ranks because that is the only area in which she shines. She is also used as “weakest link” at one point in the story. Card writes at one point early on that evolution had made girls softer and less-suited to military success. Um. That irked me. Methinks your Mormonism is showing.

Still. The book is an A+, and I’m passing my copy directly on to my brother.

Chair Rating:

Magnificent, beautifully crafted.

Magnificent, beautifully crafted.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Badass Babes in Literature

Same bat time, same bat place, same meme courtesy of The Broke and The Bookish. Hit it, ladies!

1. Katniss EverdeenThe Hunger Games
Because duh. Whatever her failings as a well-rounded individual, the girl’s a survivor with tremendous focus and skill. I’d pick her first for my dodgeball team.

2. Kino Makoto/Lita Kino/Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Moon

Manga may be pushing the limits of what is considered “literature”, but hey. Graphic novel. There is a reason every one of my avatars between the ages of eleven and thirteen featured this badass babe. She was funny, a great cook, a loyal friend, and she could call upon the powers of thunder and oak trees to kick monster ass.

3. Moreta, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

Most of Pern’s Weyrwomen were pretty badass, but Moreta outshone them all. She was a crazy-good dancer and racing enthusiast who flew her dragon through time and all over the world to save the planet of Pern from a flu epidemic. Top that.

4.  The witches of Hogwarts, Harry Potter

Despite the fact that that sounds like some sort of smutty calendar hanging by Crabbe and/or Goyle’s bed, there were some seriously tough broads at Hogwarts (and numbered among the alumni). Off the top of my head: Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Molly Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and Bellatrix Lestrange (crazy as a loon but undeniably tough).

5. Deryn “Dylan” Sharp, The Leviathan Trilogy

Deryn spends World War I disguised as a dude in order to pursue her most cherished dream: flying as an airman with the Royal Air Force. She not only keeps up with the boys, she blows most of them away with her superior aeronautic knowledge and tendency to engage in derring-do. She makes for such a dashing fella that she catches the eye of another of the novel’s badass babes.

6. Tris, The Divergent Trilogy

Halfway through reading Divergent, I knew that I would never be Dauntless. Tris, on the other hand, takes to the faction and its demands like a fish to water: jumping from trains, ziplining from skyscrapers, climbing carnival rides, getting the stuffing beaten out of her on a daily basis without a word of complaint. Truly Dauntless, and tough as nails.

7. Hazel Grace, The Fault in Our Stars

There are different kinds of toughness, and many ways to be a badass. Hazel’s miraculous survival is part of what makes her so tough, but the greater part is her fierce insistence on mitigating the damage done by the eventual end of her life, no matter what moments of happiness it may cost her. That is flinty determination. That is toughness.

8. Lisa, The Girl Who Owned a City

Well there is the fact that she owned a city. It might be more accurate to say she built it, and eventually has an efficiently run fortress filled with hundreds of kids. That is not an easy thing, folks, less easy still for a twelve-year-old. Lisa gathers a loyal following of kids due to her ability to solve social and survival problems with logical thought, her willingness to lead by example, and her bravery. This is not a cutesy story or an easy road for Our Heroine, she is shot and has back-room surgery performed on her by a fellow twelve-year-old before novel’s end!

9. Lola, House of Stairs
To explain why she was so tough would be to spoil the whole novel, so you will just have to take my word for it.

10. Dolores Claiborne, Dolores Claiborne

She did what needed to be done, and never expected a pat on the back or vindication. Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman’s got to hold on to.