Catching Up on the Reading List: Ender’s Game

Cover of "Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)"

I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card this weekend. Earlier in the spring, I made my list of must-see summer blockbusters, and I noticed that a movie adaptation of Ender’s Game comes out later this year. I decided that I’d better put the book on my reading list.

Ender’s Game had always been on my when-I-get-around-to-it list. Friends, family, and critics all told me that the book was worth reading. The premise seemed promising, and I enjoy a quick YA read.

I suppose the book was okay, but it really wasn’t that great. It does have a plot twist, but I saw it coming. Perhaps it would have been better if Card had narrated more openly instead of having the big reveal at the end.

This is going to be unpopular, but I didn’t really like Ender Wiggin’s character. The book tells us that Ender is a sweet compassionate kid. It’s his compassion that makes it possible for him to save the world. I don’t find him that likable or sympathetic. If you judge him by his actions rather than what other characters say about him, you’ll find that he’s a rotten little bugger.

Show; don’t tell. That advice is some of the hardest for novelists to follow. Actions flow out of the affections and the disposition of the heart. Characters who act contrary to how the narrator and other characters depict them sound hollow, not complex.

There are some clever bits to Ender’s Game, and it does bring up some interesting questions about childhood, violence, society, and the state. On the whole though, I felt let down because the book’s worldview seemed too simplistic. Perhaps I feel let down because people had hyped it too much. It’s pretty good, but it’s not a modern-day classic.


6 thoughts on “Catching Up on the Reading List: Ender’s Game

  1. I recently read “Ender’s Game” as well, based on my sci-fi-loving husband’s praise of the book. And…I hated it. Flat characters, boring plot (enough mock fights in the battle room, already!), and I found Ender to be entirely unsympathetic and actually unlikable. I was also turned off by Card’s forward to the revised edition I read, which was nothing more than one long monologue about how everybody thinks Card and “Ender’s Game” are the shiznit. The truth is, it might be everybody but me, and you.

    1. The copy I read lacked the forward that you mentioned, but it sounds like I didn’t miss out on anything. Leigh, thanks for assuring me that I’m not crazy. (Or at least that I’m not the only one.)

  2. Quite honestly, while I liked Ender’s Game, I found it extremely depressing. The sequel, however – Ender’s Shadow – was incredible. I cried twice. It follows the Ender’s Game timeline, but from the perspective of Bean. The author wrote it years after the first book, and I was surprised by how many biblical allusions it contained. Also, the tone, while still dark, was not as hopeless/helpless as the first. Overall, I loved it.

      1. Ender’s Shadow can function as a stand alone narrative, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that. Reading it after Ender’s Game is a richer, deeper experience. Also, I like Bean so much more than Ender that I don’t know if you could handle reading Game after Shadow.

      2. I’ll put it on the list. Maybe Card realized that Ender Wiggin wasn’t particularly likable and wrote Shadow as a do-over with a sympathetic protagonist.

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