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Ender's Game: Stealing the Innocence Of Children to Win The War
I've been hearing that I need to check this novel by Orson Scott Card out for a long time, and given that it's been adapted into a movie that will be released in November, I figured I might as well read it now. And I/m glad to say I was not disappointed.
Taking place in the far future, after humanity has managed at great cost to fight off two alien invasions by insect-like aliens referred to as "buggers", the International Fleet is constantly preparing for a possible Third Invasion. To do that, they've recruited brilliant children to attend the Battle School, where they'll learn to be commanders, tacticians, and soldiers in the coming war. Ender Wiggin is one such child, believed to have the potential to be Earth's greatest commander. But to get him there, he will have to undergo being isolated, hated and disrespected by his classmates, and have his sociopathic tendencies cultivated. And that's only what happens to him in training...
The novel goes deep into the mind of Ender, who is a fascinating character. Simultaneously extremely empathetic and mercilessly efficient at exploiting his enemies' weaknesses, he is torn between loving his enemies and utterly destroying them. He also is very good at separating himself from his peers, while simultaneously wanting nothing more than to have friends. This causes him much distress as he struggles to do what he needs to do while being horrified by his potential to destroy.
This is something that Card struggles with throughout the novel: whether it is moral to do immoral things in order to win a conflict. Both Ender's torture by his teachers in the Battle School and what the International Fleet wants to do to the buggers are evil acts, but Card is able to argue that they are necessary in order to win the war, a dark but fairly convincing argument. Card is also fairly subtle about his arguments, so these observations only occur when thought about in retrospect, rather than having to be pointed out in the text itself.
I also was fairly impressed that Card was able to forecast a fairly accurate depiction of the internet when it was published in 1985. While he may have gotten the size of the internet wrong (as a couple of political bloggers would probably not be able to shape global politics, as Ender's older siblings on Earth are able to do), I was impressed that his description of the "nets" seemed not that different from the internet I experience.
Although the book is paced a little oddly (possibly given that it was adapted from a novella Card had previously written), all in all I liked it, and I can see why it has been accepted as part of the science fiction canon. I would definitely recommend reading it before the movie comes out, if you can.