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Ender’s Game Book Review: brilliant but flawed

There are circles in which Ender’s Game is considered the greatest sci-fi story every told, but when you read it in hindsight, ignoring the leanings of its author Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game does still retain a conceptually great story but it is flawed because of its’ oddly perfunctory father – Orson Scott Card.

Ender’s Game finds humanity fighting an intergalactic war against an alien race colloquially known as the Buggers. After being invaded twice and triumphing, humans are looking for the next great Battle Commander. For such a hero they need someone with imagination and energy – who better than a child? And it seems humanity is ready to place all their chips on young Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggins’ shoulder.

Like any good sci-fi story, book or film, Orson Scott Card places his story with real world foundations. It is clear that Card’s brother fighting in the Vietnam War was a big influence on Ender’s Game. Indeed the two wars fought between the Bugger and the humans parallel that of the two world wars. And this is something Orson Scott Card gets very well. When Ender’s Game is having fun with planets, game rooms and intergalactic warfare it is genuinely engaging.

But, thankfully, this isn’t a book that relies on the meticulously spherical action Card subscribes to and describes. The questions of morality, humanity and the value of life do take centre stage. Characters are continuously debating the merits of warfare and violence and whether it is an inherent pillar in the psyche of mankind.

Card is also incredibly adept at crafting a brilliant ensemble. From Ender to Bonzo to Bean, every character breathes and has their very own story. Admittedly, Ender’s Game is a hefty story but one that provides many more than just Ender.

The greatest books breathe and beat as you read them. They have the natural ebb and flow and can be read in one sitting whilst riding numerous tones and personalities. Ender’s Game doesn’t breathe. The best way to describe it is like a machine. Everything feels mechanical, every line sort of slots in to place rather than slides in, every anecdote feels like the outcome of an algorithm rather than being plucked from a distant memory. Perhaps this is Card’s writing style but it is not one that warrants the length of this instalment.

There are some books, like Robopocalypse, that rely on a mechanical pattern but one gets the feeling that Card was going for a more human tale than one absent of morality. Hell, the entire book is about morality and humanity but it doesn’t feel like a human wrote it.

You can certainly see why Ender’s Game is considered one of the best books of all time – its influences are transparent for all to see – but it is much easier to connect with a human voice than it is a robotic one.

Score – ★★★


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