On googling something like ‘best sci-fi books ever’, Ender’s Game appeared. I knew the title from the movie starring Harrison Ford and had seen parts of it a while ago, never having watched it all the way through. What I saw of the movie didn’t compel me to read the book at the time, so I guess I was gambling on the book being a whole lot better than what I saw, earning its place on those best sci-fi book lists.
Written by American novelist Orson Scott Card and published in 1985, we find ourselves in the company of “Ender” Wiggins, a product of a selective breeding programme designed to produce Earth’s last hope in its anticipated fight against the ‘buggers’. The Earth lucked out in its previous encounter with the buggers and isn’t taking any chances this time round. Ender is deemed, at six years of age, to have the perfect blend of qualities that will make him the perfect military commander, and is summarily taken to join similar youths at the Earth-orbiting Battle School. Ender is put through his paces in Battle School, a Full Metal Jacket for the 21st or whatever century Ender exists in. Ender leaves behind sibling geniuses Peter, who failed Battle School due to his border-line sociopathic tendencies, and Valentine, who has the opposite tendencies of Peter. Not to be outdone by Ender, the siblings follow their own path to world peace or domination.
I was struck by how familiar the book felt. Admittedly, I had seen parts of the film but it was reminiscent of other books I’d read including the 1974 novel The Forever War, the more recent and great Ready Player One (the book, and regrettably not the film!) and even Harry Potter. Ender finds himself isolated (by design) and pushed to the limit by the military brass and, while not a particularly likeable character, I found myself sympathising and rooting for him throughout all of his unrelenting zero gravity war games (Ender’s Game’s Quidditch!). While there is an interesting sub-plot involving Ender’s siblings, it’s Ender and his travails which are the focus of the book, which I found myself picking up at any available opportunity, which I don’t think I’ve quite experienced since reading Ready Player One.
Ender’s Game is incredibly readable and fun and I recommend it highly. I’ve just ordered the DVD and hope that it goes some way in living up to the book.