Guest Post: Ender’s Game

A guest post review of Ender's Game, the popular YA novel that is now (finally!) a movie. | A book review from Newbery and Beyond

Today on the blog, my lovely sister Melanie is doing a guest post!  She is working on a degree in middle grades education, so she read and reviewed Ender’s Game, the ever-popular YA sci-fi novel that’s now a movie.  Enjoy, and be sure to let her know your thoughts in the comments!

Ender’s Game takes place in a dystopian future with an unclear and complicated backstory.  Earth is shadowed by the threat of aliens who have invaded twice before.  Earth is united under a Hegemony, controlled by three leaders, called the Hegemon, the Polemarch, and the Strategos (I spent almost the entire book wondering what a “Hegemony” was because I was too lazy to look up a definition…).  Though families are only allowed to have two children, Ender is a Third, allowed to be born only because of the promise his siblings showed to fulfill the Invasion Fleet’s needs.  Because Ender encompasses the necessary blend of intelligence, compassion (of his sister), and ruthlessness (of his brother), he is chosen at the age of six to go to Battle School in space.

The kids at this ‘school’ do go to classes (about as much as students in a movie about high school), but the main emphasis is on the extracurricular battle games, in which the students are divided into armies and fight each other in zero gravity.  I usually skim battle sequences in books, but somehow I was engrossed in each one of the battles Ender fights.  Ender, of course, is a strategic genius, and moves through the ranks at a ridiculous pace, becoming a commander of an army of his own at only 9 years old (most of the other commanders are 11 or 12).  Though Ender earns the respect of most of the students through his patient and effective leadership, he is often bullied by jealous older boys.  He fights them back ruthlessly in the hopes that if he beats them badly enough once, he won’t have to do it again.  Though Ender is (scarily) successful at this, I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything would be okay.

Against his will, Ender is promoted to Command School six years ahead of schedule.  The battle games of Battle School are replaced by computer simulation games against a constantly learning computer. These games take their toll on Ender’s mental health, as they come multiple times every day, and the adults surrounding him put Ender under immense pressure not to lose a single one.  And then some spoilery things happen.  A lot of things.  In the last fifty pages, there is more action and plot advancement than in the first 150 pages.  Everything happens at once and then it ends with a suddenness that left my head spinning.

I had a lot of unanswered questions when I finished this book (Where did all these brilliant kids come from?   Why are there no brilliant adults?), and I wanted more information about what was going on in the political subplot with Ender’s brother and sister.  [Note from Monica: I think this might be discussed further in the later books in this series, although, having never read them, I can’t say for sure.]  Though the battle scenes were interesting, having so many of them seemed like a waste of time when there were so many plot points rushed through at the end of the book.  Ender’s Game is complex and compelling, but so unevenly paced that I couldn’t even decide how I felt about it.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

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