Earth has twice before had to fight an alien race of beings called the “buggers.” Now it seems that a third wave is intent on destroying the human race. In a desperate effort to deal with this crisis, the military bigwigs come up with a program to recruit extremely young geniuses to go through an intense training program making them into the ultimate strategists. And so Andrew Wiggins (Ender), a five-year-old from North Carolina finds himself whisked away from his family and into a space station orbiting Earth, where he is forced, along with several other highly intelligent children, to play various battle games. In the Battle Room, Ender struggles to not only meet the expectations of his superiors, but to face increasingly impossibly challenges that seem designed to destroy him. As the reality of the bugger attack grows more eminent, Ender must decide whether or not to keep playing these games.
Each chapter begins with a brief dialogue between Ender’s superiors. These conversations kept the suspense on a steady level, hinting at things to come. Another subplot involves Ender’s brother (Peter) and sister (Valentine) back on earth as they deal with their own high intelligence and the opportunities they have to gain power.
Card is notorious for inventing strong characters. Unfortunately, in this case, he occasionally resorts to crude dialogue. There is a video-type of game in the story that Ender plays involving a giant. Even though it is important to the novel, the actual game description felt arbitrary and random.
This is the book that made Card famous in sci-fi circles. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula for best novel of the year. There has been talk for several years of making it into a movie. The story is unique. The main characters are very young and most of the book takes place in a very limited setting. But the characters are well-made and that’s what makes this story work. The book is a quick read with some surprising turns. All in all, a great story that is much different than most plots you find in the sci-fi genre.
If you would like something that is a cross between Star Wars and War Games, you might like this book.
Recommendation: The first three chapters will tell you if this is your kind of book. By the fourth, there’s no turning back.