Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

‘Ender’s Game’ a classic

Book lovers would be hard-pressed to find anything more perennially popular with science fiction/fantasy authors than dystopian governments doing horrible things to young children.

Most recently, that trope has been in play in Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” trilogy. In “The Hunger Games,” a teenage girl is thrown into an arena with 23 other “tributes” in a fight to the death, gladiator-style – if ancient Rome had a mass media broadcasting this bloodiest of reality shows to an anxious population. Best of all, the novel-turned-movie is hitting screens in March (and seeing the Hunger Games trailer was by far the best part of “Twilight: Breaking Dawn”).

Even the much-loved Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is kind of alarming if you really think about it. Teaching kids how to maim, kill and torture each other with magic? Let’s not even get into the question of House Elf rights, or the fact that the International Statute of Secrecy allows a shadow government to erase the minds of meddling muggles with complete impunity. Doesn’t sound too idyllic to me.

But Collins and Rowling weren’t the first to posit such worlds. Way back in the olden days (and by that I mean the late 1970s), sci-fi giant Orson Scott Card wrote a little book called “Ender’s Game.” And if you think that Katniss Everdeen or Harry Potter had it bad, it’s nothing compared to Andrew (Ender) Wiggin – who had the survival of the human race on his 6-year-old shoulders, and didn’t even know it.

Here’s the political backstory:

Sometime in the 22ndcentury (or at least that’s what I gather, using a history major’s talent for figuring out when stuff happened based on vague context clues), Earth was invaded by a terrifying race of insect-like aliens called the Formics, colloquially known as Buggers.

Mostly through luck, the infant International Fleet succeeded in driving the space bugs into retreat, back to their distant home planet to regroup. When the book starts, it’s a hundred years from then, and the planet’s population is anxiously awaiting the next onslaught.

Meanwhile, the International Fleet is searching for a savior.

The most intelligent, talented and ruthless children are taken from their families to an elite Battle School orbiting the planet – to learn the art of warfare (which, in a science fictional twist Sun Tzu never imagined, involves kids leading armies and platoons in null gravity mock-battles). Sounds outlandish, maybe, but Orson Scott Card describes these zero-gravity battles so convincingly that I was half-convinced he had personal experience.

Young as he is, Ender’s the best, and while there may not be a prophecy about him gathering dust in the Department of Mysteries, it’s soon apparent to the adults of the IF that this little boy is the chosen one. If there were ever a chance of the human race surviving another war against the buggers, it’s him. By the time Ender turns 11, he’s the de facto admiral of the fleet.

So really, no pressure.

But for all the training as a killer, Ender’s still a good kid. And whatever our parents say about violent video games desensitizing the youth, you can’t really expect an 11-year-old to annihilate an entire race of billions of sentient beings. Right? (And before I forget, let me note that while Ender’s turning into a strategic genius, his sociopathic teen brother is taking over the world, one Internet forum thread at a time. No joke.)

I won’t give away the ending, or the heartbreaking plot twist that everyone inevitably expects but still makes you catch your breath in surprise. All I can say is that “Ender’s Game” is a classic, well worth the read, and far darker than the publisher’s claim that it’s a young adult novel would lead you to believe.


Readers might also like… “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins; “Ship Breaker,” by Paolo Bacigalup; “Dune,” by Frank Herbert.

More to Discover