The Taser's Edge

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Another day, another review of a science fiction novel.

Z loaned me Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game at the same time as Odd John, and I had actually heard of this one.  Winner of the Hugo and the Nebula, sci-fi’s top honors.  Assigned in 7th-11th grade literature classes.  Actually in print.

The problems began with reading the Introduction by Orson Scott Card, written after the book had been in print for several years, selling well.  Introductions either make books far richer or far poorer, and this one did the latter.  The problem is that in this introduction, Orson Scott Card sets himself up as visionary military genius for the future, insisting that the program of military training that he sets out (the ‘games’ referenced in the title of the book) is the way military training really will look in the future.

Read as entertainment or adventure, even with some philosophical and political insight, it would be a really neat novel.  Read as the dreams of someone who thinks that space warfare will necessarily involve child soldiers trained in zero-g wargames, it is a bit odd.

Then there’s the other problem of the Introduction, Card’s insistence that his characterizations of his child characters are incredibly accurate in representations of child-thought and child-speech.  Here he seems to make no distinction between bare intelligence and emotional/spiritual/moral maturity.

I can agree with him that kids are smart.  Great.  Set up all those conventions of kids vs. adults that are all over juvenile literature.  But I think Card doesn’t dig deeply enough into the fact that emotional maturity requires life experience.

Maybe some virtual life experience can count for some of that growth in emotional maturity.  One of Ender’s games is an open-ended quest based on a collaboration between a supercomputer and his own subconscious, for instance.  But this can’t count for all the necessary experience, which ultimately makes this book feel like it was written by a gifted kid in need of an argument for his own full humanity.  Read this way, it is trying way too hard.

In conclusion, if you want to read this book, it would be worth your time.  Just don’t read Card’s introduction or this review before reading it, or it may be ruined.