I’m worried this is going to come off as trite, but I’m writing it just the same. About a week ago, the film Ender’s Game was released, coming out on top for its debut weekend with $28 million in box office sales. Not too shabby, but not record-breaking, or even terribly impressive. It also wasn’t particularly good, I’ve been told. Decent, but not great. The film has a 62% over at RottenTomatoes. I’m actually a little disappointed that it wasn’t better, since the original work deals with child soldiers, genocide, war, competing political interests, the possibility of human extinction, and even the burden put on one child’s shoulders to save the world. While the novel on which the film is based doesn’t really critically engage with those concepts so much as it presumes their necessity, the film was a genuine opportunity to sink teeth into those ideas in a less congratulatory fashion. It did not.
If you’re at all familiar with Orson Scott Card, you know that he is a controversial figure. He’s most notably the author of the science fiction classic Ender’s Game and its sequels and prequels, but he’s also a card-carrying bigot who hates LGBTQ+ people. I feel sort of gross just devoting a post to him, so I’ll just make sure we’re clear: Orson Scott Card is a gross queerphobe and giving money to him for his books is basically putting a donation in the hands of anti-LGBTQ+ lobbyists.
I don’t think anyone would be giving him money for his books anymore, except for the fact that Ender’s Game is a classic. It’s actually really good, you guys, and the reason that frustrates me so much is that the running themes of the entire series are ‘don’t judge other people by their appearances’ and ‘all sentient races and species are equally deserving of respect’. And between Card’s own religious beliefs—he’s a devout Mormon—and the religions he writes about, he has a lot of interesting things to say about organized belief systems. Most importantly, I think it’s interesting that he actually believes that organized religion will continue to exist in the future, because most science fiction authors tend to either avoid it or write it off as an artifact of less-enlightened times. Continue reading
The Ender’s Game series is a long and complicated thing, apparently. In looking at the Wikipedia page to find out what the official title of the series was (it’s just ‘The Ender’s Game series’), I discovered that it includes around twenty books that are loosely tied together, within the same universe and about mostly the same characters. I’ve actually only read four of them, the original Ender’s Game and three of its sequels: Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. Thing is, I don’t particularly want to read the rest of them, so my review will only cover those four.
First of all, Ender’s Game itself is great. It’s a tight, gripping piece of writing with a twist ending that would make M. Night Shymalan weep. Set in the future on an Earth that has only recently defeated an invading alien race, the story follows Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, a young prodigy. He is selected to attend Battle School, an academy where children as young as five or six are trained to be Earth’s next line of defense against any future alien threat.
The next three books, however, deal less with the deeply personal story of Ender’s journey and more with the big philosphical questions that are running themes of the series, especially ‘What are the ethics of dealing with other sentient species?’. The problem I had with these three books was that the characters, the plot, and everything else were all made subordinate to answering these questions. Rather than an action-filled story like Ender’s Game that happened to have a meaningful moral message, the moral message was so heavy-handed that it seemed to me to overwhelm the storyline.
And just on a literary note, the race-against-time conflict of these three books is stretched out over all three books, for a total of thirty years of spaceflight within the book; this did not make me feel like there was any sort of real hurry or suspense. “Oh no, we have to find a solution before the spaceship arrives! We only have thirty freaking years!” …Yeah, that doesn’t really work. I actually had to force myself to finish the last book, because I no longer cared about the characters and just wanted to be done. With these three sequels as evidence, I find that I have no real desire to read any of the other prequels or sequels or companion novels—I just don’t trust that any of them with have the kick of the original novel.
I certainly recommend reading Ender’s Game—it’s a pretty awesome book and it has a movie in development, too. I wouldn’t recommend wasting time on the extended universe, though. Go forth and read!
Edit: I am very aware of Orson Scott Card’s depressingly bigoted views toward the LGBTQ community. Readers should be aware that the money you give to OSC may potentially go to anti-gay groups. I do still recommend reading this book, but if you do so, I suggest you get it from a library or borrow it from a friend.