Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I first read Ender's Game the same year it was published; I was a marginally successful junior in a US Service Academy at the time, and well on my way to forming my current negative opinion about how such works. What ever other critiques readers might have about Card's story here, IMHO he nailed the military training environment, complete with psychological manipulation and Machiavellian intrigue. I am not surprised to hear rumors that Ender's Game might even be promoted by the military training establishment. Even before this book was published, my training cadre made no secret of how they were using 'significant emotional events' to reshape our personalities to conform to the expected standard ... Much like Graft attempts to manipulate encounters for Ender at the Battle School. This was made slightly more difficult after hazing became illegal; it didn't actually eliminate it, just moved it into the shadows. Needless to say, my first encounter with the book evoked a very strong affinity with the protagonist. First cut gets 5 stars.
Another significant concept Card presented in the story was that such a system inevitably fails ... As in it doesn't predictably (limited correlation) create your top military commanders during war time and can in fact hinder their development. Unfortunately I don't believe Card's solution is very realistic. Throwing away the rulebook in order to foster social isolation and constant exposure to violence at an early age does not create individuals who are strong, independent leaders ... It creates sociopaths. Fortunately Card seems to have a knack for knowing when he may have pushed too hard, as Ender immediately becomes overwhelmed with angst about his actions. About the only benefit I get from these rather irritating episodes is an opportunity to expose ethical talking points (which I took advantage of when I re-read the book with my preteen). Several critics seem to believe that they know which side Card comes down on these issues (e.g. Is Xenocide always evil? ... Is it ever necessary?) ... Strangely enough, there is little unanimity among them (I actually think Card leaves it up in the air for each reader to think about). There are other areas in the story that I could pick apart, in fact an army of critics have already done so (and to some extent they have valid points); however, I still find the over all story to be an excellent starting point for talking about how we go about determining ethical behavior, both within our society and in response to a potential foreign encounter.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.