Ender’s Game

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 21, 2013

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Nine people attended this meetings at the Milwood library. Our topic was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The book, winner of both Hugo and Nebula Awards, is set in a future Earth under threat of an alien invasion. The story follows Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a gifted child  sent to military school to train him and other children to fight the aliens. All but one of us had read Orson Scott Card previously. Everyone at the meeting started and finished the book. Six of us had read the book  long ago.

Several of us liked the book a lot.  One person felt it was a fun space adventure for high school boys, and that it still held up well.  Card’s polished prose drew us into the story quickly and kept us reading to the end. Many of us appreciated Card’s use of technology in the story and his understanding of what technology can do. We were impressed at how accurately a book written in 1985 predicted trends we see in technology today: remote sensing, the use of video games as a training tool, tablet computers, and more.

One person had such a strong negative reaction to the book that she brought prepared notes and handouts. She said that after finishing the book, she felt dirty, creepy, and uneasy. While the book is written at a Young Adult reading level, she felt it should not be read by children but by their parents. While she thought it was a successful revenge fantasy, she found the use of violence, child abuse, and manipulation to be pornographic. She didn’t buy Ender’s perfect innocence and felt that he did a lot of terrible things without taking responsibility. Her handout was an essay about the book written by John Kessel that made similar points.

Others had more mixed views of the book. One person felt it worked at a popcorn adventure level but was uncomfortable with how the adults treated the children. Another felt that Ender did the best he could with the options presented to him, but his training and manipulation felt like a Hitler Youth camp. Another reader felt that the major subtext of this book was a transition in our society looks at video gaming.

One participant felt that Card set out to pose a compelling moral decision in this book: “If you have an existential threat, what immoral acts are justified?”  He noted that Card’s books generally get people angry on all sides. He thought Card was a great storyteller. He agreed with many of us that the treatment of children was creepy.

Overall we had a lively discussion and a successful meeting. Afterward, many of us had a nice dinner together at P. Terry’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III