Enders Game (Enderverse #1) ★★★★☆

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Title: Enders Game
Series: Enderverse #1
Authors: Orson Card
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 251
Words: 106K

From Wikipedia.com

Humanity has mastered interplanetary spaceflight and they encounter an insect-like alien race called the Formics, and war breaks out. The humans achieve a narrow victory, but fearing future threats of a Formic invasion, create the International Fleet (I.F.) and train gifted children to become commanders at their orbiting Battle School.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is born a “Third”: a rare exception to Earth’s two-child policy, allowed by the government due to the promise shown by his two older siblings. The eldest, Peter, is a highly intelligent sociopath who sadistically bullies Ender. His sister, Valentine, is more sympathetic towards him. The I.F. remove Ender’s monitoring device when he is six years old, seemingly ending his chances of Battle School. He is bullied by a fellow student, Stilson, but Ender turns violent and attacks him. Unknown to Ender, Stilson later dies from his wounds. I.F. Colonel Hyrum Graff visits Ender after hearing about the fight. Ender attests that by showing superiority now, he has prevented future struggle. Graff offers him a place in the Battle School.

Once at Battle School, Graff and the other leaders covertly work to keep Ender isolated from the other cadets. Ender finds solace in playing a simulated adventure game that involves killing a giant. The cadets participate in competitive war simulations in zero gravity, where Ender quickly masters the game with novel tactics. To further wear Ender down, he is promoted to command a new army composed of raw recruits, then pitted against multiple armies at once, but Ender’s success continues. Ender’s jealous ex-commander, Bonzo Madrid, draws him into a fight outside the simulation, and once again seeking to preemptively stop future conflicts Ender uses excessive force, and like Stilson before him Bonzo dies from his injuries.

Meanwhile on Earth, Peter Wiggin uses a global communication system to post political essays under the pseudonym “Locke”, hoping to establish himself as a respected orator and then as a powerful politician. Valentine, despite not trusting Peter, agrees to publish alongside him as “Demosthenes”. Their essays are soon taken seriously by the government. Though Graff is told their true identities, he recommends that it be kept a secret, because their writings are politically useful.

Ender, now ten years old, is promoted to Command School. After some preliminary battles in the simulator, he is introduced to Mazer Rackham, a hero from the Formic war who saw key patterns in the Formic behavior. Ender participates in space combat simulations created and controlled by Mazer. As the skirmishes become harder, he is joined by some of his friends from the Battle School as sub-commanders. Despite this, Ender becomes depressed by the battles, his isolation, and by the way Mazer treats him.

For his final test, under observation by I.F.’s commanders, Ender finds his fleet far outnumbered by Formic ships surrounding their homeworld. Hoping to earn himself expulsion from the school for his ruthlessness, he sacrifices his entire fleet to fire a Molecular Disruption Device at the planet. The Device destroys the planet and the surrounding Formic fleet. He is shocked to hear the I.F. commanders cheering in celebration. Mazer informs Ender that the “simulations” he has been fighting were real battles, directing human spacecraft against Formic fleets via an ansible, and that Ender has won the war. Despite Graff congratulating him, Ender becomes more depressed, realizing that he has committed genocide and become just like his brother.

Ender spends several weeks isolated before recovering. He learns that war has broken out on Earth. Ender and Valentine join a group of space colonists.

On their new planet, Ender becomes the colony’s governor. He discovers a structure that matches the simulation of the giant game from Battle School, and inside finds the dormant egg of a Formic queen. The queen telepathically communicates to Ender that before the first Formic war, they had assumed humans were a non-sentient race, for want of collective consciousness, but realized their mistake too late. Instead, she had reached out to Ender to draw him here and requests that he take the egg to a new planet for the Formics to colonize.

Ender takes the egg and, with information from the queen, writes The Hive Queen under the alias “Speaker for the Dead”. Peter, now the leader of Earth and age 77 with a failing heart, recognizes Ender as the author of The Hive Queen. He asks Ender to write a book about him, which Ender titles The Hegemon. The combined works create a new type of funeral, in which the Speaker for the Dead tells the whole and unapologetic story of the deceased, adopted by many on Earth and its colonies. Ender and Valentine leave the colony and travel to many other worlds, looking for a safe place to establish the unborn Hive Queen.

After reading, and immensely enjoying, the First Formic War trilogy, I realized that I had never read the original Enderverse saga. I had read Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, but never delved beyond that. Mainly I suspect because I’d read enough of Card’s other works that put me off of him (mainly the Homecoming series and Alvin the Maker series). But because I’m a completionist at heart, I realized there was a gap in my Enderverse reading that should be fixed. Plus, The Second Formic War trilogy appears to be on hold as the second book was published in ‘19 and there’s no definite date for the final book yet.

I’ve read Ender’s Game multiple times over the years. I’ve never read the original short story and I suspect I never will. I’ll stick to the fully fleshed out novel.

This time around, it struck me that the main theme of the story seems to be that survival of a species justifies any and all action. Don’t get me wrong, if the bugs had attacked Earth for real, I’d totally be advocating for complete and utter xenocide. But I don’t have to worry about that, so it’s the “idea” that Card plays with here and it’s as an “idea” that I reacted to. I do not believe that survival of a species is the be all and end all. That obviously comes from my worldview as a Christian. On an individual level, Christians have been tortured and killed for Millennia in attempts to get them to deny Jesus Christ. When they don’t, bad things happen. They give up their life because what they believe is greater than the circumstance of death or having their fingernails pulled out and their joints broken (a common tactic experienced by many Chinese Christians in the 20th and 21st century). So if an individual can hold that something is greater than himself, cannot an entire species do the same?

That was the thought process swirling around in my head as I was reading this time around. In the end, Card allows Ender to atone (even though it wasn’t Ender’s will that had destroyed the bugs, hence the “game” part of the title) by giving him a Formic queen egg.

Now I want to go re-watch the movie!


49 thoughts on “Enders Game (Enderverse #1) ★★★★☆

  1. Have to admit this is the only Ender book I read, and while I liked it I was never even that curious about the rest of the series. Sometimes I get the feeling I’m just not a full series guy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m pretty sure the rest of the series is so different in tone that they might as well be part of a different series :-/

      You definitely strike me as a one and done kind of guy. Fitting for the Emperor of Canada though. How’s your maple syrup reserves holding up? Having to ration yet?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. are you prancing around saying things like “Let them drink maple syrup”? Because I have news for you if you are. It won’t end well.

          Which is why I’m invading. It’s for your own good after all 😉 and it’s good for the world. A stable maple syrup market means world wide peace.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember reading Ender’s Game around the time it came out and what I recall is that I found the book slow and plodding and that I did not finish it. The story fared better for me in the movie it inspired, but I never felt the desire do go back to the book(s). How does the movie – if you saw it – compare to the book?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thought the movie was a very good “adaptation” of the novel. I wasn’t looking for a ripped straight from the book feel, and I didn’t get that. It probably helped that Card had a big hand in the movie production, so I felt alright about the changes because I knew the author himself was involved.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I enjoyed this book when I read it and I think I enjoyed Speaker for the Dead even more. But there was some stuff about Ender’s brother and sister or something that was a bit strange. Like, they become internet influencers or something?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was in this book, almost it’s own side story. They are child geniuses like Ender but take their gifts to shaping public opinion and world politics. In the end, Ender’s brother becomes the de facto ruler of the world…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a part of the novel that didn’t really do it for me. It sounded unrealistic. Anyway, a very different question, have you ever looked into Substack as an alternative to WordPress? I am toying with that now to see what it is like, after wp butchered my site with their ads.

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Thanks! I guess I’ll be checking it out this month. I like to know my options, that’s for sure.

              Will you be cross-posting your stuff there? Or just playing around figuring stuff out?


              1. For the moment I will post my stuff double, on both platforms. I get the impression that interaction with other bloggers is easier here, but that the other platform looks more professional and is far easier to monetise and doesn’t have ads.

                Liked by 1 person

                    1. Thanks, that was the issue. I had to click the “no thanks” for the subscription to see the content. I’m going to subscribe via wordpress and see how wordpress handles substack.


                    2. The reader is nothing but wp’s personal rss feeder. I follow blogspot blogs, wp sites, my cousin on devilreads, and some random oddball sites. works decently.


            1. It went into moderation. It went into moderation. I have it setup so any comment with 2 or more links gets sent to spam. Keeps the spambots under control. but the downside is something like this. Which is why I check my spam folder every day 😀


  4. I did enjoy Ender’s Game as a pre-teen quite a bit. The philosophical conflict between Ender’s siblings was not that great for the 11yo me, but looking back I think it nicely summed up the main political perspectives, alive and kicking in our times as much as they were back in ’70s, and a couple of centuries earlier, as well. I think this part of the book said a lot about Card’s opinion of humanity, and letting Ender’s bully of a brother prevail was his own commentary about the state of the world back then.
    I enjoyed the movie, though ta Moko (Maori tattoos) on Ben Kingsley were rather surprising; kinda “looks nice so let’s steal it” failed attempt at cultural diversity, maybe? I feel like Bester was much better at this stuff, half a century earlier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Card is a devout mormon who believes in evolution. So I’m not surprised at anything he thinks, as it’s sure to be messed up.

      Well, Rackam WAS maoiri, or half maori, so I didn’t think it was diversity for diversity’s sake. Of course, that is shown in much later books (the formic wars) and not in Ender’s Game itself.

      I have not read much bester. In fact, since I read his Demolished Man in highschool, I have never read anything by him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting! I haven’t picked up on Rackam being Maori, though I did read it ages ago and only read Ender’s Game and The Speaker… I might revisit this series – are the later books any good in your opinion?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So, Rackam being maori isn’t revealed in Game (at least, I don’t think so).
          I only read through Speaker for the Dead and that book is what turned me off for the rest of the quintet. I did like the “Shadow” series and so far, I’ve enjoyed the prequel Formic Wars novels.
          This time around I’m reading the whole series so I can scratch that completionist itch 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This is the only Enderverse book I’ve read, and maybe because I picked it up so late or the fact that I was already an adult by then, I just didn’t get the fuss. The movie was decent though, but then I am biased towards practically anything Harrison Ford is involved in, even when it comes to his more questionable projects.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have this book on my shelves and have been meaning to pick it up and finally say that I’ve read it, considering how much love it has garnered since its release… But then I also learned about the sequels, that I don’t own, and it always stops me from starting this. I look forward to your thoughts on the next ones. It might be the push I’ll need to start this series sooner rather than later…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is definitely a standalone story, so don’t worry about it. But at the same time, it “can” be part of a series. So I guess it depends on how controlled you have that completionist side of yourself 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I started this when I was younger, but found it too disturbing to read about all that Ender has to endure and become as a small child. It was also difficult for me to keep remembering that the characters were kids, since they seemed to be behaving like adults. Anyway, I DNF’d. Now, after having seen an interview with Orson Scott Card and enjoyed one of his micropowers books, I’m interested to go back to this and finish it.

    Liked by 1 person

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