As you all know I love it when books are made into movies. Invariably I seem to like the book better, but there is something thrilling about seeing things that have existed in your minds eye with your actual eyes. The result is that I’m always on the hunt for books that are upcoming films so I can read them first. The most recent of these reads for me is Ender’s Game. This novel has been around for a long time and is a classic in the real of Sci-fi literature. The futuristic world it paints is one where aliens have attempted to invade, and the threat of their return has led humans to focus on developing a new kind of soldier. Ender Wiggins is one of these newly developed fighters. He is six years old.
Ender Wiggins is a third. This means he’s the third child, which is unusual and not seen as a good thing. His birth was sanctioned by the government who hoped he would be what they were looking for. His brother and sister had not quite met expectations. None of the three children talk like children. In fact it came as a shock to me that they were young. At first I didn’t find it believable but as you get more pieces of the puzzle you realise that even they are aware they are not like other children. They have been conditioned to be unlike other children.
Basically the story is a coming of age for Ender. At six he is taken away from his family, his parents, his malignant brother Peter, and his loving sister Valentine. He goes to Battle school on ship far from earth where he develops his fighting skills and must find his way through all number of difficulties and challenges. He makes friends and is isolated, he excels above his peers. But is he the battle commander that the Military have been seeking? Colonel Graff (to be played by HAN SOLO HARRISON FORD) believes so and pushes Ender to grow as fast as possible to fill this role.
It’s an interesting issue – a school which is shaping a student and treating them with a level of unkindness for the greater good of the world. The manipulation of Ender is really sad and frustrating, yet Ender has even been screened so that he is the kind of person who seeks the greater good, who submits to their wishes even though he sees what they are doing to an extent.
One thing I liked was how when Ender is sleeping you get snippets of his ‘watchers’ discussing him. Graff and others keep a close eye on his dreams, his activity, and discuss him in a way that they don’t when he is present. They show concern for the way they are treating him and pushing him and you hear their rationale.
Another super cool thing is that this book was written in 1985, before I was born, and yet it has such cool technology. The ‘desks’ the students use can only be imagined in terms of a tablet or smart phone, with messages popping up on them, hacking into message databases and playing strategy games on them. I love it when novels about the future end up having elements of accurate prediction in them.
The last exciting thing about this book is that New Zealand gets a mention! The battle commander who defeated the buggers (aliens) in the second invasion was Mazer Rackham, a half-Maori who became a hero to the world after his success. He is to be played by Ben Kingsley who sports a Tā moko for the role. While this has generated some controversy from fans who can’t find any references to tattoos in the novel, I think it’s a fitting nod to Maori heritage and culture, especially for a character whose role is as a legendary warrior. I imagine that Orson Scott Card would have had some inspiration here from the Maori Battalion in the first and second World Wars which is always fascinating stuff.
There is a vast array of interesting characters and the novel is well written. All the loose ends tie in at the end and there is a bit of a twist which I didn’t even guess at. Although it seemed obvious and awful once it was revealed. I thought as a part of a series that it could have finished with more of a cliffhanger, or not so much time on wrapping up those loose ends, but in a way it is nice to know all that follows. The down side is that I’m in no rush to read the sequel.
I am really excited for how this will translate onto the big screen. I wondered if they would change the age much, and I’ve been impressed looking at the trailer with how young Ender looks. And of course, with Harrison Ford as a key character in a sci-fi…. well there’s a lot to be excited about.
I really enjoyed this as a read and I would hate for it to be a book that falls out of readership because everyone just watches the film instead. My hope is that everyone will either want to read it before it comes out, or want to read it and the rest of the series after seeing the film.
My Rating: 4/5