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Friday, September 6, 2013

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Book Review: The Ender's Game Saga

I'm sure many of you have seen the movie trailers and posters for the upcoming holiday movie Ender's Game. Based on the best selling book by Orson Scott Card, this adaptation is most likely going to take the holiday box office by storm. 

If you're wondering whether you should try and squeeze in a quick read before the release, I'd say definitely. And don't stop there. Even people who have read Ender's Game don't realize that the book is just the beginning of an epic saga. But you better believe that I have (almost) read the entire thing and am going to try my hardest to convince you to as well.
The Ender's Game Series consists of 15 books along with several short stories that all take place within the same world where Earth is attacked by aliens, and humans must fight back to save man kind. Within the series there are two predominant story lines; that of Ender and that of Bean.

Ender's story begins in Ender's Game when, as a six-year-old genius, he is recruited for the super elite battle school in order to train to fight in the war against the aliens called the Formics. The Formics attacked Earth twice, nearly obliterating the human race. But there has been a lull between the second and the anticipated third attack, and the humans are trying to strike before the Formics get another chance. The entire world has united and sends their best and brightest children to battle school hoping they may be the next genius war hero who will save everything.

This book is fascinating. Ender and all of the children at battle school, are so smart and mature, it's unnerving. I remember thinking, "I'm not even as mature as this six-years-old." And it is hard to remember that your main character is in fact a child, which some readers don't like.
But I think that it is really a huge part of the story. These children are so smart and understand the art of war so perfectly, that their adult teachers and commanders forget that they are still innocent children that are being forced to fight a war that they really know nothing about.
What makes Ender so special and even more fascinating to read is his ability to love. To defeat your enemy you must love your enemy, and Ender is one of the only people able to do that. He understands and loves everyone so well, his enemies fall before him, and his comrades follow him without question. Our other main character, Bean, is almost the complete opposite.

Bean is another child at battle school the same time as Ender, and he is the smartest person in the world. It's not an exaggeration. He is actually the smartest human being alive, and that makes him much more logical as opposed to Ender's emotional. Bean's story is told in Ender's Shadow which takes place during the same time as Ender's Game but from Bean's perspective.
Like Ender, Bean is also fascinating to read but in a different way. While Ender's knowledge is clouded by emotions and human connections, Bean sees everything clearly. Because his brain is so analytical the most difficult of problems unravel before him, but human emotions and connections puzzle him. They aren't logical, and he has to struggle to truly feel connected to other people.

After Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow our two main characters' narratives split. 

Ender's story continues in four more books, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, and Ender in Exile. These books are completely different from the first. They take place (with the exception of Ender in Exile) thousands of years after Ender's Game on a different planet where mankind once again finds itself facing extraterrestrial life. There's some light speed travel/time warp physics involved to get Ender there.  
And these books no longer deal with the same themes. These are much more philosophical. 
For a lot of these books, we are able to view mankind from an outsider/alien perspective. Card does a tremendous job taking a step back from humanity and looking at it through the eyes of another species. Here are a few quotes that demonstrate that.
<How do they manage it, these humans- beginning each time so innocently, yet always ending up with the most blood on their hands?>

<Maybe intelligence isn't all it's cracked up to be.>
<Maybe we're fools, for thinking we know things. Maybe humans are the only ones who can deal with the fact that nothing can ever be known at all.>
These are really great quotes, and they aren't even my favorite quotes from the books. But they are some of the shorter more blog-friendly ones.

I really enjoyed Ender's continuing story and the drastic change from the first book to the rest. Many people I have talked to, however, found the difference to be too much and the subject matter too involved for them to enjoy the sequels as much as Ender's Game. It will be up to you to decide.

The rest of Bean's narrative, known as the Shadow Series, follows what happens on Earth after the events in Ender's Game/Ender's Shadow. These books take a look at what happens when a once united Earth no longer has a common enemy: war. With each country claiming battle school graduates as their new leaders, these children and teenagers are now expected to conquer nations. Some do and others ban together to stop it.

I found these books in the saga a little more difficult to follow and get through. Most of the books in this part of the series are very militaristic and political, and if you're not well versed on foreign politics, it's a bit of a challenge. Card doesn't do a whole lot of hand-holding when it comes to this. At certain points in the book I would just have say, "I'll take your word for it." 
But once you get through it and accept it, the story is so interesting and involved you just have to keep reading to learn the fate of the world and all of your favorite characters in it.

If, perhaps, you are interested in reading the whole saga, it can be a little confusing as to where to start and in what order to read them all. I read them based on publication date because, in my opinion, the order the author publishes is the order he wants you to read. And, in this case, that's the correct way to read them, otherwise the books aren't going to make much sense.
Here's the order I read them:
    Ender's Game
    Speaker for the Dead
    Children of the Mind
    Ender's Shadow
    Shadow of the Hegemon
    Shadow Puppets
    Shadow of the Giant
    Ender in Exile
    Shadows in Flight
I have not read First Meetings, Earth Unaware, or Earth Afire which take place chronologically before the events of Ender's Game, nor have I read A War of Gifts which takes places at the same time as Ender's Game/Ender's Shadow. You can also check out this link here for a full list of all of Card's works in the "Enderverse" sorted by chronology as well as publication date.

Overall, the Ender's Game Saga is an incredibly thoughtful and philosophical piece of literature. It takes an in-depth look at the nature of humanity from within and without. Being such a long and involved series, it requires a strong and dedicated reader. But I think you'll find them well worth the work.

And before The Bottom Line, here's the latest trailer for the adaptation of Ender's Game. I hope that they are able to capture the essence of this grand book into a two hour movie.

Have you read the whole Saga? Just part of it? None of it? Head over to the forum to discuss!    

Title: The Ender's Game Saga

Author: Orson Scott Card

Genre: Science Fiction
Recommendation: Yes

Best Reader Audience: Mature and dedicated Male and Female readers
Final Rating: Four out of Five mugs of hot chocolate  
Want to go for it? Dive into the Enderverse by using the link below and your purchase will also support the Lone Book Club. 

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