My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Guest Blogger: Corporal Murray
Ender’s Game, a novel written by Orson Scott Card decades ago, remains popular today due to the ability of the author and the fact that it addresses several issues that are relevant today. It focuses on the evolution of a small boy (we first meet him when he is 6 years old) Andrew Wiggin, though he is almost always referred to by his nickname, Ender. In a world where overpopulation forced the world government (more of a confederation under a single entity known as the Hegemony) to restrict families to only 2 children. The governments we know now still exist, mainly America and the USSR, with its Warsaw pact (still around and powerful at time when book was written) . However, the main antagonist of this book is not opposing governments but an alien race that has twice ravaged the world population and instilled so much fear in the world that it came together to oppose and will accept any cost to win and survive.
One of the issues that come up almost immediately that is becoming increasingly hard today is population control. The world in Ender’s Game lives under it, each family restricted to two children and to go over it is a crime unless specifically requested by the government (like Ender was). Civil Liberties in this world do not seem to be the primary concern, nor to have the same amount of power that it does in our world, the overall drive for survival proves primary as people accept whatever is necessary. Ender grew up with a watcher, which is some sort of technology that allows someone else to ‘live’ through Ender, feeling his emotions and reading his thoughts…obviously privacy is not a major issue. The treatment of children is drastically different, at 6-7 years old the elites are separated from their families and sent to school in space to learn warfare in order to prepare them to be the captains of the ships of the future that will defend the human race. The way Ender is treated throughout the novel is horrible, set against his fellow students, constantly moved around so he doesn’t get comfortable in any situation, forced to fight (killing one of them inadvertently), given command of forty other kids in mock battles and pressuring him to overcome situations considered by all his fellow students (even the ones he has to face in battle) unfair in the extreme. As a result he gets burned out twice, once during school and the other right after it, at which point the military uses the one person that Ender actually loves, his sister, to get him back to fighting…to growing…to getting smarter so he can save the world.
This book constantly questions the whole Bismarkian idea of is just accomplishing the goal the only priority. Ender’s Game portrays this from both perspectives, we see the pain and torment Ender goes through on a daily basis in order to survive the odds that are placed against him, almost always unfairly, and Ender is shown as a sweet young kid that most of us would like, extremely smart, caring for his friends, but when necessary absolutely vicious to ensure both his present survival and future survival. But on the other hand, in order to survive, is there any limit? At the end of the book Ender wins, he destroys the aliens, beats all their fleets and saves the human race. Even this wasn’t done normally, Ender believed he was playing a game, not actually fighting but playing against a computer…only at the end when he destroyed an entire world was he told that it was all real causing another mental break in the boy who is not even a teenager.
This is particularly prescient now as the US is engaged in war against Muslim extremists and our military is fighting an enemy that hides in civilian populations and the questions comes up, how far can our troops go to win? Is destroying a building OK if there are innocents in it? How can we interrogate, can we use coercive methods when they are cutting off heads? Is the war just, or are we being manipulated like little Ender was throughout the novel? How important is victory to us? Are we willing to give up our self-imposed image to win the War on Terror, or is our reputation as a country that fights a ‘clean’ war more important than ensuring the safety of our citizens at the expense of the human rights of terrorists who plan suicide attacks specifically at the expense of innocents.
BTW–this is one of the books included on the Marine Corps book list.