Friday, August 29, 2008
Interesting. Veddy Interesting.
Ender's Game is the perfect entry-level science fiction novel. There's a lot of plot, which keeps the momentum going. There's very little in the way of technical jargon or science. It's enough for me to know that space travel happens, that they can have simulated battles in a gravity-free room, and that they have electronic "desks" from which they can access all sorts of databases, not to mention games. I'm not sure how it all works, and I don't really care. I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief in order to become a spectator of Ender's World.
The book starts off with Ender - 6 years old - at home, believing that he has not been chosen to be an elite fighter for the IF. He is a third child, which is an apparantly shameful position, and his older brother hates him passionately. It turns out that being "rejected" is merely a test - to see how he would handle things on his own, and he "gets" to go to training. Once there, he is isolated from the other students, because the higher-ups think that he's "the one." His training is more difficult, and expectations of him are almost impossible to meet. The story of his training is fascinating from both Ender's point of view and from his commanders' points of view. The battles are fun to read about, even if I'm not really one for battle tactics.
Throughout the whole novel, I found myself rooting for Ender, and hoping against hope that nothing bad happens to him. Then I would catch myself, and remind myself that I was only on page 52, and the book is called Ender's Game. It's a pretty good guess that he'll be around most of the book. But I was still on the edge of my seat.
The author plays it smart in this novel. He keeps the reader emotionally involved with Ender, but he doesn't let Ender become too sappy. He keeps the action going almost non-stop, yet there is wonderful character development. It is not going to win any awards for deep, literary, meaningful prose, but it does pose some interesting philosophical and political questions.
I've done a little reading recently about the genre of Science Fiction in general. (And by a little reading, I mean I read an article and a letter in response to that article in Bookmarks Magazine.) It seems that not everyone thinks that Orson Scott Card is a great science fiction writer. It has been argued that he dumbs his books down and that they should really be classified as "pop fiction." I would argue two things in response to this: 1)Orson Scott Card has gotten me at least semi-interested in the genre of science fiction. Even if this book is not hard-core, technical, nerdy science fiction, shouldn't he be commended for attracting readers? And, 2)the writers who sell the most books, and win the most coveted awards in the genre, are the best writers. Obviously more than one person thinks so. Don't take that too far, though. Just because John Grisham puts out 2 books a year, a good portion of which are on the best-seller lists, doesn't mean he's the best novelist. There are other requirements. But Ender's Game has been around since 1977, and is still one of the top-selling science fiction novels. New editions are written periodically because they are always printing more copies. It's got staying power.
Read it - even if you think you'll hate science fiction. I thought I wouldn't like it, and I'd end up skimming it and telling Adam I read it. I was sucked into the Game by page 5. You will be too.