I’ve had Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card on my to-read list for a very long time, as it’s a Sci-Fi staple, having earned its place amongst the Science Fiction greats, such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke–those he’s not really “hard sci-fi” like they are.
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a 6 year old boy when he goes off-world for his military training. After being monitored for the first years of his life, as well as undergoing rigorous aptitude testing, Ender is selected for Battle School, where he will prepare to go to war against the Buggers (in later novels identified as Formics) who, in the last century, invaded the Earth and lay waste to some parts of China. The Earth, nearly united in the mission to strike back at the alien invaders.
In Battle School, the young boys (and 1 girl that we know of…) are attached to different “armies” and they battle each other in a zero gravity argument using weapons which freeze each other, creating “casualties” and winning battles–all watched and evaluated by the teachers. The students rise up through the ranks, eventually graduating to be sent toward the Formic homeworld to be a part of the human invasion.
Ender is not a normal soldier. He immediately demonstrates exceptional potential. He advances quickly, causing jealousy from the other students, who try to take him down a peg (by jumping him…). He is given promotion after promotion, then he is given his own army, but the worst possible army. He exceeds expectations at every turn. Finally, Ender is taken away from Battle School to train further–all before he reaches adolescence. Ender is a fully messianic figure, and his actions have consequences which jar him to the core.
I won’t reveal any more than that, because you need to read this book! It’s engrossing and exceptionally well written–exciting all the way through. I was wary for awhile because I thought it would be too absurd to have young children as soldiers-to-be. In fact, you don’t even read them as kids half the time, partially because of the situations in which they’ve been placed. That’s kind of the point. Card partially comments on some of the absurdities that he saw when his brother went through boot camp, but also the idea of young “kids” going to war that he saw while growing up during the Vietnam War. One of the key components of satire is going all the way with the metaphor (a la “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift), and Card does that well. Moreover, his expanded series of novels deals with the ramifications of Battle School and Ender’s actions.
I plowed through this book and one of its many sequels/side-quels in about a week. I couldn’t stop.
Read these books.
Don’t be put off by Science Fiction, because it remains identifiable as Card predicts things like laptops, the internet, and email with this book, so it actually has a lot of familiar grounding for today’s reader.