Title: Ender’s Game
Autore: Orson Scott Card
Editore: TOR Books
Numero pagine: N/A
Plot: Ender Wiggin is six years old, and a genius. And the last hope for humanity. Selected by the Army to be the new Commander in Chief of the International Fleet (IF), Ender is pushed through the roughest training, to have him ready as soon as possible: the Third Invasion of the Buggers is about to come, and only a true, unmatchable leader could stop them. First at the Battle school, then at the Command school, Ender struggles to learn and to dominate the merciless Game used to train him. But the pressure is almost unbearable: could the six-year-old save his human soul, in order to save the whole human race?
Review: This book is a sci-fi classic and, as many classics do, it calls for a reading.
Card expands his novelette into a full novel (and later on, into a twelve book series). And he does a damn fine job.
The story is focused on Ender, and we watch the story through his own point of view. The character is very well described, and it’s easy to empathize with the kid. But at the same time it takes a little effort: Ender is a genius, and a genius pushed to his limits; the class is full of kids just a little less brilliant, and The Game (the military training) is as rough as it gets. It’s easy to think of these characters as teenagers or young adults, rather than 6- or 10-year-old kids.
And yet, right in Ender’s young age, in his innocence and purity, is the key of the whole story. I will not write spoilers about the plot (if talking of spoilers on a story written 28 eight years ago still makes), but Ender can do what he does right because he’s a kid, because his brain has not yet hardened into the rigid brain of a socially-integrated adult; because his soul is still clean and pure despite all the violence he had in his life so far. To forget this while reading the story is to miss what the whole story is about, not just an interstellar war, but the struggle of becoming a man, and a good one; the best man we are allowed to be, without losing the child from which that man may arise. No wonder Card was so concerned about making a movie out of his book: they kept offering screenplays about teenagers (he must have finally caved in, for the movie is due on Fall 2013, starring Asa Butterfield, 15 years old).
Every chapter opens with a brief dialogue between two high ranking officers, about Ender and the war; a very effective way to introduce a wider setting, and to communicate the anxiety and the desperation that permeate Ender’s Army because of the imminent Third Wave of buggers’ invasion. And at the same time, these dialogues allow us to catch glimpses of something more, something unsaid and mysterious: there’s more than what we have been shown so far, and now we know it.
The first half of the book, with the recruitment and the training at the battle school, is a pleasure to read. Even the brief chapters about Ender’s siblings are enjoyable (Valentine and Peter, so important for the evolution of Ender’s psyche and also so influential on the political situation worldwide). Unfortunately, that’s not true for the second half of the book: the story accelerates, and it feels more like a draft or a brief summary, rather than a fully developed book: it completely lacks in climax and captivation. The finale is just a quick flash, and the epilogue is even skimpier.
Overall, this is a very good book, easy and well plotted. But the poor finale gives you a bitter aftertaste that compromises the whole work. Pity, because that could have easily been a masterpiece tale.