Friday, August 19, 2011

Novel Review: Ender's Game

Those who follow my blog know me to be a book lover. So it may be somewhat surprising that I'd never read, until this week, Orson Scott Card's classic Ender's Game. Ender's Game and one of it's sequals, Speaker for the Dead, are among the most influential science fiction novels of the 1980s. The bottom line? I loved this book, and would highly recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in science fiction, war strategy, or psychology. The book is not particularly long or dense, so even light readers shouldn't have trouble with it.

I purchased Ender's Game on audiobook earlier this week, and finished it in three days of listening. It's not a long book, after all. The story follows the life of a young boy who is a third child, something that is seriously frowned upon in the future Earth where the book takes place. However, it seems his parents had special permission to conceive him. Little by little the reasons for this, and many other strange events in the boy's life, are revealed. It's no secret that the boy is a genius, but to what purpose, and in what fashion, his genius will be used is the focus of the book.

I found Ender's Game to be a beautiful combination of sports, war strategy and psychology. The characters were intriguing and deep, in particular Ender was believable both as a young child and as a genius. His schoolmates were also a delight, and I'm looking forward to other books in the "Enderverse" which follow the other characters. The rules of the battle games played at Ender's school were complex and interesting, and the strategies and gameplay unfolded in a very natural pattern.

Since this was an audiobook, I'll also comment on the audio quality. There were three (as far as I could tell) cast members for this reading, though it's possible there were more. The first was an older man who did most of the narration, in particular the sections where Ender was the point of view character. The second was a younger man, who mostly did voices for various characters (not all characters were voiced specially). Finally, there was a young woman who narrated and voiced Valentine, Ender's sister. Overall the voices and narration was very high quality, and certainly didn't detract from the experience. The sound quality itself was a little low - I could tell it was rather old. But it wasn't a significant distraction from the story.

Books in the Enderverse (from Wikipedia). Short stories are in red, novels in blue.
Ender's Game was short, but I'm excited because there are a lot of other books and short stories set in this world, about Ender and the supporting characters. People describe the collection of books loosely as the "Enderverse" (or more boringly, the "Ender Series"). There are roughly 5 novels, give or take some short stories, in the main storyline. There is also a concurrent storyline known as the "Shadow Saga" which follows the supporting characters of the main storyline. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series. I also found out that there is a comic series based on the Ender books. I'll have to check that out as well, and report back here with my impressions!

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