Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


⛰ What It's About

Ender Wiggins (a Third, or the third child in his family) was allowed to be birthed, in the era of a 2-child limit, because his genetic makeup showed tremendous potential. Ender's Game is the story of how Ender started to realize that potential through a rigorous soldier training program called Battle School.

The story is set in a futuristic world where humans are in a constant struggle against buggers, or an alien race that staged multiple invasions against earth.

Ender is forced to overcome obstacles and bear the responsibility of being the "last chance" for the human race in the Bugger Wars. Throughout the story there are themes of competition, isolation, and fulfilling your destiny.

🔍 How I Discovered It

Ender's Game was a family recommendation, with special resonance as I am the third child of my family (akin to Ender).

🧠 Thoughts

  • It's interesting that Card wrote this book before the proliferation of laser tag, because "the Battleroom" so perfectly describes it.
  • The way that Ender and his squad commanders run the simulators is almost exactly how people play video games like Call of Duty, or any other online first person shooter games today. Centralized communication with various deployments and ways to adjust the strategy as necessary. It makes you think of how those games impact education and the ability to work together as a team.
  • Made me ponder the benefits of competition and games. Everything that humans have devised is a game, with a scoreboard. How much of our existence is just playing games contrived by others?
  • I was struck by the idea of how close you can be to your siblings (both personality-wise and genetically) yet possess very real, unique differences. Hard to find anything else like that in the world.
  • Youth risk taking vs adult risk aversion - to effect meaningful change often times you need youth or a new idea to be infused into a situation where old ideas may be predominant.

What I Liked About It

The overall arc of the story felt like the right amount of time at each stage. Deep enough to make a mental representation of what Ender's experience was like, but brief enough so that the story was still engaging. I liked how you are able to follow Ender's personal monologue as he experiences challenges.

The ending was pretty great - don't worry, I won't spoil it.

What I Didn't Like About It

I didn't particularly love the character development of the supposed "enemies" of Ender (e.g., Bonzo and Peter). They felt a bit contrived just to be Ender's villain.

🥰 Who Would Like It?

Anyone who is interested in science fiction, coming of age tales, or a fight against aliens would like this book.

Anyone who is keenly interested in how competition and game-playing impacts a child's development would enjoy this story.

🗃️ Kindle Highlights & Favorite Quotes

There’s only one thing that will make them stop hating you. And that’s being so good at what you do that they can’t ignore you.

Location: 766

Ender’s anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo’s was hot, and so it used him.

Location: 1550

Believed, but the seed of doubt was there, and it stayed, and every now and then sent out a little root. It changed everything, to have that seed growing. It made Ender listen more carefully to what people meant, instead of what they said. It made him wise.

Location: 1917

the power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can’t kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you.

Location: 3430

Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.

Location: 3727

In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.

Location: 3841

Nature can’t evolve a species that hasn’t a will to survive. Individuals might be bred to sacrifice themselves, but the race as a whole can never decide to cease to exist.

Location: 4086

There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher.”

Location: 4207

Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can manage it.

Location: 4435

“And it had to be a child, Ender,” said Mazer. “You were faster than me. Better than me. I was too old and cautious. Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart. But you didn’t know. We made sure you didn’t know. You were reckless and brilliant and young. It’s what you were born for.”

Location: 4767