REVIEW #42 | “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Saga #1) (Audiobook) (*INCLUDES SPOILERS*)

Title: “Ender’s Game”

Author: Orson Scott Card

Length of Audiobook: 11 hours 57 minutes

Narrator: Stefan Rudnicki; Harlan Ellison; Gabrielle de Cuir

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

“Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer-simulated war games at the Battle School; in fact, he is engaged in something far more desperate. Ender is the result of decades of genetic experimentation, Earth’s attempt to make the military genius that the planet needs in its all-out war with an alien enemy. Ender Wiggin is six years old when his training begins. He will grow up fast. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world-if the world survives. This, the author’s definitive edition, also includes an original postscript written and recorded by the author, in which he discusses the origins of the novel.”

Trigger/content warnings for the novel:

  • anti-Semitism
  • character death
  • [There may be more; I DNF’d at 64%]

Representation in the novel:

  • literally none that I could remember, so that’s cool /s
  • [There may be some; I DNF’d]

2/5 stars

Note: as the title of this review indicates, there may be small spoilers ahead.

Ender’s Game is one of the first sci-fi novels I have ever read, and… I am so disappointed. The beginning showed promise, but as I listened further, I found myself disengaging and being puzzled over, well, everything.

The first book in a saga, Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel about a young boy named Ender who is sent off to this battle school in order to eventually fight off the aliens that are supposedly bent on eradicating the human race. However, Ender is not just a regular boy — he was genetically modified with the hope that he would eventually be whisked away for just this purpose. The first book follows Ender from the tender age of six. And the reader then watches him grow as he lives for years in the battle school, coming up with new strategies in the “games” they continuously play, rising through the ranks, and puzzling the higher-ups. About halfway through the novel, when he is around ten or twelve, Ender’s siblings, Peter and Valentine, also get a spotlight as they become more entrenched in political games back on Earth through the use of pseudonyms.

So…for a book that sounds so interesting, why did I DNF it at 64%? It was not because of the narration: I really enjoyed the full cast, and I thought they all made it entertaining to listen to, before I just could not take the book itself anymore. Yeah, narration? Pretty dang good. One of the issues I had was with the characters. It came to a point where I could not easily identify who was who outside of Ender and his siblings. no one really jumped out at me and, as a result, they all blurred together.

Speaking of characters blurring together, all the major characters, except for one, is a man or boy. There is only one girl, Valentine, and she is Ender’s sister. I suppose there is also Ender’s friend who is a girl, but she is one of those characters where she is basically “one of the boys,” which… nah. I get that this was published back in the 1980s, but still. I can be annoyed that the two characters that are girls are either “just one of the boys” or is supposedly “too caring and emphatic” to be part of the battle school. It is like there are two stereotypes for girls to the extreme, and I am not a fan.

On top of that, most of the other characters were flat and only had one or two qualities to them. However, I will say that I found Ender’s thought process throughout the novel intriguing. I liked seeing that development. Althought I did not get through all of it, like I said, I still felt that there should have been some sort of growth or something outside of Ender’s thoughts that made me care for these characters. But alas, here we are.

Another issue (well, technically two, I suppose) was the plot and the pacing. the book sounds so interesting on paper, but the actual novel pales in comparison. While it was interesting in the beginning as the reader follows Ender through his beginning years at the battle school, it soon became tedious. Sure, he gains friends and a platoon to lead, but those interesting moments were overshadowed by so. many. battle. sequences.

By the third or fourth or fifth time, the reader understands that Ender is smart and good with strategy and that he is the underdog. They understand that, yes, the military is tedious and repetitive. There comes a time where the reader is hit over the head with all of this, repeatedly, and it stinks. It makes the book ungodly slow, and this is coming from someone who usually does not mind slower novels. I was over halfway done with the book, and what do I have to show for it? Close to nothing. And what I did have, I just did not like.

Most of it comes from me not being able to suspend disbelief. I get it, I do. I understand genetic engineering, war, making children part of war, and the combination of the three. I understand these things happen in our world today, and that it should only take a few extra steps to believe in what happens in Ender’s Game. But I cannot make those steps. Children being used for war? Okay. Children being genetically modified for war? Now we are getting into the sci-fi part, cool. Children having the mental capacity of grown-ass adults, making decisions as if they were adults, and essentially being adult characters but aged down to children in order to be shocking because, “oh no, children and war!”?

Nope, sorry, Card does not pull this off. Maybe if they were teenagers, but for most of the book, Ender is younger than 10. I do not buy it. You know what else I do not buy? Valentine and Peter’s side plot. Two young kids trying to, essentially, take over the world through the use of two blogging personas? Card does not try hard enough to make it seem believable for me. It just seems to pop up out of nowhere, right when Ender’s plot becomes unbearably boring. And then, voila, the reader has two extremely boring plots. Lovely. Who knows, maybe that particular sideplot somehow becomes 100x more exciting in the last 35% of the novel, but I slogged through enough.

So…yeah. Tl;dr: while the audiobook narration was wonderful (and the sole recipient of the two stars), I could not get behind every other lackluster part of this novel: the poor characterization, boring and repetitive plot, slow placing, gross lack of diversity, and the inability to allow me to believe most of the actual science fiction elements.

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW #42 | “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Saga #1) (Audiobook) (*INCLUDES SPOILERS*)

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