I am incredibly late to the party – but this book is horrific and beautiful, heart breaking and heart warming, and utterly infuriating.
Fairly spoiler free with hints to the plot line and character development, and general cruelty of the military leaders.
Ender is a third in a world that prohibits families from having more than two children. For this Ender is constantly ridiculed and tormented by his older brother out of sheer jealousy for not being selected himself for the military (IF) programme. Peter (older brother) is a genius but too cruel, so his parents have his sister Valentine, who is a genius but too empathetic. Therefore the military grant the parents another child to see if they will be suitable – and Ender is the perfect blend of both of his older siblings.
Ender, at a mere 6 years old, is then taken away from his family and joins Battle School. Battle School exists because humanity is fighting against ‘buggers’, an alien life form that has previously attacked humanity twice before. Humans won the Second invasion, but they want to stop the buggers once and for all.
The military leaders identify that Ender is exceptional, and exactly what the human race need to win the bugger wars. However, in order to make him the perfect commander, solider and strategist, they isolate him, leave him to defend himself against potentially fatal attacks from fellow child soldiers in training, and essentially wear him down to the point of exhaustion in order to make the hero the human race needs.
The book is maddening. It’s heartbreaking to read Ender’s torment, and killer instincts kick in simply because he is left with no alternative. They even use Valentine, the only person in the whole world who loves and understands him, in order to make him the tool the military need. He is never allowed to be a child who is loved, tormented horrendously before he is taken to Battle School, and then treated appallingly whilst there by almost everyone.
However, despite the fact the book is based on children being the only potential heroes of the human race, the story feels real. The situation feels realistic. Ender is exceptional, but he is exceptional because of how he learns, how he adapts, and how even when he’s giving up he sticks it to the man by winning.
The book is amazing, but it didn’t make me feel particularly good whilst reading it. The amount that the military leaders torture Ender for their own gain, which admittedly the future of humanity being a pretty big gain, is evil to read. Even when Ender’s life is in danger the leaders don’t step in to to save him, and in fact when he is then forced to save himself through questionable means, they reward him by accepting him in to Battle School and other means.
On the whole, I would read this again, but I don’t think I’ll read any more of the series. The book is great, but the end finishes well and I felt finished and satisfied enough to know I would not want to delve further in to the world the author created.
3/5 – beautiful, heart breaking and uncomfortably realistic.