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Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


How come we don’t have YA as awesome as this anymore?  I’m not hating but man, I’ll take this over the vampires, werewolves, dying teens, and paranormal activity.  And to think, this was written in 1985!


I read Ender’s Game a few years ago.  When I heard that there was a movie coming out, I wanted to read it again before watching the film.  I loved both.  LOVED.  I figured I can review the book and the movie at the same time.  The movie stayed pretty faithful to the book and the liberties they took made the story more kid-friendly and it didn’t distract much from the original.

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

It might be a futuristic setting but the some school and peer issues are familiar.  Ender deals with isolation, jealousy, and bullying in the hands of upper classmen and his classmates who feel threatened of his intelligence and abilities.  From the start, he was favored by the administration and he rose up the ranks faster than anyone.  His achievements also earned him respect and these friends advanced along with him.


They train in mock battles in rooms that simulate outer space.  They fight in “toons” (platoons) where they practice formations and tactics in order to defeat the other toon.  They are ultimately training to fight against Buggers.  The administration found a perfect general in Ender.  Because of that, they push him to the limit, alienate him from the rest and flaunt is obvious superiority to them.  Ender hates it, of course.  His only solace is his sister, Valentine.


This was released in 1985.  And yet, they were already talking about tablet computers where you can store your information, take lessons, and play games.  The iPad, anyone?  Their training sessions were like real-life Space Invaders.  It was like watching – reading – a video game commentary.  Kids of all ages can definitely get sucked into this world.  I was rooting for Ender and his friends.  He seemed like a good smart kid who was being picked on because he was different.  We all can relate to that.


What really got me was the ending.  Their toons train so much that it does become repetitive.  But just as you decide to skim through the training chapters, you’ll be blindsided by the conclusion.  Read carefully or you’ll miss it.  It is one of the most satisfying endings that I’ve read in YA in a long time.


As I mentioned before, the movie stayed quite true to the book.  Unfortunately, it did not do well in the box office so sequel might not happen.  But we have this movie.  Do you  need to read the book to understand the movie?  Not really.  The movie stands alone just fine but you will appreciate it more if you’ve read the book.  The movie has a rather flat tone; Ender (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) was either angry or irritated throughout the whole film.  To me, having read the book, it wasn’t bland acting.  Book!Ender was pretty much the same.  He was bitter and he felt that he was treated unfairly.  Asa Butterfield showed that well.  Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham was a bit off.  I imagined a different image but he nailed that New Zealand accent!  My mom and I were going back and forth, was he doing an Australian accent or was it Kiwi?  Man, I’ve watched enough LOTR interviews to differentiate the two.  And Mazer is described as a person of Maori descent.


The kids have a bigger role in the book than in the movie.  The movie was all Ender.  I wish movie!Bean (Aramis Knight) had more spunk.  He was great in the book and just okay in the movie.  Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) was just there.  I remember her doing more in the book.  I’m glad they kept Alai (Suraj Parthasarathy) and his special bond with Ender.  Moises Arias as Bonzo came across as a comic relief.  At least to me.  In the book, he actually scary.  In the movie, he was a bully but I think the casting of his cronies didn’t work so well.


I enjoyed the movie more because I read the book.  I can’t tell which one I like more, to be honest.  The movie is one of the more faithful adaptations and I’m glad they did that.  My mom who did not read it also liked it.  Ender’s Game is definitely a must-read.  I encourage everyone to pick it up and read it.

Rating: 5/5.  A favorite.  Watch the movie too!