Last year I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I was like, “This is fun!” Also last year I watched Ender’s Game on Netflix (Bless Netflix) and I was like, “This is awesome and I’m hooked and I want to read this book!” So this year I decided to read more Sci Fi. I started with Ender’s Game because I had seen and enjoyed the movie. (Side note: I enjoy reading the book after seeing the movie. It’s much less disappointing that way. I hope I remember this feeling next time I rush to read a book before going to the movie theater.)
Oh my word, you guys. This series is so good. The first book is about child soldiers which sounds horrific but it’s not horrific because it’s so brilliant. Then the story builds, following Ender, the ultimate child soldier, through his whole life (and beyond!). Orson Scott Card is so smart. He builds worlds and species and governments and technology and completely unique forms of communication. My attention was held the entire time and there wasn’t even romance until the fourth installment!
Not only was the series interesting because of the science and the fiction but because of the commentary it provided on intercultural relations. In the first book, Ender’s Game, we see Ender mostly relating to other children and the commanders, but we also see him exploring his own way of thinking and the ways of the buggers (the alien species it is his job to beat in a galactic war).
In the second book, Speaker for the Dead, we really see relationships between different species grow and be tested. We see unfamiliar cultural reactions between humans and pequeninos, a ramen species (ramen being defined by OSC as “a stranger we recognize as human, but of another species”) and we are confused and hurt.
In the third book, Xenocide, we learn more about the unfamiliar culture – we start to understand why they did what they did that caused such hurt and confusion, and the hurt and confusion lessens with understanding. In the third book we also are introduced to a two new cultures in a new world. We get to know an uber-religious family and an ambitious servant, expanding the cultural scope and the picture of the world.
In the fourth book, Children of the Mind, we meet another species and are introduced to another culture – a computer culture, a body-less being. And we watch the pequeninos, the humans (of various culture and with various motives and intentions), the buggers, and the computer interact.
In the fifth book, Ender in Exile, we go back in time! We learn about what Ender was doing during some of the years in between books 1 and 2. We see him growing up a bit, meeting people, and moving from Earth. We experience the after effects of Ender’s war-win from book 1 and we watch how he deals with that. Some of the blanks left by previous books are filled in. It was a little strange to go back in time after the first four books spanned Ender’s lifetime, but it was fun, too.
Basically, the Ender’s Game series was a beautifully and intelligently done series and I’m thankful I got to read it after all the books were released so there was no waiting. I read all five books in January. What a fun and thoughtful way to start out the year! I’m honestly a little nervous that any other science fiction books won’t measure up – that I won’t enjoy them as much as I enjoyed Ender’s Game – because I didn’t necessarily enjoy Ender’s Game for the science, although I did appreciate the heck out of it. Not only does OSC invent species, but he puts in the work to do so. The pequeninos have a completely unique method of reproduction and even death. The descolada have a completely unique method of communication. In fact, the pequeninos and the buggers each and also have their own means of communications, completely unheard of within the human species. DNA is a different thing in an alien species – able to adapt and change and send messages.
I have heard a couple criticisms of the sci fi genre – that alien species aren’t different enough, aren’t varied enough, aren’t thought-out enough. OSC builds the crap out of his world. I buy it and I learn from it and it speaks to my human exprience – and yours I’m willing to bet. I can’t imagine that many other works of sci fi will live up to my now-high expectations. Of course that’s not fair and of course I’ll try. Especially armed with the recommendations of readers much more sci fi familiar than myself.
Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life. The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given you by good people, by people who love you. – Ender’s Game
Speak to everyone in the language they understand. – Speaker for the Dead
We spend our lives guessing at what’s going on inside everybody else, and when we happen to get luck and guess right, we think we “understand.” Such nonsense. Even a monkey at a computer will type a word now and then. – Xenocide
Changing the world is good for those who want their names in books. But being happy, that is for those who write their names in the lives of others, and hold the hearts of others as the treasure most dear. – Children of the Mind
The only trait that defines Americans historically is “descended from somebody willing to give up everything to live there.” – Ender in Exile
(For more words of brilliance from OSC, check out Words, Wisdom, etc.)