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This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Ender's Game (disambiguation).
Cover shows a futuristic aeroplane landing on a lighted runway.
1985 first edition (hardcover)
Author Orson Scott Card
Cover artist John Harris
Country United States
Series Ender's Game series
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date 1985
Media type Print (Hardcover , Paperback & Ebook)
OCLC Number 22909973
Followed by Speaker for the Dead
Ender's Game (1985) is a military science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. Set in Earth's future, the novel presents an imperilled mankind after two conflicts with the "Buggers", an insectoid alien species. In preparation for an anticipated third invasion, children including the novel's protagonist, Ender Wiggin, are trained at a very young age through increasingly difficult games including some in zero gravity, where Ender's tactical genius is revealed.
The book originated as the short story "Ender's Game", published in the August 1977 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Elaborating on characters and plot lines depicted in the novel, Card later wrote additional books to form the Ender's Game series. Card released an updated version of Ender's Game in 1991, changing some political facts to accurately reflect the times; most notably, to include the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Reception of the book has generally been positive, though some critics have denounced Card's perceived justification of his characters' violences. It has also become suggested reading for many military organizations, including the United States Marine Corps. Ender's Game won the 1985 Nebula Award for best novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for best novel. Its sequels, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind and Ender in Exile, follow Ender's subsequent travels to many different worlds in the galaxy. In addition, the later novella A War of Gifts and novel Ender's Shadow take place during the same time period as the original. Ender's Game has been adapted into two comic series.
A film adaptation of the same name directed by Gavin Hood and starring Asa Butterfield as Ender is planned for release on November 1, 2013. Card is co-producing the film.
Creation and inspiration
The original novelette "Ender's Game" provides a small snapshot of Ender's experiences in Battle School and Command School; the full-length novel encompasses more of Ender's life before, during, and after the war, and also contains some chapters describing the political exploits of his older siblings back on Earth. In a commentary track for the 20th Anniversary audiobook edition of the novel, as well as in the 1991 Author's Definitive Edition, Card stated that Ender's Game was written specifically to establish the character of Ender for his role of the Speaker in Speaker for the Dead, the outline for which he had written before novelizing Ender's Game. In his 1991 introduction to the novel, Card discussed the influence of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series on the novelette and novel. Historian Bruce Catton's work on the American Civil War also influenced Card heavily.
Ender's Game series
Humanity, having begun to explore the solar system and master interplanetary spaceflight, has encountered an alien race known as the "buggers" (known in later books as the 'Formics'), scouting the system and establishing a forward base in the asteroid Eros, who provoked two drawn-out wars. Despite political conflict on Earth between three ruling parties (the Hegemon, Polemarch, and Strategos), a peace was established and an International Fleet (IF) formed against the Buggers. In preparation for the Buggers' return (dubbed the "third invasion") the IF created the Battle School, a program designed to subject children of the best tactical minds to rigorous training.
Protagonist Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is one of the school's trainees; but despite this, is teased as a "third" under Earth's two-child policy. He has a close bond with his sister Valentine, but fears his brother Peter, a highly intelligent sociopath. After the IF removes Ender's monitoring device, presumably ending his chances of Command School, he fights a fellow student, Stilson. Though the weaker of the two, Ender fatally wounds Stilson, but is left unaware of so doing. When explaining his actions to IF Colonel Hyrum Graff, Ender states his belief that, by showing superiority now, he has prevented future struggle. Graff, on hearing of this, offers Ender a place in the Battle School, situated in Earth's orbit, where Graff quickly isolates Ender from the other cadets, but encourages him to continue training despite frustration, through communications from Valentine.
The cadets participate in competitive war simulations in zero gravity, wherein Ender's innovations disrupt the standard operations, often sacrificing other squad members to achieve victory. Graff promotes Ender to a new army composed of the newest and youngest cadets, which Ender leads to the top of the school. There, Ender fights Bonzo Madrid, a jealous commander of another army, outside the simulation, and again kills him unaware. Under Ender's leadership, several of his current and former squad members form 'Ender's Jeesh' that remain loyal to him.
On Earth, Peter Wiggin has used a global communication system to post political essays under the pseudonym "Locke", hoping to establish himself as a respected orator and thence as a powerful politician. Valentine, despite not trusting Peter, publishes works alongside his as "Demosthenes". Their essays are soon taken seriously by the government. Though Graff is told their true identities, he recommends that it be kept a secret, because their writings are politically useful.
Ender, now ten years old, is soon promoted to Command School (on asteroid 433 Eros), skipping several years of schooling. There, he is put directly under a former war hero, Mazer Rackham. Alongside other trainings, Mazer sets virtual IF fleets under Ender's control against Bugger fleets controlled by Mazer. Ender adapts to the game and, as the simulations become harder, receives members of his Jeesh as sub-commanders. Despite this, Ender becomes depressed by the simulations, by his isolation from others, and by his treatment by Mazer.
When told by Mazer that this is his final test, Ender finds his human fleet far-outnumbered by the Buggers and sacrifices most of his fighters to launch a Molecular Disruption Device at the planet, aware that this earns his expulsion from the school. The Device destroys both the planet and the entire Bugger fleet. As the simulation ends, Ender is surprised to find the IF commanders celebrating. Mazer returns, and informs Ender that this - and earlier skirmishes in the simulator - were not simulation, but the actual IF contingent and the Buggers' main fleet at their homeworld, by whose destruction Ender has terminated the war. Ender becomes more depressed on learning this and of the deaths of Stilson and Bonzo.
When he recovers, he finds himself still in orbit with his closest friends and learns that, at the end of the Buggers war, Earth's powers fought among themselves. He stays on Eros as his friends return home and colonists venture to other worlds, using Eros as a way station. Among the first colonists is his sister, Valentine, who apologizes that Ender can never return to Earth, where he would become dangerous as used by the various leaders, including Peter. Instead, Ender joins a colony program to populate one of the Buggers' former colony worlds. There, he discovers the dormant egg of a Bugger queen. The queen, through telepathy, explains that the Buggers had initially assumed humans were a non-sentient race, for want of Collective consciousness, but realized their mistake too late, and requests that Ender take the egg to a new planet to colonize.
Ender takes the egg and, with information from the Queen, writes The Hive Queen under the alias "Speaker for the Dead". Peter, now the Hegemon of Earth, recognizes Ender's work and requests Ender to write a book about Peter, which Ender entitles Hegemon. The combined works create a new religion that Earth and many of Earth's colonies adopt. In the end, Ender and Valentine board a starship and visit many worlds, looking to establish the unborn Hive Queen.
Critics have generally received Ender's Game well. The novel won the Nebula Award for best novel in 1985, and the Hugo Award for best novel in 1986, considered the two most prestigious awards in science fiction. Ender's Game was also nominated for a Locus Award in 1986. In 1999, it placed #59 on the reader's list of Modern Library 100 Best Novels. It was also honored with a spot on American Library Association's "100 Best Books for Teens." In 2008, the novel, along with Ender's Shadow, won the Margaret A. Edwards Award, which honors an author and specific works by that author for lifetime contribution to young adult literature. Ender's Game was included in Damien Broderick's book Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010.
New York Times writer Gerald Jonas asserts that the novel's plot summary resembles a "grade Z, made-for-television, science-fiction rip-off movie", but says that Card develops the elements well despite this "unpromising material". Jonas further praises the development of the character Ender Wiggin: "Alternately likable and insufferable, he is a convincing little Napoleon in short pants."
The novel has received negative criticism for violence and its justification. Elaine Radford's review, "Ender and Hitler: Sympathy for the Superman", posits that Ender Wiggin is an intentional reference by Card to Adolf Hitler and criticizes the violence in the novel, particularly at the hands of the protagonist. Card responded to Radford's criticisms in Fantasy Review, the same publication. Radford's criticisms are echoed in John Kessel's essay "Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender's Game, Intention, and Morality", wherein Kessel states: "Ender gets to strike out at his enemies and still remain morally clean. Nothing is his fault."
The U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List makes the novel recommended reading at several lower ranks, and again at Officer Candidate/Midshipman. The book was placed on the reading list by Captain John F. Schmitt, author of FMFM-1 (Fleet Marine Fighting Manual, on maneuver doctrine) for "provid[ing] useful allegories to explain why militaries do what they do in a particularly effective shorthand way." In introducing the novel for use in leadership training, Marine Corps University's Lejeune program opines that it offers "lessons in training methodology, leadership, and ethics as well [....] Ender’s Game has been a stalwart item on the Marine Corps Reading List since its inception."
In 1991, Card made several minor changes to reflect the political climates of the time, including the decline of the Soviet Union. In the afterword of Ender in Exile, Card stated that many of the details in chapter 15 of Ender's Game were modified for use in the subsequent novels and short stories. In order to more closely match the other material, Card has rewritten chapter 15, and plans to offer a revised edition of the book.