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Bookends: Communication is the Key to Coexistence January 2, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Communication is the Key to Coexistence

By Dan Davidson

December 18, 2013Enders Game

–  1010 words –

 

Enders Game

By Orson Scott Card

Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison and others

Macmillan audio

11 hours, 57 minutes

$34.50

 

It’s hard to tell how well the Ender’s Game movie did, largely due to the Card boycott organized by those who object to the author’s more recent anti-gay political views. It’s odd that Card, who holds these views as a devout Mormon, should be insensitive in real life while being capable of writing so well about tolerance in his fiction.

While the book is a war story, it’s a war story about children and it’s about tolerance and communication. The movie aged everyone a bit because it’s hard to find 6 to 10 year olds who could act the complex parts that the story demands. It’s a case where the written word can clearly go where the camera can’t.

In an essay after the main part of this book, Card describes the long battle he had with Hollywood (where this book was optioned decades ago) to keep the moguls from aging the cast to a bunch of 16 years olds and injecting a love story into the plot. In the book, these kids are all pre-teens, and romance is the last thing on their minds.

Some 80 years earlier in this future, Earth was invaded twice by human sized insectoid creatures who were generally known to earth folk as Bugs or Buggers, because they were, after all, most like bugs. Later, as more is discovered about them, they were called Formics, because of their similarity to ants. That’s the term used in the movie, probably because of Card’s non-fiction reputation.

In the book, the worst thing you can say to anyone is to call him or her a bugger lover, and it comes up a lot.

In the book there are both population control and eugenics. Two kids are the maximum, unless it happens that the state wants something from you. Andrew (his older sister could only manage to say “Ender” when he was little) Wiggin’s parents have special genes and the military hopes to get a special offspring from their union. Peter is too vicious. Valentine is too empathic. Ender, a Third (and that’s a real slur) is permitted to exist because he might be just right, to carry that Goldilocks reference to its extreme.

It turns out that he is. He does not like to hurt people, but he likes even less being hurt and when he is seriously challenged he makes sure that he doesn’t just win that battle, but makes all other battles impossible. It bothers him to do this, and he does everything he can to find other solutions, but if there is no other solution, he acts.

An incident in primary school makes the watchers of the International Fleet decide that Ender is a perfect candidate for Battle School, and so he is drafted, a condition to which his parents had to agree in advance in order for him to be conceived at all. In the end, after much struggle, he masters every skill needed to move on to the next level, and does so in record time, just a few years instead of the usual ten.

The book spends much time on the Game, a zero G battle room where “armies” of youngsters (mostly boys) try to outwit each other and learn strategy. Ender excels at this to the point where the teachers rig the Game repeatedly to try and trap him. They have no success.

Ender and the best of the other student warriors are promoted to the Command School where, unknown to them, they begin to fight a very real series of battles against the Formic enemy. As far as Ender and his squad leaders know they are practicing strategies in video games. After many of these, they win a very final battle, only to discover after they have done so that they were not still playing and that they have destroyed an entire species.

Ender’s Game has faced challenges in a number of school and library districts because of its violence. I’ll wager that most of the people who have raised the issue have never finished the book. It moves on past that fiery climax to a long section that deals with the consequences of violence, the need for communication between strangers and the means of restitution for past wrongs.

The movie collapses the time frame of the story, from the initial three or four years to what seems like a few months, and then fails to jump in time for the coda, which takes place when Ender is middle aged and has been living with his burden for years. This, to me, is a weakness.

The other major weakness is the loss of the secondary plot involving the lives of Peter and Valentine back on Earth, and how two teenagers develop a scheme to save the world from itself and succeed.

The producers should probably have gone for a mini-series.

This audio production is excellent. Rudnicki does narration well and has a variety of accents and tones that he brings to the dialogue. Ellison adds a sardonic touch to his delivery. There are other voices here that are not identified in the notes. The sections focussing on Valentine are narrated by a female voice, and it was a good decision to move away from the battle school in sound as well as in story.

I used this book with English 10 classes a couple of times, and the result was that the students pestered the school library to pick up the sequels. They were in heavy rotation for several years, so I know they were enjoyed.

I picked this up through Audible.com as a digital download at a price a lot cheaper than what I have listed above. It filled the time very nicely all the way to Whitehorse and about halfway back to Dawson. My copilot stayed awake for the entire reading.

 

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