I'd never really explored the genre of Science Fiction before I'd read Enders Game. I'd watched numerous shows (Doctor Who, Firefly), but that was the extent of my science-fiction life. I guess I went straight from YA books to classics, so I didn't have that area in between where I explored what I liked. I don't regret it, I just compromised. I've started exploring classic science fiction. It's ticks both boxes. And what I wanted to do first was find a big science-fiction series that everyone loves. And that's where I came across Enders Game, and the 'Enderverse' that makes up the wide selection of books and novellas that Orson Scott Card has written.
A quick synopsis: 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. At the Battle school he takes part in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders.
I must admit, the blurb sounds cheesy and a typical space opera focusing on the use of children, but it's more than that. You might be thinking 'It just sounds like a space-y Hunger Games'. It's in fact far deeper than The Hunger Games. It is technically a YA novel, but Orson Scott Card writes with such a flare that it doesn't come across. It sucks you in, the games, the characters, Ender's loneliness, the clever plot twists and turns of the book. It's more developed than The Hunger Games. The whole idea of a Battle Room makes you want to have a go in it, and the military-esque set up makes it a very enjoyable read. You want to try the manoeuvres, climb up the leader-board and be part of a team. You get immersed in the plot, and it works wonderfully.
I think what really brings Enders Game alive is the thought processes of Ender, and his development and slow understanding of military battle and the wars that meant he was picked. You see a society desperate not to be eradicated by another race, but more-so, you see a boy who wants to understand. He's a third, he's an outcast from society, and you see him push himself to be the best, attempting the mysterious Game over and over again to try and figure it out. You also see his hauntings, of his slightly psychopathic brother and his loving sister. It's the typical thoughts of a child who feels like an outsider, but set in the midst of a science fiction realm that makes it a very enjoyable read.
The characters are fun and realistic, even though it's set in a Battle School orbiting Earth, you get the typical bully, and the girl defying the expectations of her gender, and the little weedy kid who wants to be like the top scorer. Bean is an excellent character, and Card actually has a whole spin-off set of books focusing on him, and I can't wait to read them!
I'm not going to spoil it, but the plot twist at the end, and Ender's slow realisation of what is happening is amazing. I guess I was a bit silly because I didn't notice it before, but it's a twist that you almost don't see happening. It leads on to the other books very well, and even though everything has the potential to be nice and tidy, ending happily, Orson Scott Card goes on for another few chapters, developing the characters enough to have another book. Speaker of the Dead is a vastly different book compared to Enders Game: far more philosophical and definitely not a YA read. But it deepens the question of humanity and rights of other species beautifully, and I enjoyed it just as much as Enders Game.
This book lead me to explore my science fiction, including The War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids and The Time Machine. If you're new to science-fiction and the idea of space opera, its a wonderful start to a new journey. I dare you, pick it up. Give it a go!