Wow! I’m not exactly sure how to talk about this book. Not gonna lie, it cut right to my soul. Every once in a while a book comes along where the author nails the characters, their emotions and motivations, so well that you cease to read about them and they become a part of you. … Then again, that’s what a good book is all about and that’s what we writers strive to write.
But I digress.
I’ve known about Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card for ages. I even started reading it once before (but I don’t think I got past the first chapter then for reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the book). It’s required reading nowadays at the high school I attended. I know my brother and all of his friends read it and loved it. So I figured the time had come for me to crack it open.
What makes Ender’s Game such a fantastic book is the emotional intensity of the story and the strength with which Card conveys the struggles that the characters are going through. In my mind I think of Science Fiction as being more plot driven, but Ender’s Game is the definition of a character driven story.
If you look at it on paper, not a lot (seems) to be happening. Our hero, Ender Wiggin, is an exceptionally gifted six-year-old who is sent off to military training because he is the only hope to save the human race. And the reader goes along for the ride. In a way the plot sort of reminded me of the hours I would spend watching my brother play video games. There are plenty of descriptive battle scenes and accounts of what Ender is seeing in the video games he is playing. The training get harder and Ender rises to the challenge. That’s the plot.
On the surface.
What you’re really getting throughout Ender’s Game is a tour of duty through the mind of a child who is not a child and the agony of shouldering the weight he knows has been put on him. Card writes his characters so well that I found myself thinking in Ender’s “voice” once or twice after switching off my Kindle and attempting to go on with my life. The internal descriptions in this book are as vivid as the external ones, and far more important. The plot comes second to the question that Ender constantly asks himself, that the reader asks about the world he lives in, and that could very well be asked about our world outside of the book: What are we doing?!
So yeah, ironically enough, as a Romance writer I found this book to be essential in the study of how to craft characters. That’s what Romance is all about, after all. Characters. Their wants and fears and dreams. That’s what makes up Ender’s Game. Card doesn’t burden the reader with too many details. He tells almost no backstory, but manages to show so much of it through the actions of the characters in the present of the book. He gives the reader a lot of credit for being clever enough to fill in the blanks that he leaves. The result is depth and richness.
Of course, the other genius of Ender’s Game is that everything builds, piece by piece, block by block to that one moment when the truth comes out. And even though I had guessed what the truth was, whether because I’m smart or because I remember someone talking about it at some point and recalled that I don’t know, when the big reveal came I still burst into tears. I felt the full impact, Ender felt the full impact, and neither of us could look at that world the same again. Bam! The truth was out and everything that had come before, every detail that had seemed moderately important or extraneous, suddenly made sense. I love it when a writer weaves their story so carefully that the payoff moves me to tears.
So yeah, as you might have guessed, I freakin’ loved this book! I also highly appreciated Card’s introduction, in which he talks about craft and what went into writing Ender’s Game. I’ll save my thoughts about that for another day though.
Up next: I need to give myself a treat after Ender’s Game. I think I’ll hop back in bed with Captain Jack Aubrey and read the second book in the Aubrey/Maturin series, Post Captain.