True Story: Ender's Game

One of the things that I love most about SSR is that it gives me the chance to read books that I missed as a kid or teen and probably would have learned nothing about if I wasn’t hosting this kind of podcast. Ender’s Game is surely one of those books. It wasn’t on my radar when I was growing up, and since I’m not a big science fiction reader as an adult, I wouldn’t really have a reason to give it a shot for purely personal reasons in my grown-up life. Still, I knew that the book was a pretty big deal within its genre.

What I didn’t know until I was preparing to interview my guest Katy Rose Pool for this episode was that the author Orson Scott Card — though once technically a big deal within the genre, as well — has since become a very problematic, polarizing figure. It’s amazing what you discover!

Even with the author’s controversial viewpoints in mind, I’m glad I got the chance to read Ender’s Game, if for no other reason than I know it’s played an important role in the lives of many science fiction fans. I’m also glad that I had the chance to learn more about why Orson Scott Card has lost the respect and support (and rightfully so, in my opinion) of so many people in the years since the book made him famous. As far as I’m concerned, these facts don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

In reviewing my notes from the book and thinking about my discussion with Katy on the podcast, I honestly feel like we covered a lot of my questions and opinions in the scope of our conversation… so this is going to be a pretty short edition of True Story.

Still, there are a few thoughts I didn’t share in the episode. Here’s the (brief) True Story behind Episode 59.

(Check out the episode here and get a refresher on the plot of Ender’s Game here!)

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I did find that the book was a little long, on the whole.

I’m not one to shy away from long books, but I think that Ender’s Game probably could have been about 100 pages shorter. I could have done without a few of the battles that we witness in Battle School, and I didn’t need to see Ender be bopped around to quite so many armies as he was trying to find his place in the school’s social hierarchy. I understand that these kinds of details probably appeal to a certain kind of reader, but it went on long for me!

I would encourage you to check out the timeline around the brewing controversy with Orson Scott Card.

Katy and I spend quite a bit of time at the top of the episode talking about Orson Scott Card’s problematic politics. For the most part, we speak broadly about them, acknowledging how they are at odds with the seemingly inclusive, loving messages of the book and talking about how hard it can be when you discover that a piece of work that’s important to you comes from a damaging source.

If you’re interested in getting more into the specifics of Orson Scott Card’s hateful viewpoints, I would suggest you take a look at this timeline. It lays out all of the events that have built up our new (negative) perspective about this author so that you can make your own judgements!

I enjoyed a lot of the kid characters.

As much as Ender struggled to bond with his peers at Battle School, when he finally did make friends, he definitely found his way to the right people. I really loved the kids that he bonded with!

Bean and Petra, in particular, were extremely endearing. Katy shared with me in our conversation that some of the author’s additional books are actually written from Bean and Petra’s perspectives. In all honesty, I’m not sure that I feel motivated to read any of those other titles, but it does make me happy to realize that other people were interested enough in these characters that they ultimately merited their own books, too. It sounds like they may have some cool back stories!

The twist at the end really is one of the best I’ve ever read.

When I discovered that Ender wasn’t actually participating in war simulations, but was actively invading the Bugger home planet and was unknowingly responsible for an unprovoked genocide, I was genuinely shocked. Of all of the twists and surprises that Orson Scott Card could have added into the last few chapters of the book, I definitely did not see this one coming. In hindsight, I’ve gotta say — it’s pretttttty twisted. It’s crazy to think that the author likely had that twist in mind throughout the process of writing the rest of the book, and it’s interesting to consider how the rest of the plot leads up to it.

Listen to the podcast episode about Ender’s Game here!

I can’t wait to hear your “true story” thoughts about this book. Share them with me in the comments below.

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