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Librarian Confessions: Ender’s Game Reactions

I have a rule that I have followed since the movie version of The Firm came out: never, EVER read the book before the movie if I haven’t already read it. WHY? Because I’m going to be CONSTANTLY comparing the two. If you haven’t read John Grisham’s The Firm, then you won’t be bothered by the huge change in the ending between the book and the movie. And don’t get me started on the major differences between the book and movie version of The First Wives Club. And it’s not just in adult fiction- how many knew someone who was upset by things that were left out of one of the Harry Potter movies? Or Beautiful Creatures

So when I mentioned to both That Guy and Karen that I’ve never read Ender’s Game, by their reactions I knew I was going to have to break my rule. If you didn’t know, Ender’s Game was published in 1985 and written by Orson Scott Card, and won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. The sequel, Speaker of the Dead, also won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for it’s year, making Card the only author to win both awards back to back. Ender’s Game is being released into theaters this November.

I knew about Card’s viewpoints and opinions before reading Ender’s Game, and knew that there was huge controversy surrounding the book as well (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.), and went into it with an open mind, and my teen viewpoint in place. The version my library has is published in 2002, and it’s been sanitized from the original (found that out later with a little research):

The cover of the copy that I read, that does not have as much of the objectionable material in it

So what was my reaction to it? I read it all in one day, and fell into the world that Card built. I HAD to find out what was going to happen to Ender, and whether he would survive everything that was being stacked against him. (I admit, it may have helped that I had Harrison Ford’s voice in my head as Colonel Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley’s as Mazar Rackham). I was both captured and horrified. It reminded me a lot of current YA dystopias (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Testing) in that the youth were put into horrific and battle situations where the adults were stepping back and watching, and waiting, and placing hopes and expectations on them. There is still a lot of racism and sexism and homophovia within the book, and I can see it being a hard book to discuss within a classroom content. I’ll be extremely interested to see how they take those issues within the movie; Card is a producer on the movie but did not write the script.

What did I take away from it?


OMG, do the adults suck in this world. His parents are clueless to what they signed their kids up for, nor do they know to what extent their children are doing. I never caught whether or not the Wiggin family was just superior genetics or they were tinkered with (I lean towards tinkered) but you would think that if the I.F. knew how wrong Peter was, they’d keep an eye on him. None of the teachers step in for the fights at any time, and although as the book goes on Graff becomes more of a friendly figure in the book, everything is completely negated by Ender’s “graduation” and Mazer tricking Ender into destroying the Buggers in the last “simulation”. 

Kids are completely expendable in the quest for total destruction of the Buggers. They go through Peter and Valentine in their quest for the ultimate commander, and then toss them aside (never mind their obvious extraordinary intelligence and intensely abnormal personality issues). We never know how many possibilities for the leader of the fleet there were before Ender- Mazar never says, just that there were many before but no one reached the final “simulation”. The adults turn all the kids on each other to hone their fighting abilities, and hide the death of one (he “graduated” and was supposedly returned to his town of Spain) in order to reach the goal- total destruction of the Buggers. Nothing else is important- not the mental health of these kids, not what they can do/become afterwards, not whether they’ll be normal- just total destruction of the Buggers.

Sometimes things come in circles. Karen and I went and saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, and I was really struck by how in the movie Kirk went from full out vengeance and destruction to capture and return for trial based on discussions with Spock and his own internal struggles. In stead of just blasting away, he chooses what we would call the “human” choice and to bring the villain in for trial.
In Ender’s Game, Ender never GETS that chance to have that discussion and choice until it’s far too late. It’s always after things have happened that he gets the chance to reflect- and wish that things were different, that he could go in a different direction. Every fight is forced, and there is no way that he can back away from anything- to do so would be to seal his fate, or to be iced out and send destruction to the human race. Every time he rebels against something, he ends up “winning” the game anyway, and finding the clues to his next challenge. Ender’s Kobayashi Maru if you will, is discovering that his end rebellion destroyed the entire Bugger race. And like Kirk, he is actually given a second chance at the end of Ender’s Game, if he can take it.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Share in the comments below.


  1. Are you doing a program? Let me know if you have ideas.

  2. I am doing a library program for this and I am in dire need of ideas! I am planning to set up a relay race relating to various challenges that Ender faces in Battle School. If you have any suggestions, they are very welcome!

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