Ender’s Game is not really a complicated book. It won’t need the level of absurd, high-minded nitpicking analysis we as students at high school had to muddle through with Shakespeare’s works in English. This is a Good Thing since the story is not unnecessarily stilted by having to analyse every word out of every character’s mouths.
Ender’s Game is set as a military science fiction adventure, but that’s really just the backdrop for the personal turmoil and trauma that engulfs Ender’s life. The fact that he is a genius at the tender age of six means that he is isolated from his peers at school. Indeed, he is an outcast due to his stature as the third child of his parents. Even at the start of the book, Ender has to learn to deal with this himself. He knows, however that the best way to make sure he’s not bullied by the same person again is to defeat him quickly, decisively and in a humiliating way. That Ender ends up accidentally killing the first guy is…mortifying. A six year old kid defending himself and ends up committing manslaughter. However, this isn’t revealed until the very, very end, nearly ten years after the event.
Ender is, by all intents and purposes a good, quiet boy who just wants to get on with a peaceful life. He didn’t choose to be the military genius he turned out to be, a fluke of genetics saw to that, but that his peers ostracised him for being small, special, held up as someone to aspire to is just human nature at its worst. But this is just something that a lot of children experience. If you’re different in some way, prepare to be called out for it. I know how it felt because I was that kid at some point in my life.
Perhaps that is just what made this book resonate with me so much as the only Asian kid in school during the 1990s. Iwent through something similar in those years of being the odd one out. Ender is the ultimate expression of kid who was special and different, only appreciated after a dramatic victory of historical significance. I’m not saying,I’ve saved the world, but when others can use your gifts, they’re your best friend just before they turn their back to you. This includes your friends, your peers and, in Ender’s case the military establishment who raised him to be a tactical genius. Even if you’re really, really awesome and you save the world, you won’t be able to live on it because you’d just be used again.
In some ways, Ender is like Clark Kent; an outcast who people use for help but shuns because they’re different, brilliant and possess a power they can’t imagine and are jealous of. It is an immensely moving story that is told, a very human story. And I feel all the wiser for reading it.