Ender’s Game: A Latecomer’s Perspective
By: Terra Clarke Olsen
On its opening weekend, people poured into the theater to watch Ender’s Game, the movie based off the book of the same name, earning $28 million . If you haven’t done so yet, I would suggest buying your tickets. And if you haven’t read it yet, then I highly suggest picking up a copy. Ender’s Game is considered a classic must-read in the science fiction genre for good reason, but more now than ever, the story is relevant.
I must admit that I was a latecomer to the Ender bandwagon, which is puzzling since the book was heavily inspired by Asimov’s Foundation Series and Asimov is my favorite sci-fi writer. But for whatever reason, it never appealed to me. The way people discussed the book when I was younger focused mostly on war and battle games- whoopty-do. I finally read Ender’s Game a few weeks ago and discovered for myself why the book is so appealing. Every page kept me captivated. Every angle was interesting and meaningful. There are scenes burned into my memory for being incredibly touching or incredibly disturbing–some left my stomach in knots because of the sheer viciousness. But every scene serves to tell the tale of a young man with the fate of humanity resting on his shoulders.
At its core, Ender’s Game is a story about empathy and humanity. The tale follows the protagonist, a young boy named Andrew Wiggins (aka Ender), on his journey to become a great commander in the earth’s fight against an alien race. Both the book and the movie use skillful storytelling to make the reader/viewer question humanity, while also delivering a message of empathy and compassion. The story is moving and it has all the elements of good science fiction. And although the book and movie differ (differences clearly made for adaptation purposes), the message is the same. (My biggest complaint about the movie is the implied love story that did not exist in the book, and a few other changes I won’t list in fear of spoiling the plot. More on that in another post perhaps…) Simply put, Ender’s Game is a good story that inspires and provokes thought.
Some may view the story’s emphasis on empathy and understanding somewhat ironic, since it’s no secret that author Orson Scott Card seems to be proudly homophobic. Scott has been an outspoken opponent to LGBTQ rights and has invested a lot of effort to prevent marriage equality. So it is strange that an author so hateful could write such a beautiful story that has resonated with so many people. Of course, brilliant art can be created by bad people (e.g., Degas, Wagner), but where paintings can hide an artist’s political beliefs, you would assume writers would be exposing themselves and their values through their stories. Yet I could not detect any homophobic messages coming from Card’s novel. Ender’s Game is an ethical story at its core; one that praises acceptance, while Card preaches the opposite values in real life. Despite my personal dislike for Card, I found Ender’s Game to be uplifting and particularly powerful given the world we live in today. Sometimes it takes a science fiction story to put things into perspective-that intolerance and misunderstandings are the real enemy.
So, check out Ender’s Game from the library or go watch the film (I hear Card is getting no royalties from ticket sales). Salaam.