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Our Intrepid Heroine

I'm a multitasking, knitting, cooking, voraciously-reading library worker who wants to spread her bibliomania as far as possible.

Currently reading

Ash and Silver: A Sanctuary Novel
Carol Berg
The Sleeping Partner
Madeleine E. Robins
China Mieville

Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1)

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card Ender's Game unexpectedly angered me. The premise was annoying and unsettling.

This book has so much of what I look for in a novel. The writing is engaging, for the most part. It has a plot. The dialog is natural-ish. There are spaceships and alien attacks (not necessary, but definitely sweet in a sci-fi book). The sexism was small-scale (there were girls, and not for sex appeal! Just emotional manipulation).

In the first few chapters, they recruit a six year old boy to train as a future commander. Okay. I thought, military school, start 'em early. Makes sense. Then Ender understood Machiavellian principles. I thought maybe he was going to be like Charles Wallace, who wanted to be read Genesis before he went to bed instead of Good Night Moon. Ender was not Charles Wallace, who was brilliant but also did some dumb things because he truly believed and/or hoped that they would work. I have known precocious six-year olds. I was one of them, but at six, I still thought I could be a mermaid when I grew up. Granted, I am not a genius, but I would have looked at you like you were completely insane if you'd expected me to explain tactical advantage and warfare. However, Ender being six when he was recruited is a huge deal. Major plot point. But before he even went to military school, the kid understood war, and that makes no sense.

If the kid were a savant, I would buy it. He's not. If he were completely divorced from reality, I would buy it. He's not. Ender is a completely normal little kid except that he has a mind for tactics. There's no way you can truly understand the sheer amount of violence this kid has been exposed to without some serious psychological and social ramifications, but Card makes a point of emphasizing that the reason Ender is so isolated and alone is because the teachers have separated him from anyone who might be sympathetic. Otherwise, he'd be totally socially okay.

No, he wouldn't. He'd be his brother, Peter, who is a violent sociopath. Or, he would hide under his bed and refuse to ever come out again without serious therapy, safe places, and at least one crippling case of co-dependence. But this brings me to the real problem that I had with this book.

And that, fair reader, is that this is a book about child soldiers in space.

Orson Scott Card has created a world in which it is morally justifiable (nay: acceptable) to send six-year old children to war. It doesn't matter whether the simulations are disguised as games, because it is made clear that from the moment they set foot in the shuttle, they have ceased to be children and become soldiers. This upset me because the summary on the back did not indicate that kids would be fighting in wars. I'm fine with interstellar war books. I am not fine with child soldiers.

I am even less fine with a story about a child who has been emotionally abused by the military to save the human race. Their justification is clear and present danger, that the computer simulation said it would be fine, and a bunch of other Machiavellian claptrap. I became increasingly horrified as I read because dear god, why? I'm sure there was some great point about heroism, but it just looked like abuse from where I stood.

At the ending, I would have chucked the book at the wall if it hadn't been a library book. The military annihilated a child's hope of having a functional life, tricked him into killing millions (not to mention putting him in situations where he physically killed people because the powers that be would not intervene), all in the name of protecting the human race... from a threat that did not exist. The race they decimated had no intention of harming them. There was no danger. I felt like I'd been put through an emotional wringer for absolutely nothing.

Bah. Another inscrutable cultural phenomenon.