Format: Audio CDs
Traveling has started to feel like the chance to clip through a book really quick, whether I’m reading on a plane or in a hotel. Taking road trips has started to feel like I’m cheating because I can work my way through a book without even having to turn the page because of audiobooks (though I’m playing the “don’t crash the car while you’re changing CDs” game).
Well, I had a trip to New Orleans, so let’s get another book. I worked my way to the public library to see what they had available. I considered some classics that I was supposed to read in high school and college but didn’t (because I only took 3.5 years of English because of dual credit classes), but I ultimately landed on Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
I got here for a couple of reasons. The first is that for audiobooks I’ve learned I like books I either have already read or books I wouldn’t otherwise read. In this case, I hadn’t read it, but I’ve seen the movie, so I knew the broad strokes of the plot. So if there was a time where I was worried about getting sideswiped by crappy drivers, I could drift away from the book. And that happened. In heavy rain.
The other reason is that I kind of want to read these books (though looking at how many there are, I don’t really want to go down that rabbit hole) because there’s an interesting story being told. BUT, turns out Card has some problematic beliefs he likes to share with the public, and I don’t really want to be in the business of buying his books. I know checking the book out of the library still acts as some support, but my share of contribution to his bottom line is much less at the library than it is in a bookstore.
As with the other audiobooks I’ve listened to, I need to review their telling as much as I review the story. Overall, this was a good cast. And it’s actually the first time that I’ve read one that had a cast. I’m having trouble tracking down the exact number. One place lists five narrators. Another lists three. The three are the main ones, but I’m not really all that sure if there were two more people.
Bouncing between three narrators worked pretty well because there were three points of view represented in the book, so this was an easy way to tell you what the general perspective was. In watching the movie, you really just get the Ender perspective, so I wasn’t expecting the other two (get to that later). They were good if not perfect on voicing the other characters. Nothing lacking though.
The only issue I had was the beginning. The voice starting out sounded surprisingly like Harrison Ford to me (and he’s in the movie). The problem is that he’s voicing a child. And then it turns out he’s not just voicing a child. He’s voicing a 6-year-old. It was hard to remember how young the kids are between the voices and the types of things they were saying.
That said, all in all, good audiobook. Good way to kill 9 or so hours.
On to the book.
Ender’s Game follows (mostly) a small child who is entirely too gifted for his own good as he prepares to take on an alien species that attacked Earth decades ago. The aliens are the buggers. They’ve attacked twice, and the humans are waiting for the third invasion. We follow him from the time right before he leaves home until, well, I can’t tell you how far it goes.
He’s the third child in a time where third children aren’t allowed except for special exceptions, and he is the exception. His older siblings are just as smart but one is a psychopath and the other is too empathetic. Ender is the balance.
What follows is really more a story about psychology than anything else. You see adults pulling strings to force Ender to stretch his abilities beyond any normal reasoning for about 5 years, constantly forcing him to cope on his own.
I really enjoyed the aspects that dealt with leadership. You see a variety of leadership styles, from authoritarian to laissez-faire and everything in between. Obviously, Ender is Card’s idealized version of leadership. You get a balance of it all. Someone who cares, prepares his followers, and then gives them the room to make their own decisions.
This is the positive thing to focus on from the book. In a negative light, you see a lot of manipulation occurring, not so much from Ender, but you see it from pretty much everyone else.
Manipulation is the currency his siblings deal in when you are in the primary B plot of the book. The siblings engage in propaganda and persuasion (those aren’t really the same thing) to try to prevent an all-out war on Earth in the aftermath of the bugger war. And because they’re child geniuses, they’re effective all by using the internet (though Card doesn’t use that term because it was written in the mid-’80s). So as Ender is being manipulated in space, his siblings are manipulating the global public on Earth.
The other aspect of this that’s less than pleasant is the sadism involved in the training of children. And I can’t even tell you one of the worst parts because it gives away plot points. Because the book gives the adult POV at intermittent points, you see some deliberate actions that would have only been inferred if you were only in Ender’s perspective.
This led to two things for me: One, it really made some aspects worse because you see a deliberate action that has negative outcomes, and they knew it (to an extent). Two, the adult POV took away some of the suspense. I don’t think it was a complete waste to have the third narrator, but they gave away a lot of what was going to happen in the rest of the book. Because it’s targeted toward younger readers, this can be forgiven, but I don’t believe it was necessary. Ender feels suspense that you don’t feel as a reader because you already know what decisions have been made.
The other POVs is still something I’m a bit mixed over. One of them stayed with Ender, so it keeps the story flow going. The other doesn’t, but it gives context to things that would otherwise be happening off stage. It interrupts the flow of the story. But it also adds more layers to the story. I don’t know if the story would be better with or without that. You can decide on your own.
I doubt you’ll see a full book review from me for a while, but there are some comic book volumes that are in the works, so there may be an upcoming blitz of the Ms. Marvel reboot that came out.