Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ender's Game

At the age of six, Andrew Wiggin, who prefers to be called Ender, is taken from his family to be trained as a soldier. Test results and close observation have convinced Earth’s military, in the form of a certain Colonel Graff, that Ender may hold the key to the planet’s defence. The enemy are the buggers, a race who have already sent two invasion forces with near-disastrous consequences for humanity. Once at Battle School, a combination of coursework, games, and psychological manipulation are used to train Ender for the most important battle of all.

Some time ago, I picked up a copy of First Meetings, a group of four stories set in the Enderverse, including the original Ender’s Game, a novelette that appeared in Analog in 1977 (it wasn’t expanded and published as a novel until 1985.) Somewhat against my better judgement, I read the novelette. Having heard so much about the novel, I wanted to read it. Once the novelette was in my hands, though, I couldn’t help but read it, even though I feared that it would provide an inferior experience and lessen my pleasure when it came time to read the “real” story. I was justified in the former fear, but not the latter.

The novel is by far the better telling of the story. It takes everything that was good about the novelette, and adds a wealth of detail, character development, and emotion, without a single wasted word. I thought knowing the end would make reading the novel pointless; instead, it only made clear to me how little Card depended on a flashy climax to keep the reader’s interest. As well as having more time to explore the existing characters from the novelette, the expanded form gave Card room to create many new secondary characters, all of whom are worth the space they’re given in the novel.

My trip to the bookstore today will definitely include a search for the first sequel, Speaker for the Dead. If you’re the slightest bit interested in SF or war fiction, and you haven’t read Ender’s Game yet, do it. Now. Today.

X-posted at my blog.