Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ender's Game is one of those canonical Science Fiction books that every fan ought to read. And I am one of those people who questions and sometimes scoffs at what I ought to do. This is likely the reason I put off reading it for so many years. My children, however, prevailed upon me to read it, claiming it was "the best book eeeevaaar," as only hyperbole-prone teenagers can do. I thought I'd give it a go so that I could at least understand all the inside jokes around the dinner table.
Sorry, kids, not the best book eeeevaaar. A great book, but not the best ever.
The simple prose of the book at the beginning is simply flat and somewhat boring. I read the first few pages and had to convince myself to push further. My reading tastes lean toward meaty: give me a few complex sentences, send me to the dictionary occasionally - I like the challenge. I felt that, despite the subject matter, the prose was altogether too thin. But I pushed on.
What I discovered as I went forward was that slowly, subtly, the prose progresses with the main character, Ender. The book seems to mature with the character, which made it more enjoyable as I went along. The step-by-step revelation of Ender's inner thoughts and motives started to pull me in. The plot itself was transparent - I could guess the ending with about a quarter of the book left. And I guessed correctly.
It's what happened after the obvious ending that blew me away. I won't give it away, but the last chapter of the book is an amazing piece of writing, tying together the seemingly disjointed pieces of the puzzle in a denouement that launched several sequels. You have to slog through the sparse parts and sometimes fake-like-you-care at the beginning of the book but when that last chapter hits - look out! It's an emotional bombshell. I'm not ashamed to admit that I almost cried at the end. It's that good.
And the writing ended up being that good, too. I found myself wishing that the whole book had been written in the style of the last chapter, but I understand, too, that the style itself builds up to a very satisfying conclusion.
There, I've fulfilled my obligation. And I see why some people like the book so much and why some people despise the book so much. If I would have quit the book halfway through or begun skimming, I would not have caught the brilliance at the end. And while I won't be reading all the remaining books in this universe, I think I will pick up Speaker for the Dead, because if it takes off the same way that Ender's Game (*ahem*) ended, it should be a fantastic read.
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