Monday, November 11, 2013

MMGM Classic: Enders Game by Orson Scott Card

Published: October 1st 2013 originally published in 1977
ISBN: 0765338211
Genre: Middle grade, science fiction 
Publisher: Tor Books
Themes: gaming, adventure, friendship, loyalty, bravery, control, hegemony, compassion
Add it on: Goodreads, / Amazon / Barnes And Noble/ *Indie Bound*

About The Book: In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

First Line: I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one.

Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My thoughts: As a classic, I saw no reason to relate a few reviews, good, bad or indifferent. Especially since the book, besides winning numerous awards, is a work held as a science fiction masterpiece. I was more interested in what I could learn and apply to my own writing. The following are observations of Card's use of words, sentences and paragraphs to tell his story.  

Words: Card uses past tense to tell his story and I found his narrative full of active verbs. The following is an excerpt from page 151 where Ender is engaged in a fight. I have highlighted the active verbs. Notice the lack of adverbs. 

"Ender grasped the shoulders of the third boy's shirt and pulled him up sharply, butting him in the face with his helmet. Again a scream and a shower of blood. The two boys who had his legs were wrenching at them, twisting him. Ender threw the boy with the bleeding nose at one of them; they entangled, and Ender's leg came free."

Sentences: I like to see how a writer varies his sentences, when he chooses a long sentence, where he puts breaks. I like to observe these choices and see how a sentence is better for it. In the following sentence, a description of Peter from Valentine's perspective, notice the rhythm and the progression of information. 

"Peter has always been a husbandman of pain, planting it, nurturing it, devouring it greedily when it was ripe; better he should take it in these small, sharp doses than with dull cruelty to children in the school." (159)  

Paragraph: Some say that how a writer divides his paragraphs is one way to distinguish one writer from another. A quick flip through the pages reveals that card averages only 3-5 paragraphs per page, unless there is dialogue. For a middle grade reader these are long. There is some debate as to who the audience is for his book, but that's not what I'm interested in. I'm always looking for ways a writer uses paragraph breaks to manipulate pace and dramatic effect. The following is an example of where the paragraphs diminish to a one sentence paragraph. Valentine is thinking about Peter and how the move has been good for him. 

     Still, it was good. Peter never fought anymore. Never bullied. got along well with everybody. It was a new Peter.
     Everyone believed it. Father and Moth said it, so often it made Valentine want to scream at them. It isn't the new Peter! It's the old Peter, only smarter.
     How smart? Smarter than you, Father. Smarter than you, Mother. Smarter than anybody you have ever met.
     But not smarter than me.
     "I've been deciding," said Peter, "whether to kill you or what."

    Do you think the impact of Peter's words would be as strong if all Card wrote was: Valentine knew Peter hadn't changed? Probably not. He used the paragraph breaks to build tension. Setting off the sentence where Valentine declares that Peter isn't smarter than her really grabs your attention. 

About The Author: Orson Scott Card

Who: Best known for his science fiction novels Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow, Orson Scott Card has written in many other forms and genres. Beginning with dozens of plays and musical comedies produced in the 1960s and 70s, Card's first published fiction appeared in 1977 -- the short story "Gert Fram" in the July issue ofThe Ensign, and the novelet version of "Ender's Game" in the August issue of Analog. Website


  1. Thanks for telling me about this. I know his books are ever popular with kids and I like anything that gets kids reading.

  2. Fascinating. I've read Ender's Game (years ago) and a few of Card's other books, but haven't ever analyzed his writing style or seen it broken down like this. I thoroughly enjoyed it!


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