“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card: a book review

Gavin Hood, the director of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, began filming an adaptation of the sci-fi classic “Ender’s Game” in February 2012. The film is slated to release November 1st, 2013, when I turn 28. It’s sure to be a better movie than book. This is my review:

ABOUT THE FILM ADAPTATION:

The first issue is the nature of science fiction: it has everything to do with other-worldly visuals and spectacles and deals with humanity and controversial ideas. All good science fiction films have these two elements. One of them – the ideas – comes across the best in the books. The other, by the very nature of our biological anatomy – the visual world of the story – will almost always be better realized in the film adaptations, no matter the descriptive powers of the book’s author. (Yes, being in a character’s head is always more achievable in books, not movies.) Even the weakest of set designers and directors of photography can plan out a visually comparable and interesting world with a mediocre director at the helm.

Furthermore, the reason why “Ender’s Game” will specifically translate better as a story on the big screen is because the book is slightly meandering in the middle and some of the vocabulary used in dialogue simply hasn’t aged well. Both of these elements will be improved by a modern, 21st Century, high-glossed special effects, Hollywood treatment. Why it’s taken decades to be made into a movie, I’ll never know, but I’m sure there’s some political or legal yarn worthy of its own 10-minute documentary when “Ender’s Game” surely comes to BluRay in 2014.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

So, the actual book. Why did it not blow me away? Maybe because I am 26. If I was 16, I’d probably orgasm over this, but the truth is, it does read a bit like a Z-flick, quarter-dollar comic from the fifties, or a barely polished radio serial. I think perhaps in telling such a simple story, it was overwritten, and ended up having long stretches of very cardboard dialogue. I know the point of these six-year old kids talking the way they did was to show how smart they were, but I still never bought they were six and seven and ten years old talking this way. Something struck unauthentic with me. Maybe too much time has passed since the late seventies when this came out. “Last One there bottles their own farts” to paraphrase. Yeah, that was in there.

Poo poo on you fart-mouth Magoo. I made that one up.

This book felt like this: soldier training, practice simulations, metaphors, naked little boys sleeping or showering.

And then: more Training, game simulations, blunt ideas, naked little boys again.

Then it got good after 300 pages. Then a simulation wasn’t a simulation, but was really Ender Battle Commanding, and poof, he killed the bad guys.

The middle of this book carried very little conflict and was exhausting, and I really disagreed with the choice to weigh the chapters how they were: less than 100 pages for the first seven chapters, and the following seven chapters were 200 pages. Could you have broken it up, Orson? Cut back on some dialogue? Made the training and jargon and repetition of the saggy middle more lively?

I do understand and appreciate the themes and societal/governmental statements proposed by “Ender’s Game” and Mr. Card, the author. I get it. Military is bad. War is terrible. Government shouldn’t control kids and monitor us from the womb. Liberty and blah blah. Kids play combat games like today’s “Call of Duty” franchise, don’t understand how serious war really is, and then you can put them at the controls, and they’ll probably do pretty good since their desensitized or indoctrinated. We make children fight our wars, in so many words. It speaks of innocence, the desire to be loved, compassion, friendship, honor , and asks if the ends justify the means to keep the human race alive.

Okay. But, just because the last five pages of chapter 14 were excellent in the conversation between Graff and Ender where all the shit is finally expose and Ender realized what really happened, doesn’t make the book a exceptionally well written. Graff’s speech is good though. Ideas = good. Flow = bad.

It does everything you’d expect in a basic sci-fi to do, and maybe “Ender’s Game” was once great for pioneering these ideas or doing it for a young adult audience first or perhaps it was really the best in its time, but over the past thirty years, it’s time to move over.

This is a book to respect but not love. One to read but not own. One that the obsessed fans of the genre will always praise however outdone it become by superior work.

This has never been a 5/5 novel.

Anything you tell me I missed, trust me, I didn’t. I liked the book, and I suppose it’s a classic, but so what? Graff’s ultimate deception and manipulation of Ender. Got it. The relationship between Ender and his siblings. Got it. What Ender ultimately wants to be and what he cannot be because of what other’s have made him into. Got it.

I didn’t get that awe-inspired impact from it, though the ending made up for the middle, and I like that Ender takes on the responsibility of attempting to right his wrongs and escape his demons by trying to find a suitable homeworld for the final Queen. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, read the freaking book.

But I’ll tell ya what I’m not doing: reading the other 8-plus books in this series. There are too many better books out there right now. No one should commit to this series in this modern time we live in, a time of literary abundance.

I tip my hat to Orson Scott Card, but in the end I say: “Have a good day, sir. My farts need bottling.”

MH

3.5/5

go here for info on the film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1731141/

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