Sunday, July 8, 2012
Published by: Starscape
Publication Date: 1985
Format: Paperback, 324 Pages
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)
Ender Wiggin is the shame of his family. He is a Third. On an Earth where the population is still reeling countless years later from the last alien "Bugger" invasion, children are limited to two... unless there is a government mandate or the parents live outside the laws of decency. Ender was government mandated. In order to save humanity, the government has decided that children who are gifted should be trained to be their saviours. Ender's siblings, Peter and Valentine, both showed potential as being the most gifted children ever to be monitored for training. Yet Peter's violence and Valentine's empathy ultimately doomed them to a life on Earth. Still, the potential was so great that Ender Wiggin was "commissioned."
Ender has spent years being monitored to see if he would fulfil the potential of his siblings. Despite appearances to the contrary, the government decides that Ender is indeed their ideal savior. Yet, in order to achieve this end result, the rules will be broken. Battle School has been run in a space station orbiting Earth and training the youths in a very set curriculum of schoolwork and mock battles. Divided into armies and platoons, the students fight each other in a safe environment to hone their skills that will be used against the Buggers. When Ender arrives, all the rules are changed. By isolating Ender and promoting him beyond his age group, they hope to create the greatest military mind the universe has ever seen. He is a tactical genius, thinking outside the box and is able to embrace concepts that other students can't even understand on the most rudimentary level.
Soon Ender is promoted out of Battle School before even reaching his teens and sent out to the far reaches of the galaxy to Command School, where he is trained by the greatest military mind ever, before him that is. Put in a simulator, Ender is virtually learning how to control a fleet and fellow commanders who must answer to him. Yet, deep in his mind he starts to question if the Buggers are the real threat. While back on Earth, his siblings might pose a far greater threat because they have realized something that Ender has only guessed at. They are spurned geniuses, and they have the world at their feet.
A space age Lord of the Flies, a tale of justified violence and uncompromising brutality. This are the criticisms that are often written about this book. Yet... this was not what bothered me. Growing up when I have, the world around me has desensitized me to violence. Not to say that I didn't consider this book violent, I just considered that to be the least of it's flaws. I have never read a book by Orson Scott Card previously, nor will I ever again. While many believe this book to be the pinnacle of science fiction, I personally was left, not only scratching my head, but with the taste of bile in my mouth.
If not for the fact that this was for my book club I would not have finished it. If Card isn't spewing hatred, he is plodding along with his mind numbingly boring plot. This book is very much a battle movie, in that, you can see Michael Bay loving getting to set children into combat with lots of gore and death. This did not make for a good book. Moving past the fact that it is badly written, you really have to give me this, it's clunky, awkward and the little "omniscient narrations" before each chapter where laughable, the language and hatred that spilled out of the book just shocked me. The racism and bigotry floored me. I don't believe in censorship or taking away free speech. But the fact that there are children out there reading this book and thinking this language is acceptable, chills me to the marrow of my bones. From homophobic slurs against a little boy Shen, who comes to be called worm because of his effeminate walk, to racial anti-Semitic language used against Ender's first army leader because he is Jewish, and not only that, having Rose himself "self deprecatingly" joke about it himself shows even more that it's acceptable to children who don't know better! The book just compounds hatred and bile into this big mess that I wanted to fling out the window.
For many years I have tried to come to grips with the fact you sometimes have to separate the artist from their art. A beautiful painting might have been painted by a horrible bigot. A classic of literature might have been written by a pervert, ie, the Lewis Carroll/J.M. Barrie conundrum. Yet this is impossible when the views and opinions of the author are so a part of the text that they are inescapable. After a few chapters I realized that Orson Scott Card must be one of the biggest homophobes the world has seen. Therefore I did some goodreads trawling. Going past all my friends who mysterious loved this book (they are going to have a lot to answer for at book club!) I went to those reviews who gave the book a star. Or as I call these reviewers, "my people." There a found a link to an online article where he railed against homosexuality saying that homosexuals are allowed to marry, so long as they marry the opposite sex, not where their heart lies. Not that Card believes that homosexuals have hearts... because "the dark secret of homosexual society -- the one that dares not speak its name -- is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally." WHAT!?!
Card, you can believe what you want to believe, just like anyone who is reading my blog can, just, don't do it around me. I'm not trying to preach here or anything. I was raised to believe in love. But to spew this bile and not be called out on it. To be lauded with awards for this hate spewing work? You have an amazing mind, you where able to envision how technology would evolve. In the eighties, you saw the rise of the Internet, the rise of bloggers like me and the power we would have. You saw children working on desks that are quite literally our tablets, such as the iPad. You pre-saged all this amazing technology, yet your belief system lives in the dark ages. I'm calling you out on it. Hopefully one day people will realize that your book is nothing more than a platform for your hate.
*If you would care to read the full article referenced above, it can be found here. I will warn you though that it has many inflammatory opinions, none of which I hold with.