by Orson Scott Card
Ender is third. His parents got special permission to have a third child, seeing as the first two were such geniuses.
Ender is chosen to go to Battle School. They need to train young if they’re going to protect earth from the buggers.
Ender excels. And then his troubles begin.
Many consider Card’s novel a classic, and it’s easy to see why. Ender provides an arresting protagonist who struggles with conflicts within and without. Even as he wrestles with the morality of what he does, he moves to protect himself and even kill again and again. The layers of conflicts and their resolutions keep a reader from resting too long. Secondary characters provide other views of Ender’s problems even while adding counterpoints and rich subplots. They all weave together to provide an arresting and thought-provoking novel.
I have nothing to complain about with this book. Character, pacing, plot – they all excel. I finished reading in three days, which is fast for me. The ending images in particular lingered long after I shut the book.
So why was I not blown away?
Something magical happens when you uncover a novel that shimmers in its perfection. You never would have expected it. The prose performs magic on your imagination and transports you to a world all your own. You discover everything with the protagonist as if this was your own private world.
I couldn’t do that with Ender. So many people had already read this, and I was keenly aware of that fact. When I came across a line that a friend had gleefully quoted weeks ago, rather than discovering a new gem, I felt as if I was finally catching up. When I read a line that XKCD had once used as a punchline, I felt as if I was elbowing my way through a crowded room to get to the other side. Oh, and everyone had already reached the other side of the room and now milled about talking about how wonderful it was as I struggled to get there for the first time.
This is not the book’s fault.
Once something attains the status of “classic” it has a difficult time finding new admirers. I read the book when several friends kept saying how good it was. Except, for me, that’s the exact time I shouldn’t read a book. The entire reading experience becomes tainted by a “sloppy seconds syndrome” for me. So much better to come to it at a point when no one is telling me anything about it.
The book itself? It’s well, well worth your time. The world is richly imagined. The characters, and particularly Ender, grab attention. The plot never sits still. You’ll hate the antagonists and root Ender on right until the end.
I just wish I had enjoyed such a good book more.