Skip to Content

Book Review: "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card

Peter might be scum, but Peter had been right, always right; the power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can’t kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you.

Ender’s despair after killing Bonzo Madrid

As a referenced text in the Marine Commandant’s Professional Reading List, it’s ironic how the central premise of “Ender’s Game” is how Ender doesn’t want to hurt anybody. Again and again, after his countless enemies lie dead at his feet, Ender always wonders why they chose to attack in the first place. Ender’s tragedy is how power itself invites response, and how true power over your enemy comes from understanding him enough to love him – and destroy him.

Ender Wiggin is the third child of the family, born after Peter Wiggin (the eldest) and Valentine Wiggin (the only daughter) failed out of military training – not due to intellectual inabilities, but their emotional personas. Peter was too sociopathic, and Valentine was too gentle. In Ender, the International Fleet sought to combine Peter’s killing abilities with Valentine’s human touch. In this, they succeeded. Ender rose from a beaten kid on the playground to the dominant commander in the entire Fleet – by the time he was eleven.

And in this, Ender found no joy. Forced to grow up too early, and surrounded by people who would rather use him for his abilities than nuture him, Ender always rejected humanity’s notion that peace was not possible, that there is no way out but war. Whenever he could, he tried reasoning his way out of tight situations. And when his time came, when his life finally became his own, he sought to make amends for his actions, proving as adept in peace as he was in war.

Ender teaches us how while we must respect the laws of power, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build a better world. The hard part isn’t making a decision, it’s living with it. A better world, and a better choice, is the only way we could ever throw off those shackles.