I watched the movie Ender’s Game before and enjoyed it. Recently I found a copy of the book in a used bookstore, so decided to see how the novel compared. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though found the movie tracked the book almost completely. Personally, I don’t find that a bad thing at all, but I’ve read about people who complain that they don’t need a visual version of the book, they can see it in their own heads as they read.
That being said, the book is told from the close-in point of view of Ender, so we get to learn a lot of his thoughts. Ender is a very introspective guy. He knows he’s really smart and has basically been bred to be a military leader, but he hates violence. Ender is the third child in a society that restricts children to a maximum of two. Ender is actually his nickname because he’s the third, and final child, hence the end one.
Enders older brother Peter, is also an unbelievably excellent military leader. Except that he revels in hurting and is vicious even when it isn’t necessary. Ender’s older sister Valentine is even smarter than Peter, an even better military leader, yet is too kind. She refuses to make sacrifices even when they’d lead to a better outcome in the end. Ender, though, he avoids violence until he can’t, then he explodes so viciously that he not only beats his attacker now, but forever. He punishes his attacker, destroys them, ensures they’ll never attack again.
The military snatches Ender up and puts him in a grueling training regime where he’s always pushed, always pressured. Each time he excels, they change the rules. Then he excels again. He’s so successful that he winds up taking the dregs and castoffs and turning them into an army that goes on an unprecedented winning streak in their games, despite the constant rule changes. To keep Ender off balance, they promote him to command school years before anyone else has.
Where he excels once again, constantly forcing the teachers to struggle to make things more challenging for him. Ultimately they decide he is ‘the one’ so put him in charge. He is ten years old.
The version of the book I read had an authors note in it. I found it very interesting reading, as the author talked about several people who wrote him (this was before the ‘net; how many people can actually write letters any longer?) discussing how passionate they were about his characterization. Many of them were themselves child prodigies and struggled to get adults to understand their thinking process. Card wrote the children as children, but very smart ones. Most adults treat children as a different species while Card treated them as small adults.
Should you watch the movie or read the book? Well I’m going to say both, but it depends on your preferred way of consuming media. The movie cuts out a huge side plot in the book where Peter and Valentine work, basically as bloggers, to mold a new world order for after Ender defeats the aliens. It’s an interesting subplot, but very distinct from the military aspect, so may not appeal to those who enjoy that part of the flick. All the main turning points in the movie are in the book, but there’s extra background and, of course, we’re inside Ender’s head. If you are not an avid reader, then the movie will give you all the important elements of the book, in some cases nearly verbatim. If you prefer reading, the movie won’t add much, except awesome visuals.
I recommend this book (and movie) to anyone interested in military, scifi, or a damn good story.