My rating: 2 of 5 stars
an interesting read, but kind of a schizophrenic book.
on the one hand, it spends most of its pages covering a familiar story: The Chosen One goes through school to learn to fight (like Harry Potter with simulators instead of magic) and Save the World. so, by page count, one could consider this a very pro-war book. culminating in a genocide.
on the other hand, by the end it’s building a religion around the the sweetness of the genocide victims. ghostly, they forgive their executioners, and once again war is shown to be Just a Misunderstanding–Oops.
it’s a kind of amnesia peculiar to war stories: once the war is won, everybody can pretend that we didn’t really mean it, one way or another. we certainly wouldn’t have done it if there had been another option. we didn’t, say, like it or anything.
but! the first 95% of the book is spent on glorifying it. the last 5% on repudiating it. i think, in terms of page count, the value and pleasure of war are accounted for quite nicely.
so much of this book is just fundamentally not believable (as Twain would say, it’s a stretcher). superintelligent children? sure, no prob. but superintelligent children who are molded into military geniuses by the age of 11? not with ya, there (and don’t talk to me of Alexander the Great–he didn’t have fleets in three dimensions to command). and what of the maturation stages of all children, superintelligent or no? Ender rather does 0-60 in no seconds, in that regard. the Battle School’s methods run counter to military doctrine on how to make a unit behave like a unit, rather than a bunch of prima donnas. Ender’s own reaction to finding out he’s just killed an entire species is, for a kid we’ve been told again and again doesn’t want to be a killer, rather the opposite of what one might expect. (and then to find out later that he killed two boys in the flesh, and find that ho-hum, is also unbelievable).
in the present-day world, the only analogue to Ender’s experience is drone pilots. and drone pilots have some of the highest rates of PTSD of all warfighters.
this book has some interesting moments, some puzzling ones, a lot of quite cliche ones. it’s well-written. in a few months i will have forgotten i read it.