Ender's Game

Themes: [[leadership]] [[isolation]] [[strategy]] [[moral dilemma]]

SPOILER WARNING (like the very next sentence, so you're warned)

I read this book knowing the premise "it turns out that the game was real the whole time," but no more detail than that. I think it almost made it more enjoyable to read and try to recognize when the game became real.

So many great ideas from this book

  • Leadership and Isolation
  • The Buggers functioning as cells of a larger organism instead of an army of single organisms
  • The moral dilemma of allowing children to fight murderous battles for the fate of humanity without them knowing
    • and how it's getting less and less unrealistic for us to have a choice like this to make
  • Should the humans have attacked the buggers although they had shown no signs of attack since the second invasion?
    • And deeper questions on how we should handle our inter-galatic relations when they being to happen

A couple of quotes that stuck out to me:

  • "But since adults always said it when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future. Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth." - p. 2
    • This sets the stage for Ender's relationship with adults throughout the book. He is constantly fighting with adults, angry because he knows he is being used and lied to, but can't escape the role they have placed him in.
  • "And Ender also laughed. It was funny. The adults taking all this so seriously, and the children playing along, playing along, believing it too until suddenly the adults went too far, tried too hard, and the children could see through their game. Forget it, Mazer. I don't care if I pass your test, I don't care if I follow your rules. If you can cheat, so can I. I won't let you beat me unfairly -- I'll beat you unfairly first." - p. 293
    • Ender thought this after Bean made a joke about how large the Bugger army was in the final battle.
    • Shortly after this quote, the boys win a miraculous battle and find the adults celebrating because humanity had just won the real war. There was no game after all... Incredibly, that was the state of mind they needed to induce for Ender to beat the buggers. A "fuck you" attitude. The adults put humanity into the hands of a sleep deprived 11 year old to destroy an alien civilization. Pretty bold.
      • The attitude they cultivated does often lead to good results. Teams can mount insane comebacks after every think the game is over. Everyone already thinks they're going to lose, so they can play care free. This is similar to what the adults were going for with Ender in this battle


  • Throughout the book, [[Colonel Graf]], the character responsible for most of Ender's life, continuously isolates Ender. He put him into dangerous situations in the Battle room and even in school during which Ender had no help. This isolation is key to Ender's development.
  • This is an idea described in [[Solitude and Leadership]] by this quote: "The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself." This was a sentiment echoed throughout Ender's Game.
    • Ender was forced into fighting Stilson at the beginning of the story, then Monzo while he was in battle school. In both cases, he had no backup. In both cases he accidentally killed the other boy as a result of the fight they were in.
    • "His isolation can’t be broken. He can never come to believe that anybody will ever help him out, ever. If he once thinks there’s an easy way out, he’s wrecked" (p. 38)
      • Graff says this to Anderson at the beginning of chapter 5, Games
      • From the beginning, Graff is all too aware of how important isolation is to making a great leader
    • "Graff had deliberately set him up to be separate from the other boys, made it impossible for him to be close to them. And he began now to suspect the reasons behind it. It wasn’t to unify the rest of the group—in fact, it was divisive. Graff had isolated Ender to make him struggle. To make him prove, not that he was competent, but that he was far better than everyone else."
    • "as their trust in Ender as command grew, their friendship, remembered from the Battle School days, gradually dissappeared. It was to each that they became close... ender was their teacher and commander, as distant from them as Mazer was from him, and as demanding" - p. 282
      • This describes Ender's relationship to his team. As he pushed harder, he became more isolated. Becoming a better leader meant becoming less connected with your team as friends, and more connected as a teacher. This is what forces the solitude on a great leader

[[The Buggers]]

  • I love Orson's idea behind the buggers. The individuals aren't their own. They belong to the whole, like cells in a body. As a result, they have instant communication with each other and no need for a written language (for the same reason my brain doesn't need written language to tell my fingers to type). This makes them a dangerous force and impossible for us to communicate with them. We cannot connect into their organism to connect hear their thoughts
  • However, they are based around a queen Bugger, who does attempt to communicate with Ender at the end of the book. This attempt at communication gives Ender a sense of connection to the race he unknowingly destroyed, and a chance at reconciliation for his destructive actions.

Futurism, from [[Kevin Kelly]] on [[The North Star]]

  • "Most of theology being done now is being done by science fiction" - Kevin Kelly
    • This quote rings true in Ender's Game. Religion is meant to wrestle with humanities biggest questions. Ender's Game certainly does this
      • This story revolves around a huge question for humanity: How do we handle a possibly violent alien civilization?
        • Based on the questionable decision to go after an alien civilization after a previous invasion and attempt to wipe them out, they train an 11 year old boy to be a mass killer via a video game - and never tell him it's real
        • Is this okay? Should they have told him? Should they have let such a small child do this?
        • They actually bred him from birth for this position? Is that realistic in any way? Parents would love to control the fate of their kids, but it's impossible.
  • Kevin expressed concern that not enough people are putting effort into imagining positive futures in our world, and that is one of the main goals of his writing - giving us positive goals to aim for as technology progresses.
    • In many ways, this book is a negative depiction of the future, filled with violence and deceit. On the other hand, it does a great job of posing important questions for us to consider as technology brings us closer and closer to a world where problems like those faced in Ender's world could be problems faced in our world
    • Also, the story ultimately ends in peace on earth and peace on the new frontier Ender and Violet led off to Bugger World. Ender also found hidden communication between himself and the Buggers that may lead to a reconciliation with his own unknowing actions and the lost Bugger population. Even when things look really bad, they can still end up okay.
    • "Most of theology being done now is being done by science fiction" - Kevin Kelly. Science fiction is where we wrestle with humanities biggest questions. Ender's game forces us to consider our future.
      • Is it okay to force a small child into killing an alien race in order to save humanity, without even telling the kid.
      • Should we destroy an alien race if we are at risk of them destroying us?
      • Will we be able to face the strength or different weapons of an alien race?
      • How are aliens going to be different from us?
      • Sending people to new planets, and how they need to make a large commitment when they are traveling so fast that by the time they get there 50 earth years have passed

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