Audiobook Review: “Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition”
by Orson Scott Card
Published 2002 by Macmillan Audio
Duration: 11 hours 5 minutes
Having read “Ender’s Game” many years ago I thought I should revisit this book. This revisitation was prompted by two events. The first was listening to the audiobook “Ender’s World” which was a collection of essays and information on the creation of this wonderful book. Second is that the movie will be coming this November.
The movie is based not only on this book but in order for these events to be properly displayed in a movie format but also based on the book “Ender’s Shadow” which parallels “Ender’s Game” but from the point of view of the character Bean. So with that in mind, you can probably guess which book is next on my list.
But let’s get back to this book for now. When I first read this book (over 10 years ago) I was just enthralled by the complexity of the story. There are so many things going on in this book that just grab you and pull you into the ride that you get lost in the story. One of the features of the story is the ageless factor of Ender Wiggin. Ender is only six years old when the book starts and by the age of nine he is given his own army to command. Ender’s age is only mentioned once in a while through the book, and that, I think, is just to remind you that he is a kid. The events that take place not only seem like something that is beyond a child that age, but the way Ender handles himself the reader/listener forgets that he is only a child. This fact would be brought up once in a while that I would have to stop and rethink the section I just heard, in the case of this audiobook and put the book back into perspective.
This having to pause and reflect reminds me of when I first read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” After reading the entire book, I stopped and realized that the main character, Arthur Dent, was going through all the wacky space/time adventures while still in his pajamas and robe. While Orson Scott Card provided the drops in the changing of Ender’s age throughout the book at the proper moments it does cause the reader/listener to pause and reflect. This pause is especially needed for this book since there are so many facets of life and war given to the reader throughout the tale of Ender Wiggin.
This book is definitely one of those great sci-fi novels that takes more than one reading to fully enjoy. Much like the “Dune” series by Herbert, or the “Foundation” series by Asimov so much more is gleaned through multiple readings. This time around I was able to absorb a lot more of the themes running through this book.
I’ll touch on some of the themes and what I gathered out of them but will leave most of the concepts up to you on your individual reads. Before I do that I have to talk about this audiobook version. The multiple voices used in this production really helped sort out the sections that are told through various characters in the book. All of the performances were top notch and able to fully reflect the characters in thought and dialogue.
The idea of this all being a game is one of the first things that grab you in the reading and listening of this book. All of the other important ideas in the novel are interpreted through the context of the games. Ender does win all of the games and he thinks that the games are no more than they appear, and he does not realize the real meaning of his final game until it is far too late. The difference between what is a game and what is reality becomes less and less clear as the story unfolds. The very first game played in the book is “buggers and astronauts,” a game that Peter, Ender’s bully older brother, makes Ender play, and it is a game that all kids play, pretty much like cowboys and Indians used to be played in my childhood (I always wanted to be the Indians). However, in Ender’s case the game is more than it seems, because Peter’s hatred for him is real, and he inflicts physical pain upon Ender in the course of the game. This is one game that Ender never wins.
At Battle School, Ender plays two different types of games. On his computer he plays the mind game, a game that even its creators do not properly understand and one that effects Ender’s life in direct ways. It is through this game that Ender is able to come to terms with the changes in his life. In this game there is also a bit of a surprise in the end of the book, which I won’t spoil for you. In the battle room Ender plays war games. These games are everything to the kids at the school. Their lives revolve around playing games, and so the meaning of the word itself shifts from a voluntary fun experience to a necessary and crucial aspect of life. These games and their implications cause Bonzo’s death and create rancor and jealousy throughout the school.
Finally we come to the greatest games that Ender plays, while he is the commander of the Third Invasion. Playing these games is debilitating to Ender’s health. He cannot sleep, he barely eats, and he is forced to be a leader and not a friend to those whom he cares for. This game also has a bit of a surprise for the reader.
Compassion is the redeeming feature in “Ender’s Game.” Compassion is the theme that runs through Ender’s life. It is the defining feature of his existence. This is what separates him from his brother Peter and the other cruel people in the story. The reason that he plays the games so well is his ability to understand the enemy and to inspire loyalty. More than that, it is compassion that saves Ender. If not for his compassion he would have become either a killing machine or a power hungry creature like Peter. This compassion and empathy are one of the features that redeems this whole book and what made room for it to be required reading in the Marine Corps Officer training.
So not just your everyday sci-fi, “Ender’s Game” has a lot to offer. Even if you have read the book before, pick it up again, or try out the audiobook and find out what more it has to offer. On top of all that it will be a good refresher for when the movie is released.