Book: Ender’s Game

My post The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time from a few weeks ago got 100+ comments with some amazing suggestions. I’d read a bunch of them, but I discovered a lot of new things to read.

One that appeared over and over again that I hadn’t yet read was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I gobbled it down last night and this morning while trying to shake the holiday cold that decided to inhabit my body.

Awesome. It exceeded my expectations. As I got into it, I saw threads of lots of other writers, including Asimov and Heinlein, woven through the book. But Card took the story and made it his own, combining it with a classical coming of age story that reminded me of plenty that I read when I was a kid. He wasn’t bashful about mixing young with old, kind with brutal, human with non-human, with a dash of politician in the mix. If you’ve read Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Trilogy you can see where a lot of her ideas came from.

I calibrate scifi with the date published. Ender’s Game was published in 1985 so the PC was already out in the world. Card did a good job with the computer tech, although there was still too much paper communication for critical things. His computer gaming / war simulation stuff was fascinating and well done, in a way that was very accessible to a reader of any age. And his space travel – like most science fiction – was fine, but still a fantasy for the human race in 2012.

I just downloaded Speaker for the Dead and expect I’ll get to it in a couple of days after I read Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, another often recommended book that for some reason has slipped through my fingers so far.

  • What always stuck with me is “The enemy’s gate is down” – I read it more generally as “orient yourself to your goals”…

  • Rainbow’s End is a great novel.

  • Matt S

    Before you read Speaker for the Dead pick up Enders Shadow. It’s a brilliant spin- the story of Enders Game told from the perspective of Bean. It’s a lot of fun.

  • CliffElam

    I read chapters of Enders that Orson posted on our local Fidonet forums for feedback.

    Man, I am old, old, old.


  • Again, you can never write too many posts where you recommend science fiction or any other books to read. You are keeping my read-to list full which is awesome!!

  • Has no one yet posted in Marc Andreesen’s list ? (no longer available on his blog) Note remarks about Vernor Vinge reading order .. I found Charlie Stross and John Scalzi via this; both have well moderated wide ranging blogs worth reading regularly.

  • The enemy’s gate is down.

    One of my fav books ever.

    BTW did you see that “Finding Traction” reached its funding goal last week?

    • Yup – super psyched on Finding Traction. Glad to be a part of it.

  • Toby Rush

    Enders game was awesome. The shadow series fun. I should have stopped there. The rest of the ender series goes down hill.

    • Greg Hao

      Honestly, I thought the series went downhill fast after Ender’s Game. Card wrote another series called “Homecoming Saga” and the first book is “Memory of Earth”. Critics say it was a bit over the top with its Mormon-ness but I thought they were fine books.

  • The Ender Saga is, in my opinion, better than the Shadow Saga (the Bean novels), though Ender’s Shadow is probably the second best book in that universe. The later Ender books get pretty dry and exist mostly as a vehicle for dialogue, but the ideas expressed are ones worth reading and thinking about. The last few Shadow books felt very formulaic in comparison and weren’t as enjoyable to me even if they were easier to read. A War of Gifts is a great, quick read and takes place while the two are in battle school.

    Card thoroughly explores some existential issues to an extent that most scifi writers never do justice. Completely agreed on Asimov lineage…and Heinlein when he isn’t elbow deep in political allegory and exploring sexual freedoms :-). Robinson’s Mars trilogy comes pretty close to Ender’s Game and Speaker if you’re still adding books to the list!

    • I’m going to read Ender’s Shadow next on the recommendation of a bunch of folks.

  • Dael

    Telling the same story once again, but from a different view, Ender’s Shadow opens your mind to see that our view of reality is always relative and partial. Go for it first.

    • Yup – that one is next!

  • I saw in your prior thread that “Wool” was recommended several times. Most people will not have heard of Wool. It’s written in the past year or so and not by one of the greats but Hugh Howey will eventually be known as one of the greats.

    A few months ago Hugh was just working as a clerk in a bookstore. He wrote “Wool 1” during November’s National Novel Writing Month a year or so ago. He couldn’t get it published so he published through Createspace (owned by Amazon) and Kindle Direct. In other words, just like 50 Shades of Grey, he self-published.

    Since then he’s published Wool 1-7. And the “Wool Omnibus” which is 1-5 collected. All of them hit #1 on Amazon’s sci-fi best seller list.

    Random House has since bought the hardcover rights to Wool. And Ridley Scott bought the movie rights.

    I’ve been reading science fiction for 40 years. It’s the best sci-fi series I’ve read. It’s beautiful. I hope you get a chance to read it.

    But, more importantly, publishing is being disrupted in way that hasn’t been seen since the printing press. It’s amazing what is happening now and I can’t wait to see the startups that fall out of this new but ancient industry.

    • Just grabbed Wool. I was going to read Rainbow’s End today but I’ll read Wool instead!

  • If you want an interesting list, Locus just published their list of the best sci-fi and fantasy books of the 20th and 21st centuries,

  • laurayecies

    Almost anti-sci-fi as it talks about living without technology I am in the middle of a great book – “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick

    • Purchased! I love book recommendations – thx!

  • James

    Read Ender’s Shadow, first.

    The Speaker for the Dead book is several centuries after the Shadow series.

    • Got it – that’s the plan!

  • Greg

    Of all the Ender books, I found “Speaker for the Dead” to be far-and-away my favorite. I loved the characters, storytelling, and nature of the conflict. A beautiful book, well-crafted and poignant.

  • Brad – a great read that is little-known but a pure classic is “The Day of the Triffids” by John Wyndham from 1951. A friend loaned it to me several years ago, and it’s a primal mix of hope, desperation, and social commentary, stripped of gadgetry. It’s a quick read that transports you back to the language and concerns of the time. Never seen the movie that followed – heard it’s not so good.

  • Yeah this is a really fun series. I read them all a couple years ago and recently started reading it with my 11-year-old daughter and she loved the first book. second book started to get a little graphic for her…

  • Brad: Didn’t see Neuromancer, William Gibson in the suggestions. It’s a must for any SciFi fan. The first of the CyberPunk Movement. I will also add a vote for SnowCrash. Those two and Ender’s Game round out my top three.

  • JM

    I’ve read through the entire series and I’d recommend skipping the rest of Ender’s books. Jump into the Shadow series (based on Bean) and don’t look back. I found the Ender series to be dry and painful since Orson tried to take on a more mature theme, which didn’t fit his writing style. I finished them off more by force compared to interest. The Shadow series though (Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hedgemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant) still stand up as some of the best sci-fi written to date.

  • Ender’s Game is one of my favorites, but Orson Scott Card is a little tainted for me because of his outspoken anti-gay rights views.

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