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With word of a film adaptation of Ender’s Game becoming news once again, I thought it might be a good time to not only start up a fan-site, but do some chapter reviews of what I used to called my favorite book in the 6th grade. I bought the Kindle edition of the book and since it started at the Introduction written by Orson Scott Card in 1991, I decided to read it.

I’ve had the paperback for years now, but the last time I read the novel was at least six or more years ago. In the three or four times I’ve read the book since middle school, I’ve never once read the entire introduction, taking Mr. Card’s own advice and flat out skipping it. Although it wasn’t absolutely fantastic and wondrous, I did find one bit very interesting:

The novel set me, not to dreaming, but to thinking, which is Asimov’s most extraordinary ability as a fiction writer. What would the future be like? How would things change? What would remain the same?

This book was written over 25 years ago and back then, I thought it was amazingly futuristic and sophisticated. So now that I’m reading this book 21 years after my first time through, I have to wonder what will have changed in Ender’s world for me. Surely I’ll have a better grasp of Card’s technology descriptions? I should be able to see any dated areas, right?

With a movie industry that can now give us eye candy films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Iron Man, surely a novel like this will have benefited from being stuck on a stalled bus for this long. Alexander Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are now in ‘soft prep’ for the film, so they’re undoubtedly sifting through the story, doing the same thing I’m about to do. Given the rumors of what torpedoed previous attempts to bring this to the big screen (the author’s meddling), I’d rather just dive in and see for myself than wait around for a movie that may or may not ever come.

The novel begins with the chapter titled “Third” and we are tossed into the middle of a conversation between two people determining the fate of a boy they’ve been watching. He’s being pitched as “The One”; the savior of the human race.

“If the buggers get him, they’ll make me look like his favorite uncle.”

“All right. We’re saving the world after all. Take him.”

As the chapter goes on, we learn more about who the boy is. Ender is having a monitor removed, one that was surgically inserted into the back of his neck when he was three years old. The adults tell him it won’t hurt, but he knows she’s lying. I remember thinking this about the damned nurse at my pediatrician’s office too. “Won’t hurt a bit” means it’ll hurt. “Hurt a little bit” means grit your teeth and squeeze the blood from mom’s hand. For Ender, it’s much worse.

The doctor was twisting something at the back of Ender’s head. Suddenly a pain stabbed through him like a needle from his neck to his groin. Ender felt his back spasm, and his body arched violently backward; his head struck the bed. He could feel his legs thrashing, and his hands were clenching each other, wringing each other so tightly that they arched.

I don’t really understand the hand clenching part, to be honest. I just have no idea what he’s describing here. The nurse has to give him a muscle relaxant and the doctor gives a particularly cheesy line.

“They leave these things in the kids for three years, what do they expect? We could have switched him off, do you realize that? We could have unplugged his brain for all time.”

After reading about Card chastising people in the introduction for their boring script writing, I didn’t think I’d end up saying that I found this little conversation strange and unrealistic. Who says “for all time”, especially a doctor?

Ender goes back to class disoriented and feeling like he’s lost something. He’s immediately teased by a boy in his class named Stilson for having his monitor removed. Apparently having your monitor removed means you’re no longer of interest to the government.

He turns his attention to his desk, which is one of the things I’m looking forward to imagining with more modern eyes. Back in 1991, my family didn’t even have a home computer. Students can type reminders to themselves, upload (though Card uses the term “dump”) data to their home computers, and they use child-size keyboards. At the end of class, some students gather at the printer to get their printouts and I can’t help but laugh at the idea that when I first read this, I undoubtedly envisioned the loud SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEE SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE noises that dot-matrix printers used to make.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about:

Totally awful. No doubt a make believe future printer in a movie today will be even better than the fastest laser printer we have now.

Back to Ender. We find out that this boy who can hack school computer desks is only six years old. Six. It gets crazier. He leaves school, knowing what’s coming. Sure enough, Stilson is waiting for him. Backed into a corner, Ender knows he has to make an example out of Stilson or he’ll be tormented for the rest of his life. Wait sorry, for all time! No, seriously, there’s that phrase again.

He doesn’t just defend himself though. He freaking kicks Stilson’s ass into next Saturday.

Ender, however, was trying to figure out a way to forestall vengeance. To keep them from taking him in a pack tomorrow. I have to win this now, and for all time, or I’ll fight it every day and it will get worse and worse.

So Ender Walked to Stilson’s supine body and kicked him again, viciously in the ribs. Stilson groaned and rolled away from him. Ender walked around and kicked him again, in the crotch.

“Just remember what I do to people who try to hurt me. From then on you’d be wondering when I’d get you, and how bad it would be.” He kicked Stilson in the face. Blood from his nose spattered the ground nearby. “It wouldn’t be this bad,” Ender said. “It would be worse.

In his introduction, Card mentions a teacher of gifted children who loathed the book, saying that children, even gifted ones, simply don’t talk like that. Taking that last bit into account, I’d have to agree with the teacher. I get the point, it’s just worded so strangely. Maybe it’s the “from then on you’d be wondering” part. The tense just seems off.

Ender’s older brother Peter is an angry, sadistic boy and we see that Ender is different when he heads for the bus stop and cries the whole time he waits. Thankfully, he does not cry for all time.

I am just like Peter. Take my monitor away, and I am just like Peter.

Right off the bat, I know they’re going to have to age Ender up or have one heck of a casting call. I don’t see it being too much of an issue to make him eight instead of six. Haley Joel Osment was 11 when he did The Sixth Sense and he was supposed to be nine in the movie. I can’t see an actual six year old being able to pull off an acting job like Ender, so having a 10 year old play an 8 year old sounds like a better way to go to me.

Next up, we meet Peter.

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