Ender Wiggen, a young boy of six, has the nickname “Third” at school. What this means is he’s the third child born into his family, in an overpopulated future world where it is only lawful for parents have a maximum of two children. Legal permission was granted to the Wiggin family by the military, because their first two kids were very nearly the ideal candidates to save the world – but not quite. What the military needs is a boy genius whom they can shape and train to become the most brilliant military commander the world has ever known.
The reason they need him so much is because earth is under threat by an alien race known as the “buggers.” This nickname was coined because of the insect-like appearance of the creatures and also because all attempts at communicating with them have failed – we simply don’t have anything else to call them. Countless thousands of humans died in the first invasion. Humanity now prepares to send troops to the bugger homeworld before the aliens can launch a second. And if Ender Wiggin’s training is successful, he will be the one to lead the battle.
By all appearances, this is a fairly standard alien invasion yarn that doesn’t seem to be saying anything startling, but what makes this book great is that it is told from the perspectve of a young boy. We get to share in and empathise with all his fears and hopes. Emotionally he is much like any other boy, but intellectually he is on another plane. A large part of the book is taken up with Ender’s training in the anti-gravity Battleroom; the strategies he comes up with for beating his opponents are simple yet brilliant, and a joy to discover.
To cap it all, the novel finishes with the most unpredicatable ending to a galactic-scale war that I could ever imagine.
Ender’s Game has, over time, become the first volume in a quadrilogy. All of the books are worth reading, but this one is without doubt the best. More recently the novel has spawned a spin-off series called the Shadow saga, which is concerned with Ender’s friends from Battle School.
It’s good to see this edition of Ender’s Game repackaged as a young adult novel. This is a wonderful adventure to be read and enjoyed by all ages.