Vintage SciFi Month review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Thanks to Andrea from the Little Red Reviewer for hosting #VintageSciFiMonth. The idea is to read anything that was published before 1979.

I’ve chosen Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card which squeaks in, having first been published in 1977 (as a short story and then later adapted into the full length novel).


Mr NW read Ender’s Game a number of years ago and recommended it, and I had seen the 2013 film based on the book. I was relieved to find, as is often the case, that the book was much better than the movie.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Ender’s Game is a 1985 military science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. Set in Earth’s future, the novel presents an imperiled mankind after two conflicts with the “buggers”, an insectoid alien species. In preparation for an anticipated third invasion, children, including the novel’s protagonist, Ender Wiggin, are trained from a very young age through increasingly difficult games including some in zero gravity, where Ender’s tactical genius is revealed.

Points to like about this book:

  • Mazer Rackham, the original hero against the buggers, is a New Zealander! Oh, we are so exotic (ha!). In the film he was played by some guy putting on the worst Australian accent ever.
  • The sci-fi concepts: this book was written at a time when computers took up whole rooms and the internet was still just a concept really, and yet here we have personal, portable computers, with instant messaging and we have two kids using “the nets” to push their personal agenda.
  • I enjoyed the battleroom training scenes, and seeing Ender progress through tougher and tougher challenges.
  • The end: I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t read it, but the revelation about why Ender was chosen, why they had to use children and the whole meaning of it all was explained much more fully in the book, and therefore the whole narrative was much more satisfying than that of the movie.


Points to dislike about this book:

  • This book starts off rather slowly, it wasn’t until around 100 pages in that I began to feel like I actually was enjoying reading it. Perhaps it was the very chronological telling of the tale.
  • A lot of the dialogue seemed rather heavy and serious, especially seeing as most the characters are children, and I feel like a few light hearted moments could have broken it up a bit.
  • If you are like me and you can’t spatially manipulate things in your mind, you will be as hopelessly lost about all the directions happening in the battleroom. Honestly, the only part I could visualise was them bouncing off the walls, the rest just drew a blank. And that is why I could never be an air traffic controller.
  • Some of it seems a tad far-fetched, but generally this didn’t distract too much from the overall story.


Overall verdict:

The storyline and action scenes kept me going as I read through the book. I didn’t particularly love or identify with any of the characters, but possibly you are not supposed to. I don’t think the overall themes grabbed me enough to want to continue on with the series immediately. In general, Ender’s Game was an interesting read, even if the overall tone was a bit too serious for me.

16 thoughts on “Vintage SciFi Month review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

  1. I agree with everything you wrote here. The book was a bit of a slow start for me as well, but in the end it redeemed itself, and the twist at the end was something I definitely did not see coming at all. It could have done with a bit less seriousness, but overall I quite enjoyed it, great post! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, one of my favorite novels! I had a similar experience as you, that the first time I read Ender’s Game I didn’t identify with any of the characters, and I didn’t feel any need to read further in the series. Only after I’d read it three or four times did I have any interest in continuing reading, and when I did, I really connected with Ender in the 2nd book in the series. He’s an adult in the 2nd book, so a little easier to relate to.

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  3. This is one of my favourite books! The film was very disappointing. The cast was pretty good but I hated how all the characters were aged up and nothing was explained at all. Do you plan on reading the rest of the series? “Ender’s Shadow” was pretty good.

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  4. I will have to express the unpopular opinion here: while I found this to be a good enough book, it did not sweep me off my feet, and from what I remember (it’s been some time since I read it) it felt quite verbose and pedantic. Just for once, the movie was better! 😀 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Ender’s Game” is a masterpiece of science fiction, but wait until you read the sequel, “Speaker for the Dead.” Whereas as “Ender’s Game” was dark and dreary, dealing with children being taken from their parents and trained as killers to defeat the enemy, “Speaker for the Dead” is a more thoughtful and philosophical novel about ethics, what makes right from wrong, and about the power of communication, and the problems cultures can get into when they don’t understand each other. I think many people stop at “Ender’s Game” and it’s a pity as “Speaker for the Dead” is the main course after the appetizer. If I had to make a list of my top five favorite science fiction books, “Speaker for the Dead” without any hesitation would be on the list.

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  6. I always put off reading this, as I thought the premise was ludicrous. It’s good to read the book does try to explain why it needs children. Still before I might take the plunge, I’d like to know more, so if you would elaborate a bit more in the comments, that would je appreciated… I don’t mind the spoiler.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok, so the idea was that they needed someone with enough compassion and empathy that they could win the trust and love of the people who were serving under them, in order to create an army that worked as one unit. But that kind of person would never knowingly engage in war. So instead they needed someone they could trick into doing, and therefore it had to be a child.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks a lot!! I guess I’ll pass, since I still don’t buy it. 😀 It seems based on a very shallow and even wrong understanding of human psychology, actual warfare, ect. I’ve said it before: in science fiction, the social sciences need to check out as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I didn’t finish the movie, dropped out after an hour. Total Hollywood product. Sad that a lot of it has become so focussed on entertainment, without taking the audience of the story serious.


  7. I will admit that (and discuss in detail about why) I really didn’t like this book and forced myself to finish it. It had very few redeeming qualities, and it didn’t help that it had been recommended to me by several friends as one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever written. Thankfully not long after I discovered Dune which helped bleached my proverbial eyes of Ender’s Game.

    My main gripe is with Ender himself and the other characters in general. Ender was thoroughly unrelatable and frankly a very troubling character in how he was portrayed. Card’s philosophy on evil, violence, and motivation is seriously messed up.

    Sorry for being blunt about it – the book has come up in conversations lately and I feel particularly salty about it. I don’t mean to assault anyone’s opinion, but I know I am in the distinct minority on this book. I just wanted to throw my .02 out there.

    *shows self to the door*

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful review! I have been meaning to pick this up but there’s always those points to dislike that are mentioned over and over again by everyone who has read it. But for a classic like this, I think it’s well worth investigating for myself as soon as possible! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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