Earth has been attacked twice by the Buggers—aliens attempting to colonize Earth’s solar system. The whole world waits with bated breath for the Third Invasion and sends its best and brightest children to Battle School when they are six years old to be trained in strategy and warfare. Eventually, these children will become the pilots, commanders, and soldiers that will save the human race from extinction.
Ender is a governmentally approved Third child in a world with a strict two-child rule. He was allowed to be born in the hopes that he will be a genius like his two older siblings, but with the correct temperament for Battle School. The experiment succeeds, but Ender doesn’t want to go to Battle School. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone. He especially doesn’t want to leave behind his beloved sister Valentine, though he will not miss his psychopathic brother Peter. But Colonel Graff tells Ender that the world needs him, and Ender believes him.
What follows is Ender’s journey through Battle School, where his brilliance generates both respect and hatred from the other children. As the children study how to fight, Ender finds himself at the center of an immense web of manipulations, all designed to turn him into the Commander that Earth needs to defend itself. It doesn’t matter that Ender doesn’t want to kill anyone; it’s what he is good at and will become great at with the right push. And push him, they do.
Ender’s Game is a masterpiece, which is why it is required reading at many high schools. There is heavy content that is inappropriate for younger and sensitive readers: profanity and name-calling are used often, there are bouts of violence (including attempted murder), and there is a thematic question of whether cruel, immoral means are justified by an end that benefits humanity.
These masterfully woven questions will keep readers up at night, and readers will relate to Ender and his struggle to define himself. Is he a monster like his brother Peter? Is he a killer like the teachers want him to be? It is Ender’s emotional turmoil of self-loathing, loneliness, and despair that will haunt readers long after they read the last page—more than the aliens, the fights, and even the theological questions. Ender’s Game will leave readers desperately wishing that Ender’s life had not been so hard. Readers will forget that Ender is just an ink-and-paper boy from a story, and not the son, brother, or friend that they have fondly come to know him as.
- When Valentine says she has an oral exam at school, her brother says it could be worse. “It could be an anal exam.”
- Dink says, “Hey, look! Salamander’s getting babies now! Look at this! He could walk between my legs without touching my balls!”
- When Valentine is offered a weekly column in a newspaper, she says, “I can’t do a weekly column…I don’t even have a monthly period yet.” Later in the same argument, Peter asks her, “Are you sure you’re not having a period, little woman?”
- When Peter is also asked to write a column, he says, “Not bad for two kids who’ve only got about eight pubic hairs between them.”
- After a bully makes fun of another boy’s butt, “Look how he shimmies his butt when he walks,” the other boys start calling the bully, “Buttwatcher.”
- One of the commanders “had programmed his desk to display and animate a bigger-than-lifesize picture of male genitals, which waggled back and forth as Rose held the desk on his naked lap.”
- Ender jokingly calls his friend, “you circumcised dog.”
- When the Buggers procreate, “each male in turn penetrated the larval queen, shuddered in ecstasy, and died, dropping to the tunnel floor and shriveling.”
- Ender is attacked, and he beats the main bully thoroughly, to make sure no one is ever bold enough to attack him again. “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 him and kicked him again, in the crotch.”
- Ender’s older brother threatens to kill him. Peter “knelt on Ender, his knee pressing into Ender’s belly just below the breastbone. He put more and more of his weight on Ender. It became hard to breathe. ‘I could kill you like this,’ Peter whispered. ‘Just press and press until you’re dead. And I could say that I didn’t know it would hurt you, that we were just playing, and they’d believe me, and everything would be fine. And you’d be dead.’”
- A boy hits Ender repeatedly when they are on a space shuttle. “Just as the next blow was coming, Ender reached up with both hands, snatched the boy by the wrist, and then pulled down on the arm, hard…The boy sailed through the air, bouncing against the ceiling, then down against another boy in his seat, then out into the aisle, his arms flailing until he screamed as his body slammed into the bulkhead at the front of the compartment, his left arm twisted under him.”
- Two teachers mention a prior student’s suicide in passing. “Everybody looks like Pinual at one time or another. But he’s the only one who killed himself.”
- Ender plays a computer game that sometimes has gruesome deaths. One time, “the Giant cut him open along the spine, deboned him like a fish, and began to eat while his arms and legs quivered.” Another time, “He jumped at the Giant’s face, clambered up his lip and nose, and began to dig in the Giant’s eye. The stuff came away like cottage cheese, and as the Giant screamed, Ender’s figure burrowed into the eye.”
- A commander slaps one of his soldiers. “Madrid stepped closer to the girl and slapped her across the face with the back of his hand. It made little sound, for only his fingernails had hit her. But there were bright red marks, four of them, on her cheek, and little pricks of blood marked where the tips of his fingernails had struck.”
- Ender’s commander hits him after Ender disobeys orders. “Suddenly Bonzo swung at him, caught his jaw with a vicious open-handed slap. It knocked Ender sideways, into his bunk, and he almost fell. Then Bonzo slugged him, hard, in the stomach. Ender dropped to his knees.”
- Ender and his friends are attacked by an older group of guys in the Battle Room. “Someone caught Ender by the foot. The tight grip gave Ender some leverage; he was able to stamp firmly on the other boy’s ear and shoulder, making him cry out and let go. . . the boy had hung on too well; his ear was torn and scattering blood in the air, and Ender was drifting even more slowly. I’m doing it again, thought Ender. I’m hurting people again, just to save myself. Why don’t they leave me alone, so I don’t have to hurt them?”
- Ender gets picked on several times during Battle School. “So Ender got knocked down in the shower that morning. One of Bernard’s boys pretended to trip over him and managed to plant a knee in his belly.”
- Valentine, “had seen a squirrel half-skinned, spiked by its little hands and feet with twigs pushed into the dirt. She pictured Peter trapping it, staking it, then carefully parting and peeling back the skin without breaking into the abdomen, watching the muscles twist and ripple.”
- Bonzo tries to kill Ender. “Bonzo’s tight, hard ribs came against Ender’s face, and his hands slapped against his back, trying to grip him…instead of kicking, he lunged upward off the floor, with a powerful lunge of the soldier bounding from the wall, and jammed his head into Bonzo’s face. Ender whirled in time to see Bonzo stagger backward, his nose bleeding.” The fight takes place over two pages.
- “Late one night [Ender] woke up in pain…He saw that in his sleep he had been gnawing on his own fist. The blood was still flowing smoothly.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- “Bastard” is used often. Peter tells his brother, “No, no, I don’t want your help. I can do it on my own, you little bastard.” Another time Colonel Graff says, “We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive.”
- “Hell,” “asshole,” and “ass” are used several times. Valentine says her older brother is “The biggest asshole.” Graff tells a teacher, “your ass is covered, go to hell.”
- “Damn” is used a few times. Graff tells Ender, “I told them you were the best. Now you damn well better be.” Another time a student says, “I be the best soldier I can, and any commander worth a damn, he take me.”
- Another student tells Ender to “kiss butts if you’ve got to.”
- Variants of “piss” are used several times. One boy in the Game Room tells Ender, “Beating you…would be as easy as pissing in the shower.”
- At Battle School, the boys’ slang includes frequent name calling. For example, Graff says, “Scumbrains, that’s what we’ve got in this launch. Pinheaded little morons.” Other variants include pisshead, fartface, etc.
- “Son of a bitch” is used once. “I’m a pilot, you son of a bitch, and you got no right to lock me up on a rock!”
- “There was a myth that Jewish generals didn’t lose wars.” The commander of Rat Army is Jewish, so it, “was often called the Kike Force, half in praise, half in parody of Mazer Rackham’s Strike Force.”
- An alien race, called “Buggers,” invaded Earth’s solar system twice before. All of Earth is preparing for the Third Invasion.
- When talking about how humans won the last war, Graff says, “Call it fate, call it God, call it damnfool luck, we had Mazer Rackham.”
- Graff says if Ender is not the one, “then in my opinion God is a bugger. You can quote me on that.”
- After a battle, Ender saw that some people “knelt or lay prostrate, and Ender knew they were caught up in prayer.”
- An admiral says piloting is “a god. And a religion. Even those of us who command by ansible know the majesty of flight among the stars.”
- Speaker for the Dead is a book that became “a religion among many religions” on Earth. “But for those who traveled the great cave of space and lived their lives in the hive queen’s tunnels and harvested the hive queen’s fields, it was the only religion.”
by Morgan Lynn