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This review had been written as commentary to support a Group Read. Please do not consider it a “normal review” though you may find it interesting. The negative comments in this review are directed at the author as a commentary on his style and attitude, not a comment about any religious group or organization or what is actually in the author’s soul or heart (who can see that?). Further, my comments about “the message” and what I believe is symbolic of or in keeping with some message etc. is a statement of description, not a personal belief. Other than the comments about violence to children, the only thing mentioned here that I object to is “Intelligent Design” and even that is more due to the way it was conceived and forced into schools about the country than an objection to the “idea” of intelligent design which is generally non-offensive, regardless of my own beliefs.
Okay, right up front, this gets three stars even though I don’t particularly like it. I gave it three stars because it had a coherent message, it had a story line-plot, the English was well chosen (it was well written) and engaging, until you figured out it wasn’t going to get any better.
By my own standard, I can’t say it fails to meet a basic standard of entertainment. I can’t say it isn’t an intelligent read though therein lies some of the problem.
This book is one part Passion Play, one part Sci-fi BS, and one part moralistic hype.
There are some people who “can’t see” the religion creeping into to this book. Oh, how we choose to be blind. It’s one thing to be ignorant, it’s another thing to choose ignorance, and it’s yet a third thing to be so acclimatized to religious rhetoric and innuendo not to recognize it in a book that quotes the bible every other chapter. As the Reverend Bubba Flavl (yes, say that fast and it sounds like “bubble flavor”)from that esteemed production of teen angst captured on celluloid for all eternity, “Porkies III,” once said, “Even the devil can quote scripture,” so, let’s assume there is other evidence or process to look at than the mere appearance of quotes from and comparisons to Daniel (and the lions) and Jacob, (Sold as a slave by his brothers)…(Hmmm, I suppose that doesn’t fit with Ender any does it?)
First step when an ulterior message is suspected is always, “Check the Author out and see if he has an axe to grind.” So I did. Ender’s Game is the first novel by Orson Scott Card. Orson Scott Card admits that he knows nothing about modern science or space that you couldn’t find out by watching Space Odyssey 2001. Thank you Stanley Kubrick. OSC also wrote religious plays before he wrote Ender’s Game including that well known story of silly young love “Barefoot in Zion” and “Sepulchur of Songs” and he’s an advocate of “Intelligent Design.”
So, what have we learned with a look back at OSC’s life? He knows nothing of Science, and, basically has disdain for what is considered one of the pillars of scientific research, Darwin and the theory of Evolution. Before writing Ender’s Game he specialized in a writing format that is second only to Poetry for symbolism and hidden messages in seemingly mundane stories or plots.
I also watched a segment of an interview with him where he stated very clearly that he only wants to talk to people about their religion. He then goes on to say, in six or seven questions he can usually find out what you religion is because that’s when you get angry. What’s important to you is your religion.
Now, you tell me how this guy would ever be motivated to write a book that has no religious value or message for his first book? A science fiction book, at that, from a guy who knows nothing to little about science. Face it, he’s not Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke. He’s a religious philosopher and ambassador of his faith, the Mormon faith.
His first book is going to have some kind of religious value or message to it. You can bet on it.
Now, what message?
I could imply all sorts of stories from Ender being symbolic of the Christ Child to an endorsement of obsessing over pubescent boys in a shower.
In keeping with what I believe he’s trying to get across, in the worst possible ways I can think of, let’s see how this fits with what we know of Ender’s Game:
"God himself [who] shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people...[b]eing the Father and the Son — the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son — and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth." (The Book of Mormon)
The book of Mormon also goes on to explain how it’s acceptable to take up arms to defend against attack, but states self-defense is the only way to go, otherwise
I could go on with speculation that would likely make Orson Scott Card laugh himself into an early coronary, but I’d rather not. I’ll just say this, the little bit I’ve read from the book of Mormon, justifies everything that Ender does in this book. It justifies his killing Stilson, It justifies his killing Bonzo, it justifies his killing of the Buggers. Further Ender himself, is also like a Christ Child.
Why children warriors? Because the book of Mormon says God himself will come down among the children. Why else would adults look to children for salvation other than some religious belief that drives behavior?
The book of Mormon also praises a military commander who executed pro-monarchy citizens who had vowed to destroy the church of God and were unwilling to defend their country from hostile invading forces.
The importance of Peter and Valentine….
Peter represents Christian, community of non-Mormons. You see, OSC is on record as recently as this last year, defending Mormonism as a “Christian Religion.” Yet, for it’s relatively short history, Mormon’s Older Brother, Christianity, protestant Christianity has been a cruel brother. And, the Mormon faith has longed since inception to be seen and respected by their Christian Brothers, despite the cruelty that this older and larger brother has imposed on it.
Valentine represents love. Come on, she’s the only one that loves Ender. She’s the one who Peter wanted to love him, and when he couldn’t make her do that, he uses her strength to take over the world. Then, love goes with the Ender Christ child.
How many times were there references of Ender’s blood flowing through the water recyclers so that others would be “Drinking his Body and Blood?” Too many times to be a comment about the technology.
I’m not sure everyone can get everything in this book without being Mormon, and, since I’m not Mormon, some of it is beyond me. The end doesn’t make sense to most of us because it refers to some almost ritualistic and mythical beliefs in the Mormon faith of what happens after we die and how our soul goes to the stars to become “god-like” (or gods) in our own right. It’s very obscure to non-Mormons and many Mormons for that matter.
The end makes no sense to us but, it cleans the blood off of Ender’s hands when the Buggers forgive him for wiping them out. It allows him to play God to the last Queen of the Buggers and implies guidance by an all knowing power.
That makes Graff Brigham Young and Joseph Smith-the old hero from long ago communing with his Indian Ghost.
So, do I believe this was OSC’s intent? Hell no. I believe this is how a devout Mormon who writes religious themed plays thinks.
So message, no message? Who knows. I can tell you this. The reason some parts of this don’t make sense to those of traditional Judea-Christian Beliefs, is probably because it was written to be in keeping with beliefs of the Church of Latter Day Saints. So what the symbol of Ender represents and “the game” (though that is likely “the game of life” may be lost on us.
I’m sure there’s something to “bullying” descriptions of the stories that are both, representative of how the Mormon Church and its followers have been treated (just look up their history, they had a rough life) and in some way autobiographical, though I caution people not to read into that statement. It could as easily describe how he felt and how he was treated after taking up LBJ’s side of a political debate against Barry Goldwater Supporters as it could describe any actual incidents of violent hazing.
There may also be a connection to his brother being drafted during the Vietnam War. Taken against his will at 18 to go halfway around the world and fight a strange foreign force. Does anyone remember how the Vietnam War ended? A news clip of Nixon sitting at a large round table in France with the North Vietnamese.
I’m on record as liking Christian themes in writing from Steven James and Ted Dekker. I don’t mind references and allusions to Buddha, Islam, Muhammad Confucius and believers in Plato’s Theory of Atlantis. I never mind finding a message in a written work. I do often object to intelligent sleight of hand, and trickery. I don’t like people who write a book for one reason, then, after getting a movie deal deny their original, obvious intent.
I also object to scenes of naked boys playing “Lord of the Flies” in the shower, writing off the killing of children as “okay” because it was in self-defense. (Ender killed two children, one in the first pages though we don’t learn that until almost the end when he’s watching vids of their funerals.) And, I would have been okay genocide of the Buggers until Card included the last bugger benevolently forgiving Ender for wiping them out. What, are we justifying genocide? Didn’t we find that they weren’t going to attack again? (Kind of like the Indians who play a prominent role in much of Mormon History.) What happened to the punishment fitting the crime? Does a Bully deserve to be killed? And though I do not believe OSC intended to imply that a romantic relationship between brother and sister is okay, the book could surely be used to support that (as an example in literature). As it is, the relationship between Valentine and Ender was just too weird for me to accept without a lot of salt, just because it was sexless doesn’t mean that it was appropriate. Valentine was not Ender’s Mother, or his girlfriend, but, she acted like both every now and then (IMO).
So, I’m going to give this three stars and call it a “recommendable” book, but not one that I recommend.
Taken as a purely science fiction work, this is mediocre at best. Taken as an adventure story or “coming of age” this stunk. Taken as a Human Story, this seemed like OSC designed it to piss me off. Maybe as an actionless action story?
Sorry, the book needs the message that’s not a message to be seen in the best light (by me)…if you can call it that.