Although this book was published almost 25 years ago, it is a fine time to pick it up before the release of the theatrical version in 2013.
This twenty-five-year-old science fiction classic has been repackaged for younger readers. Unlike many hard-core science fiction titles, this book is particularly appropriate for a younger audience, for its protagonist, Ender Wiggin, is just six years old at the novel’s beginning and still a pre-teen at its end. Ender’s parents have received a special dispensation to have a third child in spite of strict population control laws. His brilliant older siblings, Peter and Valentine, have each showed great promise, but each falls just short of having “the right stuff.” The International Fleet (I.F.) believes that Ender may be the commander they need to lead great armies against invasion by alien “buggers.” When Ender does exhibit the desired combination of compassion and cruelty, the I.F. takes him to the distant Battle School, where brilliant children are trained in military strategy and tactics. The centerpiece of their education is a simulated battle game at which Ender quickly excels, eventually becoming the youngest commander in history. Life at Battle School, especially these battle games, is richly described. Ender is portrayed as just a pawn in the larger game being played by the I.F., and readers will alternately sympathize with his exploitation and cheer when he is able to make friends in spite of the tremendous forces working to isolate and dehumanize him. The political and philosophical material at the novel’s end may get too heavy for some readers, but for the most part, this novel will deservedly reach a new generation through this new edition. —Norah Piehl