In the not too distant future, mankind has barely survived two wars with an alien race – the Formics (also known as Buggers) – and the IF (International Fleet) has determined that it is time to take the battle to bugs!

Ender and the other genius children of Earth are taken into a training center known as Battle School.  Here they are put through rigorous physical and mental training in the form of games to prepare them for Command School and the eventual leadership of the fleet.  Ender’s Game – written by Orson Scott Card – is the story of Ender Wiggin (a third child in a world facing harsh population pressures) – the eventual leader and humanity’s greatest hope in their war with the Formics.  Its sequels, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind, follow Ender to different worlds as he travels far into the future.

Cover of "Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)"

Cover of Ender’s Game (Ender Quartet)


In Ender’s Game, the Alien Formics (“Buggers”) have attacked humanity in two different campaigns and they were only beaten through the skills and abilities of one man.  Now he has grown old, very old and if Earth is to survive the expected follow up attack from the Buggers someone else is going to have to take the leadership of Earth’s forces and take the battle to the Buggers.

With the incipient threat of another battle looming over mankind, a tentative truce between  Earth’s nations has been declared.  Scientific progress in weapons and propulsion has been pursued with a single minded dedication and man now has the ability to travel at faster than light speeds and communicate with the fleets that it has dispatched.  Along with this ability, they have also developed some fairly astonishing weaponry  – all of it dedicated to the decimation of the Bugger race.  What they are lacking is the soldiers and commanders to make these weapons work and their solution is the formation of the Battle School and the International Fleet (IF) and a leader to command all of their fleets.

Beholden to no one nation, the IF is meant to be the arbiters of all nations equally and it is their responsibility to find Earth’s next champion.

This school in near Earth orbit functions as a training facility for the best and brightest of Earth’s children.  Students at Battle School are trained through a variety of different methods and games – the most important being the wars held between different armies for the control of the “stars”.

Ender Wiggin is approved for training at Battle School and upon departure to the facility he is immediately singled out by Commander Graff as being the smartest and most intelligent student – this causes the other students to dislike him which was Graff’s intent as he want Ender to survive by himself without depending upon anyone else.

Ender quickly gains the reputation of an elite soldier and becomes ranked top of all the soldiers in battle school. He seeks refuge from his isolation and frustration in various ways, though is unable to be comforted until his older sister Valentine writes a letter to him, reminding him of the reason he went to battle school in the first place.

Ender is quickly promoted to commander of a brand new Army in the school’s zero-gravity wargame league. He quickly molds his young soldiers into an unbeatable team despite being given what appears to be a completely inexperienced army. Ender implements never before heard of strategies and abolishes old methods including the use of formations in the battle room.

Ender is then promoted to Command School ahead of schedule. In command school, Ender is instructed in a game very similar to the Battle Room, only this time instead of commanding soldiers, he commands ships in a 3-D space battle. Each day the games become more and more grueling, and Ender is slowly worn down to exhaustion. Waking and sleeping blend together as Ender nearly loses his sanity, but he maintains his military brilliance.

Ender’s “final exam” consists of Ender’s forces outnumbered 1,000 to 1 near a planetary mass. When the planet is finally in range, Ender orders the use of a special weapon, Dr. Device, against the planet itself, destroying the simulated planet and all ships in orbit.

Ender makes this decision knowing that it is expressly against the respectable rules of the game, hoping that his teachers will find his ruthlessness unacceptable and remove him from command, and allow him to return home.

After he destroys the planet it is revealed to Ender that all the simulations were real battles taking place in Bugger space as the human ships sent long ago reached their destinations.

Ender realizes that he had just ordered the actual destruction of an entire race, and the guilt of the massacre forces him into a coma.

Ender is convinced, after his recovery, to leave on the first colony ship to another world. On his colony, Ender discovers an unborn Formic queen who can communicate with him through a psychic link. She tells him that her race was not aware that humans were sentient creatures. It was through their defeat in the Second Invasion that forced them to realize humanity’s true nature; and had resolved to never attack the Earth again. He decides to atone for his destruction of the Bugger race by finding a place to resurrect the queen, bringing the alien race back into existence. Ender writes a book under the pseudonym “Speaker for the Dead” entitled The Hive Queen, wherein he tells of the compassion and pain of the Bugger race. At Peter’s request he also writes The Hegemon to tell the truth of his brother’s troubled life.

Personal Thoughts

Ender’s Game is one of those books that you come back to over and over again – I know I’ve personally read it over a dozen times – each time finding something new in the character or the story or even just the whole way it all flows together.  Downtrodden boy genius that eventually saves everyone?  Yeah its been elsewhere … but no where as convincingly or as well as this book.  I’ve loved Ender’s Game each time I’ve read it and I know that I will come back to it again and again over the years ahead.

Character Growth & Development – 5/5

Ender is a great character but he’s not the only one in this book. Graff, Bean, Petra and even Peter and Valentine are all masterfully portrayed and described.  Each of the characters in Ender’s Game is well portrayed and even more importantly … believable.

Story Growth & Development – 5/5

One would hope that our first encounter with an alien race goes somewhat more smoothly than it has been portrayed in this universe, however the Buggers (Formics) are believable aliens and perhaps most importantly they truly deserve the word “alien” as they don’t even realize we are sentient!

Overall Rating – 10/10

One of the few books that I’ve ever rated this highly Ender’s Game in my eyes really does deserve this.  Its a book that I can never recommend enough and one that every SciFi buff should definitely own.

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I'm a geek! I love all things SciFi and Fantasy and have done since I first read LOTR as a kid. Escapism to fantastic worlds filled with weird and wonderful creatures initially for me was via books and comics, but with the recent surge in popularity of this fare in film and television also - I'm in a state of bliss! As the editor of Zone Six, I've been lucky to meet some other awesome authors and writers that share this love and passion. The great Ray Bradbury said - "Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn't exist yet, but soon will .. it will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again."

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