Over the past two weeks or so, I embarked on a fantastic adventure that doubled as an action-packed science-fiction exploit and a heartwarming coming-of-age (again) journey with some smart, funny and heroic young children. Ironically, a mere day after closing the covers to these terrific stories about alien invasions and battle command in null gravity, I dejectedly returned to the real world only to find out that the government shut down, thereby limiting NASA funding and pumping the breaks on space exploration and discovery of unknown worlds.
Hopefully, operations will eventually pick back up and the U.S. can continue interplanetary expeditions, and as a respite, an escape from reality if you will, I’d recommend reading Orson Scott Card’s cult sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game before the film releases in exactly a month from the day the government shut down.
Like Hunger Games and The Percy Jackson series, Ender’s Game is a popular young adult fiction with powerful (yet self-deprecating) protagonists, elements of fantasy and not-so-subtle anti-establishment undertones. But unlike the former two series, Ender’s Game rarely resides in the Young Adult sections of bookstores, and wasn’t even written in this Millenium. Published in 1985, the award-winning Ender’s Game usually lives in the sci-fi section among the rest of Card’s impressive catalog of work and appears on several required reading lists for prepubescent teenagers and military soldiers alike.
My biggest disappointment about reading Ender’s Game was that I didn’t discover it when I was a kid. Though this novel is perfectly entertaining from an objective, adult, point-of-view, I know I would have deeply connected to Ender, his friends and his challenges if I read this while I was facing the day-to-day atrocities of middle school adolescence. Sure, Ender’s Game takes place on a space station where young, gifted children are groomed to command potential battles against alien invaders – not quite relevant to my preteen years. But no matter what age group, nation or universe you’re from, you will encounter bullies, cliques, unfair authority figures, competitiveness, stress and most importantly, loyal friends.
Without divulging too much for those of you who want to read the book or watch the film, I will say that Ender’s Game is a timeless heroic narrative with likable characters, plot points and dialogue. Even as an adult, I was pleasantly surprised by how captivating the story became after a few chapters.
After I finished Ender’s Game too soon, I wanted more. More science fiction, more space, more armies, more battles – so fortunately, on one of my routine visits to Half-Price Books, I stumbled upon the parallel semi-sequel, Ender’s Shadow.
Written over a decade later, Ender’s Shadow doesn’t “follow” Ender’s Game in the traditional sense. Rather, Ender’s Shadow retells the same narrative of Ender’s Game from the point of view of Bean, one of Ender’s Battle School classmates, fellow soldiers and best friends. Remarkably bright, funny and little, Bean is super clever and likable, and I honestly think I enjoyed this book better than the first. Rather than discovering new places, meeting new characters or learning how the Battle School society operates, we’re reacquainted with familiar faces, we relive exciting battles and we already know the impending result of some major events and turning points.
Bean’s point of view is fresh, young, inquisitive and a welcome twist to the somber tone of the first novel. Plus, Bean’s back story and journey to and through Battle School add depth and a twinge of tragedy to the one-dimensional coming-of-age experience we lived through with Ender on the first go around. Upon finishing Ender’s Shadow (and re-reading the final passage three or four times) I shamelessly shed a few tears and let out a dramatic, cathartic sigh – a familiar ritual whenever I finish any good book that I never want to stop reading.
Now, I’m left wishfully (and pathetically) counting the days until the movie comes out. And for the government to come back.
Until then, I leave you with a smattering of Ender’s Game inspired fan art and Battle School propaganda. Harrison Ford Needs You!: