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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
 
Game Over
Just finished Ender's Game, which I picked up on the recommendation of the good doctor and the other good doctor. Well, I should have read the comments to those posts more closely because now I feel a little like Treppenwitz. There's, like, seven of these things that I have to read? I don't have time for this.

In fact, the only way I found time for this one was to get the audiobook from the library and listen to it on my not-so-long commute. It made me hate the Valentine character, because the actress who read the parts where she was the focus (the tape featured several actors instead of just one reader) is insufferable. Her line readings are all the same, breathy and whiny at the same time. I was hoping a baby bugger would burst out of her chest of something.

I'm surprised neither of you guys mentioned the smattering of Jewish mentions in the book. Namely, that Israelis and Jews in general were supposedly considered the best warriors, or maybe just commanders or something. This idea was mentioned but not depicted - in fact, the only identified Jewish character was something of a, well, putz. (By the way, did you know that Orson Scott Card has written at least three novels about the Matriarchs? You know, Sarah, Rebeccah, et al? No word on whether or not they can commune with giant insects.)

The tape ended with an afterword recorded by the author. Apparently he was an early user of some text-only network (I guess they were all text-only until a certain point) - possibly Delphi? So the blogging thing wasn't quite a prophecy. But I'll give you the first-person video games.

Okay, here's the spoiler warning: read no further if you don't want to know about the ending.

And... the ending. But which one? The first ending, where he wins the war... I think it was obvious that he was playing for all the marbles. But I admit I didn't stop to think that all of his post-Mazer-meeting games were the real thing. I thought everything moved a little too fast after that. The war on the secret asteroid or whatever that broke out immediately after the end of the bugger war could have been its own book, probably. Or at least from there to the end of the book.

The part where he finds the cocoon was pretty freaky. But I have to admit, up until that point, where the buggers' feelings were explicitly expressed, I didn't have much sympathy for his reservations. I guess that was the whole point, that he was Mr. Empathy, but until I heard otherwise they were just bugs, for the love o' mike. Okay, fine, it's tragic that they couldn't communicate with the humans. To me, it would have had more resonance if either a.) it wasn't buggers vs. humans but maybe buggers vs. some other evolved human-like animals or b.) there was a twilight-zone twist where what ender was told was the bugger world was really earth, or a competing human race from another galaxy, or whatever. I mean, all he could see on the screen were blips (kind of like those old mattel electronic football games, I imagine). But, of course, that would have been much more of a cliche.

Since current events are always, um, current in my mind, I couldn't help thinking about the war on terror. I mean, there are people who try to humanize the enemy, but it really is get them or they'll get you at this point. Fine, fine, not the entire Arab population but the terrorists themselves. So I didn't love that whole aspect of it.

And, hey, maybe in a later book he hatches the buggers and they freakin' eat his head. And say, "we're baaaaack!" and you can't feed them after midnight. But I doubt it.

Also, and I realize this was kind of the whole point as well, I didn't love that they were all kids. And really little kids, at that. Yes, I realize there are children in armies in the world today. But I don't think they are the commanders, or reading Euclid at age 5. Throw in a little good ol fashioned homoeroticism and you have a bit of a creepy vibe going there.

Oh, yeah, the whole religion thing at the end. Pretty tired.

And yet I was engrossed, and couldn't wait to get back in my car for more, didn't mind being stuck in traffic, and, yes, I've reserved the next book-on-tape in the series at the library. (Sadly the Valentine voice is still the same actress.) (Oh, and if it really is all about the religion then I might have to take a magnet to the tape before I return it.)

Finally, I'd just like to say, Dr. Bean is really my six-year-old sister.
Comments:
First of all: Read the books. Books on tape suck.

Second: if the religion thing distressed you? stop reading card. For ever. It's almost ALL about religion.

Third: you're right- borderline creepy.

Wait till you meet the piggies.
 
It didn't distress me, per se. It was just lame. Cheesey. Maybe because it seemed thrown on at the end. Perhaps this next book will slow it down a little. I'll give it a shot (but on tape - no time for reading anything for a long stretch - house reading is limited to magazines).
 
I didn't catch the homoeroticism. You mean just lots of young boys doing military stuff and changing their clothes in the same barracks? I guess. I’m just the six year old sister so that’s just the kind of thing you would expect me to miss.

I have to admit, I did not expect that the virtual reality “games” at the end were real. The idea has been copied a million times since then, so I should have seen it coming, but maybe I was too distracted by not noticing the homoeroticism.
 
Thank God for books-on-tape. I've had very long commutes in the past, and books-on-tape made it bearable. Some of the best books I've ever known were narrated to me as I sat in traffic on the I-5. In particular: All Quiet on the Western Front and The Millionaire Next Door. I liked these so much I bought the book after returning the book-on-tape to the library.

I read Ender's Game a few years ago after discovering it on the One Book List. My brother warned me that the sequels were not as good, so I haven't picked them up. If anyone here thinks I'm missing something great, let me know. I did read Bean (no relation to the good doctor), which is a parallel story to Ender's Game and quite good, in my opinion.

There was no need for the cast of characters to be all children. It's baloney and we know it, but of course the story is more interesting to children this way. Ender having a perfect record is baloney too.

I totally missed the homoeroticism, unless you mean that part two-thirds through the book when Ender has sex with another boy.
 
Actually, I loved ALL the ender books, as well as the alvin maker books. But books on tape? bleaugh. The move I picture inside my head is diminished by the people reading the books on tape.
 
Is the Bean book in the Ender series, or its own series? I am losing track quickly.
 
I think Bean was a stand-alone.
 
Bean is a parallel series taking place at the same time from the point of view of Bean.

I started Speaker for the dead, but then I got a shot at the new Harry Potter book so I've been reading that. The Speaker book is very slow starting and almost incomprehensible in the beginning, what with all of the Portugese names and references. It's like he's trying to be intentionally obtuse. I'll get back to it, but it's not drawing me in the way Ender's game did.

My version of EG comes with a forward written a few years later which explains that Card is a devout Mormon (so there go your Matriarch books) and that he originally wanted to start with Speaker for the Dead, but needed an introduction, so he went back and fleshed out the short story for Ender's game that was published 8 years previously.

That version did not have the tacked on ending and ended with the end of the war and Ender a hero, but with a dubious future.

This new ending was put into place to prepare you for the real book, Speaker. It seems totally out of place to me, but wtf do I know.

As for the Jewishness, I didn't mention it because I didn't think it was a major part of the story. To me it was a little offensive, like people who stereotype but try to put a good spin on it by saying things like all Blacks are good basketball players. He says that Jews made the best military commanders, and I guess in the 80's, having won 5 straight wars against overwhelming odds, it did seem that the Jews were the 'shrewdest' tacticians. But then, as Ralphie mentions, he goes on to show the Jewish character getting by on this undeserved reputation, and seems to imply that, 'well, if the Jews are so smart, how come they haven't won the war yet?'
 
I think Mazur Rackem (forgive the spelling if it's wrong, I only heard the name) would be a much better name for a billiards hustler.
 
Orson Scott Card has a pretty active web site if you care. He's somewhat active in punditry as well as fiction, and also has a wealth of writing tips and tricks if you're interested in the craft.

Hatrack River.

And I agree that the first is head and shoulders above the sequels (at least the couple I bothered reading before giving up on it).
 
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