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Seldom been so disappointed.
on 24 July 2015
Ender's Game is one of those sci-fi classics that everyone raves about, but despite being a fan of sci-fi, somehow I never got around to reading it. I've read some OSC before, and while I think he's an odious little man in real life, I have generally enjoyed his fiction.
However, this... I just... I was so... *bored*. Card takes some time in his (frankly pompous) intro to explain how he intended Ender's Game to be simply written so anyone could understand it, and not have to have any literary pretensions to 'get' it - he also makes rather a big deal about how he has a Master's in literature. I'm not sure I'd boast about that, if this was my great literary opus. The style of the writing is not so much simple as downright stilted. I'm not a fan of complexity for the sake of it, but we are talking something barely above "Here is Jane. Here is Peter. They are at home."
Sometimes, simplicity works, but in a book like this, so heavily focused on the one character and largely told from inside his head, there needs to be slightly more to grab on to than just being told the kid is a genius and so on. I needed to care what happened to Ender. I didn't.
I didn't even like him, to be honest. Several of the teachers and other adults seemed to be attributing qualities to him (not just his 'genius' but not having any malice - they seemed to think he was basically a nice kid, even commented about how he didn't really mean it when he'd killed one child and injured another...) that simply didn't seem to mesh with the character I was reading about. I felt like I was being told a lot which didn't jive at all with what was being shown, which is a real irritation to me when reading fiction. Now, don't get me wrong, a character doesn't have to be likeable to be the focus of a good piece of fiction, but it helps if one at least cares what might happen to him. In this case... not so much. There was nothing there to make me care about him.
As I write this I realise what bothered me; Ender comes off more as a cypher, a reader stand-in, with no personality of his own, and my goodness, it's dull. I'm so sick of books that do that. OSC doesn't even have the excuse of writing in an era when that seems to be an enormously popular route to publication. Maybe he was just head of his time... ;)
Maybe if I'd read this when I was that bright child who didn't fit in, I'd have identified with him and filled in the gaps, and the whole story would've meant much more to me. Reading it as an adult, it just seems cynical and lazy, and left me feeling like I'd wasted even the small amount of time I spent trying to read the book. Maybe I missed the window in which Ender's Game would have appealed to me. At any rate, I found it dull, with one dimensional characters lacking in credibility, and I just plain old got bored.
Sad to read what is supposed to be a classic and find it so very disappointing.