Ender’s Game

Whenever I start reading on the net, I am always moving like a plague: unstoppably grepping all interesting information. The other night, I was looking up the definition of an event horizon. That of course, lead to parsing data trees on the film Event Horizon (haven’t seen it in a year or two), Starship Troopers, the Dead Space games, Armor, and Ender’s Game. The local library only had the Ender series, not troopers or armor :-(.

I read about 50 some pages of it in the 1.5~2 hours I was at the library, and found it interesting enought o check out. By the time I went to bed, I had finished the 352 page book lol. Ender’s Game paints a very odd picture of the world, because the world Ender was born into is both so like and unlike our own. Children can now be “Requisitioned” by the government, and having a “Third” child is both illegal without a wavier and a bit of a social stigma. Ender of course being a disgraceful third with an older brother Peter and sister Valentine.

About 70-80 years previous, the second invasion of earth space was won by a little known peon named Mazer Rackham having a thinkon during doomsday. Ever since, the Earth has been preparing for a third invasion: less the insect like “Buggers” catch the human race with our pants down. Ender is accepted into the Battle School at age 6, after passing the final test. After having the governments monitoring device removed from his neck, young Ender Wiggin being beyond the help of adults, gets stuck in a situation where a gang of bullies are ready to beat the tar out of him, for the rest of his  natural school year. Being smart as a whip, the little bastard realises that he needs to be decisive: win this fight, fight hundreds more but beat the shit out of their leader, and no one will dare touch him. Practically hospitalising the other boy demonstrated Ender’s genius.

In battle school, you see Ender go from a newb to the schools best ‘Soldier’ in history. Using that mechanical mind of his, he outsmarts everyone and twice changes the nature of the war games that their schooling revives upon. When Ender began, you had slow moving formation drills and “Commanders” of an army of 40 boys, that couldn’t lead a pop sickle stand to victory. Ender changes that: battles are fast moving and now rely on what we learned from the Blitzkrieg.  Ender’s army is organised into 5 ‘toons’ of 8 with a specially trained solider from each available if things hit the fan. Each toon has a leader and assistent. Ender tells them what to do, the toon leaders take care of the detail, and you quickly see that Ender has learned to lead: something the other armies have not. It totally revolutionises the games, to the point the school masters begin cheating. Wearing down Ender and his army of student soldiers by any means possible.

The focused discussion on their craft is also impressive, after all if it is your life for the next four years, you ought to learn it well, right? :-). Mean while his siblings are plotting and succeeding in world domination, as the world gets ready to fall apart!

The writing is a bit more bland than I am accustomed, yet the logical drive to it is refreshing. It also paints an excellent picture of Ender being shaped into another master mind, and the hells he must go through, as well as the side effects of being made a tool to fight the buggers. At several levels, I can comprehend Ender’s situation, worse yet because I’ve been in some of them. Arguably Ender’s torments are also, the only thing that lends the novel some depth in the first place, but we can’t have everything. While Lord of the Rings has enough information overload to give you a geekasm for a month, Ender’s Game only focuses where need be. The style of writing, is actually quite “Odd” at first, or at least from the styles of writing that I have come to easily parse, lol.

By the end of the games, things really ripen up. Towards the end of battle school, Ender has become smart enough to figure out the propaganda from the first and second bugger invasion is a crock, as the secrets of the third invasion gradually unravel on his way through to the prestiges Command School. The war games used to train Ender shift, from a zero-gravity game of freeze tag (a cross between infantry combat and football, really) to commanding groups of units. His games become more like a modern Real Time Strategy game with humans forming nested levels of control, rather than A.I. behind it all.

By the end of the third invasion, we have “Won”, the world has gone to piss in less than a week, Ender is outcast—as being to dangerous to ever return home to earth, whilst his brother attempts to bring order to chaos under the pseudonym, Ender sets off for the first distant human colony with his sister Valentine.

Something that I found freaky as all hell, this book was originally written in the 1980s, and based off a short story the author cooked up in the mid ’70s. Yet, it describes very much our modern Internet and an effect that only recently, the hopelessly stupid people of our world have begun to understand. Peter and Valentine, using analogs to things like Blog comments, Twitter, mailing lists, etc to methodically boil over the political waters towards a more stable world. Young (but brilliant) children soon are helping to shape public opinion, and become house hold names published on the news nets as Locke and Demosthenes – in ways that are already believable to any netizen of today, or even 15 years from now. Yet back in the 1980s none of that existed yet, and the closet thing to it (the *old* USENET, rather different than today’s) was likely unheard of by the author. Even if he was a geeky S.O.B. the  most the author could forsee from his present world would likely have been e-mail, since that arguably dates to before most e-mailers were born. What surprises me, is how dead on Orson Card was in describing the “nets” of Ender’s day, and how they seem to resemble our own Internet. In a way, it even explores how realistic games have already become, versus something like Pong and the big games of the 1980s. To the point infact, that it moves past that and the computers have become smart enough to program them :-/.

In so many ways, the book is like looking at today and next week, and only GOD knows what lay in between. Along with the development of Ender, it’s almost bloody brilliant!