Why I (Mostly) Love the Ender’s Game Series [Contributor]

Editor’s Note: Ender’s Game may be one of the most awaited film adaptations of a novel in recent years, and Stephen Olson is a huge fan of the novel, as well as its sequels.  In the coming weeks and months, Attack of the Books! will feature his reviews and guide to the universe (or Enderverse, if you will)  of Orson Scott Card’s award winning Ender’s Game series.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve read the Ender’s Game series about half a dozen times. That raises the question: why? So I figured I should share some of my thoughts on the series as a whole.

Story: Thumbs Up

Orson Scott Card certainly came up with an interesting story to tell. From the earlier novels taking place on and around Earth to the later novels taking place light years away, the series follows a great plot arc. In interest of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that the story is a big reason I enjoyed the original novel as a kid and a big reason I still come back to this series. For the most part, each book wraps up its story in a satisfying way, even if it clearly points toward further developments.

Action: Thumbs Up

The Ender’s Game series has a lot happening. I like that. The earlier novels especially move at a good pace, with lots of fun and interesting things happening. This is a large part of what kept me reading back when I first read Ender’s Game, and it’s a big reason I still reread them today. I often find myself anticipating reading through specific events, and then I stay up very late to get to those fun parts. Again, very satisfying.

When I first read Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide, I felt like they were a departure in this aspect. However, it just features a different sort of action and excitement, which I had a hard time appreciating at the time. Now, I find myself looking forward to particularly interesting philosophical discussions. Last time I read the series, these were the parts that kept me up late reading.

Themes: Thumbs Up and Down

Several key themes run through the series and as I’ve grown older and (theoretically) wiser, I have appreciated some of these themes more and more.

As a kid, I first enjoyed the theme of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. I felt empowered by the smart young characters accomplishing things far beyond expectations. In more recent readings, I’ve appreciated this theme more and more as I’ve seen how in the books, just like in real life, people often pay great costs to achieve great things. And as a teacher, I find it very rewarding to see my students through the lens of these books about talented young people.

While reading the series in college, I noticed a strong theme of family, particularly in Ender in Exile. I jokingly informed my mom that Orson Scott Card must have been going through some sort of family issues while writing, since the more recently written novels focused on families so much. And yet even the older novels have a lot to say about family relationships, starting with the second chapter of Ender’s Game where we see Ender interacting with his family. I enjoy seeing the various permutations and quirks of families throughout the series.

Unfortunately, not all of the running themes are great. For whatever reason, almost every book in this series features jokes and references involving farts and other charming bodily functions. Rather unusual that extraordinary people do extraordinary things while discussing their digestive systems. I’ve decided that next time I read through the series, I will catalog the instances of this. (Note: it’s nothing offensive, really. Maybe one or two references per book. I just thought it was weird that while working on the problems of saving humanity, the greatest minds in recorded history joke about bodily functions.)

Inconsistencies: Thumbs Down

The problem with reading a series several times is that you start to notice the little things. (Thanks to a bit of OCD, I certainly do.) One of these times, I’m going to remember to make a list of inconsistencies, with pages and paragraphs specified. It’s not like there are tons of plot holes or nonsensical occurrences, but from time to time, something happens that doesn’t quite fit. Usually this happens between books, which makes sense when you have a span of more than twenty years that Orson Scott Card wrote these. In any case, it’s incredibly forgivable, and most people don’t even seem to notice.

Universality: Thumbs Up

One of the English teachers I’ve worked with explained to me that great literature is great because it is universal. When a variety of people can read a book and appreciate it for all sorts of different reasons, something special has happened. Even after rereading this series so many times, I keep finding new ways to experience it. For instance, reading it at the end of my first year of teaching, I focused more on the characters who are teachers and leaders, and I saw the events from a new perspective. At the same time I watched honors, regular, and remedial students read Ender’s Game for the first time and all of them loved it for drastically different reasons.

In fact, that’s why I most recently started reading this series again: after one student told me how much he related to a nurturing middle-class character and another student told me about how much she related to a tough character who grew up on the street, I knew I needed to read it all again and see where I fit in this time.

Stephen Olson teaches math at North Layton Junior High.  When not teaching math, he polices the halls and library of his school, ensuring that students partake of only the best reading material.  On the rare occasions he finds himself away from school, Stephen reads, writes, and writes about reading. You can follow him on Twitter at@MathTeacherGuy or email him at mathteacherguyATgmailDOTcom.

About Stephen

Stephen Olson teaches math at North Layton Junior High. When not teaching math, he polices the halls and library of his school, ensuring that students partake of only the best reading material. On the rare occasions he finds himself away from school, Stephen reads, writes, and writes about reading. You can follow him on Twitter

  • Anjuli

    Daniel, How old were you when you first read Ender’s Game? Do you think Colin would be ready for it? Anjuli

    • That’s a great question, Anjuli…I’m dubious. How old is he?

      Stephen, what do you think?

      • Anjuli

        He is 9.

      • Stephen

        A lot of it depends on the maturity of the kid. If they’ve read The Hunger Games, then there’s not much worse in Ender’s Game. I was 11 when I first read it. My assistant principal read it with his 10-year-old. I’d say that’s about the youngest a kid should read it, and even then it might be best if a parent was reading with them or at least had read it recently to know the material that might be of concern. In my review of Ender’s Game next week, I’ll have a section for parents, so look forward to that.

    • Anjuli, I think Stephen makes a great point. It really would be best read with a parent. Since I know you love these books, anyway, maybe it would be a good one to read aloud to him, discussing along the way as necessary.