Ender’s Game: Some Observations (5/13)May 13, 2009
I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.
Having reached page-214 in Ender’s Game a little after midnight last night, I decided that if I had any interest in functioning today that I had better put the book down and hit the hay. As anyone that’s been wrapped up in a good book knows, it’s often a difficult if not impossible task to put that book down as weariness calls — and while common sense did win out this time and I closed my eyes for the night my brain would have none of it — and continued to flash scenes from the book, possibilities to come, moral quandaries etc. and I don’t know how long it took before I actually fell asleep. I woke up this morning more than a little groggy and given that this is the second time this week this has happened not only do I have an added appreciation for the weariness that Ender endured with less than 6 hours of sleep (sans the battle room as an excuse), but perhaps I should take a page from his advanced intellectual mind and…make more time during the daylight hours to read.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR ENDER’S GAME AHEAD:
With less than a 1/3rd of the book remaining everything is just starting to hit the fan and I think that I’ve begun to understand how the book managed to capture the imagination of young and old alike when it was first published in 1985. But let me set this up for a second, it wasn’t all that long ago that I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to get all that much out of the adventures of the younger set. I’m 20-some odd years removed from my 10-year old self and reading about the dreams of adolescence, despite my having dreamed them myself, just didn’t appeal to me. But somewhere along the way something reminded me how much fun I had had with those books in my youth and in returning to Narnia, for example, I found that as an adult I had fostered an even greater appreciation for the land of Aslan than I did as a yung-un. George MacDonald repeatedly reminded readers that there was a difference between the childish and the child-like and despite advancing ages there is plenty for the adult to glean from the adventures, morals, and settings in the child-like story.
And as Orson Scott Card aptly put it in his introduction to Ender’s Game:
I think most of us , anyway, read these stories that we know are not ‘true’ but because we’re hungry for another kind of truth: The mythic truth about human nature in general, the particular truth about those communities that define our own identity, and the most specific truth of all: our own self-story. Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself. The story itself, the true story, is the that the audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text, but then transformed, elucidated, expanded, edited, and clarified by their own experience, their own desires, their own hopes and fears.
The book, and Ender, have endured because we find pieces of ourselves in the character – regardless of age – and identify with his plight, probably wishing along the way that we were as intellectually and physically adept as he was but nonetheless satisfied that somewhere on the surface, or deep down, that we’re also capable of great things if we too have a child like heart, a measure of enthusiasm, and a reason to fight. Ender was a third, an oddity, and at the ripe old age of 6 had everything taken away from him because he had some desire to protect humanity, to do something he was apparently able to do. He left his family behind (his sister Valentine being the hardest to part with), lost all communication with them for ~ 4 years, had persistent bullies to deal with, faced a cruel regiment designed to break him if indeed he could be broken and/or make him stronger if it didn’t kill him in the process. He faced death threats, abuse, mental assaults, exhaustion and cruelty at the hands of adults for years all holding on to the idea that he wouldn’t lose himself, that mayhaps he could protect humanity one day if he could wake up and endure it again the next day. Sure, he wanted to go home — but he didn’t. There’s a perseverance and determination we can all learn from and thanks to Card’s brisk pacing, colorful characters, and a “game” that puts Quidditch to shame (all in good fun) he’s managed to do it in a very entertaining manner. I regret it took me as long to get there, but the lessons in the book certainly aren’t lost on me…and perhaps I’m even more capable of applying them now than I would have been way back then. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
Look for a full review of the book shortly.