Let Me Put My Suggestions In You: The Ender Saga
I don’t know about you, but when I splurge to see a movie that seems worth my $12+ in the theater, I look forward to seeing the previews just as much as the main attraction. I remember when I was in undergrad I almost had a heart attack when the first Lord of the Rings trailer came on to the screen, how I had crazy palpitations of anticipation when the Star Wars prequel trailers first aired themselves while I was in high school, and how I nearly soiled myself when I saw the trailer revealing that Indiana Jones was making a comeback. Regardless of how the actual movie turns out, the trailers try to get you hooked, to make you loose your breath, to have you go home and watch that trailer over and over as you quiver with eagerness.
So when I went to the theater this past spring to watch the second Star Trek flick, I was eagerly awaiting a Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer. Sadly I was disappointed, but there were some interesting trailers, and one caught my attention. It was for a film called Ender’s Game that seemed to take place in space. I had never heard of the story before. You can see the trailer here: Ender’s Game Teaser trailer. I had attended the movie with several fellow sci-fi buffs, so when we left the theater I expressed my disappointment in the overall lack of good trailers. A close friend though said “What about Ender’s Game?! That looked great, and that is the most classic science fiction story of all time!” Needless to say I was instantly embarrassed that I had never heard of the book, and luckily for me it is super cheap on amazon. I went home and bought the entire Ender’s Game Series, also known as The Ender Saga, which are the first 4 novels in the series.
Spoiler alert: this post contains some details of the book, and if you want to read it or see the movie with a clear mind untainted from my blabbering mouth you should stop now.
So let’s start with Book 1, Ender’s Game. I started reading and was instantly hooked, and I could see why my friends had strongly recommended this story. It is set some time many thousands of years in the future. An alien race, known as “Buggers” because of their resemblance to insects on our planet, have twice now attacked Earth and nearly annihilated the entire human population. Humans are eerily aware that it is probably only a matter of time before they return, this time to finish us off for good. Maybe it is that I am obsessed with Falling Skies, but it is super easy to picture what a bugger would look like….
As a result, the government starts training kids that are genetically superior human specimens from birth for a life in combat. These kids are allowed to stay with their families in their first years, but are subjected to quite a bit of testing, observations, and trials. Interestingly, it is not uncommon for those kids that don’t pass all the tests to be quite sadistic in addition to having unheard of intelligence. Right from the get go we are introduced to our main character Ender, and his torture at the hand of fellow bullies in the same program as him. At the age of 6, Ender has passed more tests then most 10 year olds, but in order to be taken away from his family and officially recruited to battle school they put him to the test against these classmate bullies of his. Egging on the bullies in their own way, the adults purposefully leave Ender vulnerable to see if he can fend for himself, and he does so, violently in his own way. Of course we all route for Ender, but the result of his actions is so horrific even the adults don’t tell him the truth after the event. This scene sets Ender up as a ruthless soldier, and we follow him to battle school. Ender is pushed to the limit by everyone: his teachers, his classmates, his supposed “friends”. They know deep down that he has what it takes to save the human race, but to get there they must take him to the edge of his humanity. It’s hard for anyone to believe that behind the scenes, Cornell Graff (who will be played by none other than Harrison Ford in the movie) considers himself Ender’s best supporter.
Battle school consists of traditional classes, video games to train the mind, and the daily battle room sessions where kids fight each other on teams in zero gravity using laser like devices that “freeze” you up in position for 2 minutes when hit, taking you or part of your body out of the battle. With how well Ender does you begin to think that his parents named him that for his uncanny ability to end the battle, only you know his nickname is more sentimental. It refers to the fact that his little sister Valentine would try to say his real name, Andrew, and continually mispronounced it as Ender while they were growing up. That connection to Valentine becomes vital; as the school tries to swipe Ender’s mortality he clings desperately to his relationship with his sister and his love of humankind.
You can probably see some of the similarities in this story to Hunger Games, considering it deals with adult issues and attitudes that children less than 12 have to portray, leaving you feeling vulnerable and wanting vengeance. What’s really remarkable about this story is that it was written in the early 80’s, and still seems completely believable as something that could happen in our future. The science fiction aspects of the story are quite unique for the time it was written, and may still come to pass.
Without giving away anymore about the book they will be making this first movie from, I will tell you that all “end’s well” for the humans (no pun intended). Ender was everything they hoped for, but in their manipulation and extortion of his abilities they inadvertently led him to kill off a completely intelligent and caring species, probably the first we have ever come in contact with before. It leaves you feeling a bit tragic and depressed at the end, but it is a series after all.
I guess we will have to wait and see what happens with the first movie to see if they make the second book in to a film, but I am hoping they do. In so many ways I felt it went above and beyond the first book. Speaker for the Dead is the second book, and it refers to Ender’s new title. After he realized that he is solely responsible for the extinction of an entire species of sentient beings, he gives up, loses hope, and becomes a lifeless soul himself, just running through the motions. He is reunited with his sister, but despite her best efforts to have him explore the newly found universe of deserted but livable planets left behind by the buggers with as much zeal as her, he still feels broken and empty. Until one day he finds a planet with a playground identical to a video game that he could not seem to beat back at Battle School. He follows the same path he knew would be there from memory, and discovers a cocoon. Telepathically communicating with him, the last queen of the bugger race rests inside, and helps Ender come to terms with what he has unintentionally done.
So Ender writes a book titled “The Speaker for the Dead” meant to make humans regret their decision to commit xenocide on the buggers. This amazing book then follows Ender in his new life, now known as Andrew again since Ender has become a name synonymous with Hitler. Space travel allows Andrew to travel from planet to planet in a matter of days during his life, though in reality 20-30 years pass each time his sister and he board a spaceship bound for another planet galaxies away. He speaks for the dead and becomes a well-known and respected man in this new occupation. Behind the scenes no one knows he continues to carry the burden of carrying the hive queen, safe in her cocoon, with him. The hope is that he will one day find a planet suitable for her to emerge and replenish her race of sentient beings without human interference.
Everything seems to be going splendidly well until a speaker is requested on a planet where the second known intelligent species, known as piggies, have been discovered. They are a unique tree-living species called piggies because of their snouts resembling what we knew as hogs, even though a description of them sounds more like lemurs. I personally picture some sort of mixture between the lemurs of Pandora with piggy snouts, and they quickly pick up on the human language. Shockingly, one of their tribe members has murdered one of the explorers doing research in to their species’ way of life, quite brutally, without an explanation as to why.
What follows is not an action-packed story or even a thriller. It is more of a philosophical tale. And I found it more powerful than any I have read in ages. Some of the issues this book delves in to: artificial intelligence, evolution, religion, speciesism, reproductive instincts, space-travel, and euthanasia. It was truly incredible, and brought me to tears on several occasions (in a good way). I now know why my friend said that these books were the most riveting and classic science fiction novels to boot. I whole-heartedly agree. I wanted to write this post in anticipation for the movie. Now you hopefully have enough time to go get these books and read them before the movie coming out in the fall. And here’s to hoping they can make the movie just as memorable as this award winning book series.
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Posted on August 13, 2013, in Books, Features, Let Me Put My Suggestions In You, Movies, Recommendations and tagged Books, Ender Saga, Ender's Game, Harrison Ford, Movies, Orson Scott Card. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.