Friday, March 30, 2012

Ender's Game, thanks kids

My kids are all fairly avid readers, and of course they like the genre of science fiction and fantasy.  I like to stay informed of what these books are that they're into, so I ask them every once in a while what's the best thing they've read lately.  This last week all three told me I had to read Ender's Game, that it was very profound and they were sure that I'd like it.  I initially confused it with the current blockbuster movie, Hunger Games (based on the series they've also read).  But I was soon corrected that this book was not about children killing other children; it is about children pretending to kill other children as a way of practicing to kill aliens.

Ender is a young precocious boy who has been identified by the government of the future as one who might grow up to be a military commander in the impending war with the aliens who have already invaded twice.  So at the age of six he is removed from his family and sent to the space camp where he learns all sorts of military strategy, etc.  I suppose it is the "etc" that is the real story.

It really is a very engaging book.  I read through it in just a few evenings on the kindle.  There are some very satisfying twists at the end.  But it is not the plot that intrigued me most.  I read it as an indictment of the military mindset.  Of course the threat is very real, and something must be done.  But for someone whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks a nail.  The military tears down Ender and builds him up to be the perfect military commander.  Ender realizes this but is powerless to do anything about it.  One of the most insightful and profound moments is when Ender confesses that he is such a good commander because he has the uncanny ability to empathize with the enemy, to think like they think.  His dilemma is that once you come to empathize with someone, you don't really want to destroy them.  Perhaps our military types would benefit from a little more empathy.

Thanks kids.  It was a good read.  I hope you'll read more like it.

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