Originally posted: Sun, 13 Mar 2005 09:50:04
I almost never read fiction anymore. I think the last fiction book I read was in 2001 or 2002. Although I read an improbably large number of pulp science fiction books through grade school, high school, and early college, I eventually lost interest in fiction -- there's too much interesting and engaging nonfiction out there, as you can see by browsing the rest of my reading list blog. Although many people have recommended Ender's Game to me, I just hadn't gotten around to reading it.
But a few days ago, my wife borrowed it from a friend and asked me to read it after she finished. Since I felt too lousy to work anyway (allergies have been bad), I did. It took a few hours.
For me, the most interesting thing was that Card anticipated something similar to blogging. Having seen blogs take down Trent Lott and (let's be honest) Dan Rather in the last couple of years, I couldn't help reading the secondary plot in terms of the blogosphere. On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog -- or a precocious twelve-year-old.
In terms of the main plot, the book reads remarkably like some of Heinlein's books for teens. I'm particularly thinking of Tunnel in the Sky, Between Planets, Rocket Ship Galileo, Red Planet, and especially Starman Jones, all of which (like this one) feature unusually precocious boys who go through rough apprenticeships with exacting father figures. (Look at that list -- you can tell how I spent my own high school years. I could probably add Starship Troopers here, but I never read the book.) But Card's book is darker, more is at stake, and his protagonist is more isolated. Through most of the book, the protagonist is systematically ground down and nearly broken. This messes quite a bit with the pacing: the route to the climax is almost imperceptibly sloped, and after the climax the story immediately drops away; the last chapter or so feel like they're tacked on. Rating: Eight out of ten.
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