Ender’s Game Review – Or How Disturbed Children Fight Wars

Hello blog readers! Sorry for being MIA

No not this MIA

She's so fierce!

She’s so fierce!

I’ve been out of action for sometime but I can assure you all that it was for a good reason. Alas the lure of Arrested Development and Futurama marathons on Netflix was too much and I, like a lazy cat in the sun, succumbed to it’s bright, glowing rays.

Oh how my ass has expanded because of this  entity

Oh how my ass has expanded because of this entity

But OMG guys Netflix is seriously destroying my life! I discovered that American Netflix has more options than the Canadian one. And ever since I figured out how to mask my IP address to appear American  – yeah I’m Bond like that – I haven’t been able to do much in terms of writing. I was shamefully telling people that I had a writer’s block. What a big fat lie! Really I was either out gallivanting with friends at the local pub or going home to my beloved Netflix. Yup a classic writer’s procrastination but oh was it ever worth it! The best was when the boyfriend was working late and I spent the entire night in my jimmy-jams, wearing homemade avocado face mask, and eating Indian take out while watching every Jane Austen adaptations I could find.

But no more! Today, I bring you a review of Ender’s Game, our latest book club read.

Full disclosure: this book was not my first choice. Truthfully, I don’t like reading a lot of young adult novels, with the exception of The Huger Games Triliogy and that’s only because I saw the movie first. So when fellow TAYMBC founder, hali55, nominated Ender’s Game for our next book, admittedly I was a bit hesitant. A YA novel that’s not about Katniss Everdeen? Are you joking?

I read it nonetheless.

Ender’s Game is a pretty simple, straight forward story about a six year old boy named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a child prodigy and military genius. He’s tasked with saving the human race against insect-like creatures called the Formics (but derogatorily called “buggers” because of their ant-like appearance). The Formics didn’t like the humans for some reason (probably because they saw the Miley Cyrus MTV twerking video) and attacked Earth. The humans fought back and by some absurd miracle won the battle. Convinced that another invasion was imminent, Earth’s army (the International Fleet) created Battle School, which is a a program designed to find children of the best and brightest tactical minds and subject them to rigorous military training on a facility above Earth.

These boys and girls, not unlike child soldiers of a contemporary war torn country, experience severe physical and psychological strain through series of mock war games that take place in an anti-gravity arena in the Battle School. Our boy Ender of course is amazing (natch) but with his rising brilliance in the school, Ender realizes his own loneliness and isolation from everyone. As the reader later finds out, the isolation and constant monitoring by Battle School teachers/officials is probably not all that great for a boy like Ender, who has spurts of violence like they are some kind of messed up nervous ticks.

To be quite honest, I actually don’t know what to think about this book. In the days spent reading Ender’s Game, there were times when I literally had to put down the book and analyze whether I was enjoying it, hating it, or both. Never have I been so completely engrossed in a story that I didn’t like reading…or did I? See, I am so confused!

Ok, let’s break the confusion down into hors d’ourves sized points:

1. I’m mixed up about the author’s personal politics, which is for the most part religiously fueled, and completely against what I stand for and believe in.  You see, the author of Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card, has a wee problem with homosexuals. This past summer, when Ender’s Game was being promoted with the full force of a Kansas tornado, Scott Card’s hateful sentiments (because that’s what they are) came to light. Lionsgate Entertainment, the movie studio responsible for making the film adaptation, soon released a statement about how the author’s views are “irrelevant” to the movie. And this is where I am mixed up because I actually agree with them.

This is what I think of homophobia

Am I protesting against Scott Card because of his personal religious and political views or the book itself? Or what the book represents? Or the product of a person who happens to have views that are completely against what I believe in? By purchasing the book or paying for a movie ticket, am I in some way allowing a man with hateful views to profit? For sure! But how many authors have I read over the years whose personal views are contradictory to my own and yet I still bought their books? Celebrated authors like T.S. Eliot, V.S Naipaul, David Mamet (to name a few) have all, in some way or another, made their bigoted views known to the world, and the world in turn heralded their works as great literature. Their words are read and enjoyed by thousands of people, including myself. Though it was hard to separate Scott Card the bigoted author from his book, at the end of the day I decided to treat Ender’s Game as a stand-alone novel. Objectively speaking, Ender’s Game doesn’t appear to promote any anti-LGBTQ subtexts. At least nothing that I, as a careful reader, was able to pick up on. Maybe you guys did? If so, I want to know!

2. There are a disturbingly number of scenes where boys’ nakedness is featured, described both in passing as well as in length, to the point that it becomes a fixation at certain parts of the novel.

I’ve seen enough military films (aka Jarhead) to know that nakedness in army barracks is just a common everyday occurrence in soldiers’ lives. But why is a naked muscled men in army barracks more acceptable you may ask? Um….have you seen Jake Gyllenhall in that  movie?!  Ok, kidding aside the topic did come up in our book club meeting.  There’s a pivotal scene in the novel where Ender challenges one of his bullies to strip down and fight him. He’s in the locker room showering when he’s confronted by a gang of other boys. I felt very uncomfortable reading this scene. I knew it was supposed to be a psychologically revealing part of the novel, allowing the reader to see Ender metaphorically stripped of all his armor and vulnerable. Nevertheless, I felt that given the age of the children in the book, one can’t help but question the reasoning behind the author’s descriptions.

3. Oh the violence!

Some have called Ender’s Game a commentary on our society’s disturbing fascination with violence. Featured heavily are child soldiers who are trained to be comfortable using brute force, manipulation, and display minimal empathy for others. It’s all about winning the game. But Ender is something of an anomaly to me. He is at once the saviour of mankind and a dictatorial commander that commits genocide. At times he shows guilt and shame for his violent actions, but in others he is described to be cold and calculating. John Kessel, in his essay “Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender’s Game, Intention, and Morality”, posits that Scott Card justifies Ender’s “righteous rage and violence.” He attacks his enemy but still remains morally clean. Interestingly enough, Ender’s Game is on the U.S. Marine Corps’ Professional Reading List as a recommended reading for lower rank officers. (Seriously, just Google it).

Overall, I felt my confusion and moral discomfort had a lot to do with Scott Card’s personal views. Had I read about him after reading Ender’s Game, perhaps I would be less pissed off – I mean, I can’t undo reading a book no matter how much I wish never reading a chapter from Twilight.  As a stand-alone novel, Ender’s Game was a compelling story; well crafted, albeit a little predictable, with dynamic well-rounded characters. I don’t see myself reading the novels in the Enderverse series but I know some of the book club ladies have taken up the cause.

Next book club read: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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Lady Chatterley’s Lover: A Relatively Kind Review

As the token smut-whore of This Ain’t Your Mama’s Book Club, I suppose it’s only fitting that I bring to you July’s book review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But before I do, I’d like to offer a bit of a disclaimer to our sensitive readers. In true D.H. Lawrence fashion, this is a no holds barred review where language is concerned. I have a filthy mouth, and while I normally repress the urge to offend others with my vulgarity, this time, and in the memory of the late D. H. Lawrence, I absolutely refuse to be censored.

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In its most basic form, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a novel about a sexually unfilled upper-class woman in a bind. Her mind urges her to stay faithful to her now wheelchair bound husband, Clifford Chatterley, while her female parts demand attention. Eventually she finds herself engaged in a strictly sexual relationship with the Estate’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. And like it always does in fiction, lust turns to love, and Constance Chatterley has it bad.

But don’t let my simple synopsis fool you, there is nothing basic about this book. It is a very complex analysis of the human heart, mind, and libido. The novel tackles issues of sex and relationships, as well as gender and class relations. It also questions notions of masculinity, femininity and body image. It suggests that love and sex are indivisible and that true love is merely a product of fiction.

If you haven’t already figured out why this book is so intense, take this in: Lawrence was a male author in the 1920s, writing through the perspective of a woman. In the novel, Connie Chatterley is in the prime of a sexual awakening. She is learning how to please herself and her lover while also learning how to feel comfortable in her own skin. The novel’s sex scenes are just as explicit as one might expect from modern day erotica, but Lawrence wasn’t afraid to take it a step further. He uses the ‘fuck’ AND ‘cunt’ bomb throughout.  Given the decade it was published, it’s pretty obvious why our prudish ancestors banned it on obscenity charges. But I for one, believe in giving props where props is due, so…well done Mr. Lawrence, well fucking done.

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Now for the gritty bits!

Readers of modern erotic literature, if you ever wondered where the quiet, cryptic and dominant lover with the capacity to fuck you into tomorrow comes from, it’s Oliver Mellors. He is a gamekeeper, a simple, lower-working class man. But he’s also very proud, and refuses to feel belittled when in the presence of the Chatterleys. He understands that money is the only divider between him and his employer, and does not internalize the indignity he is often subjected to at the hands of Clifford Chatterley. Mellors is intelligent, witty and mild mannered. Connie sees this, and is not fooled by his socio-economic status. So, I suppose it’s the complexities of his character along with the handiwork of his manhood that help her truly fall in love.   

Where Connie is concerned, I can’t speak so highly. But dear readers, you should know that at least fifty percent of the time, I struggle to relate to female protagonists. I’ll even go as far as to say I despise them (i.e  Jane Eyre…UGH!)  Actually, it’s the overemphasis of their soft-spoken, humble and good-natured manner I despise. I won’t hate on Connie for being compassionate, but her constant need to reprimand herself for allowing her mind and body to wonder, is gag-worthy.  Clifford Chatterley does not deserve compassion; he deserves a kick in the mouth. He was an awful character, a self-important asshole that let his wealth do the walking for him. I refuse to empathize on the grounds of his disability. Worse things have happened to better people.

Waiting for Connie to make the obvious choice was a little infuriating. Bigoted impotent husband vs.  modest but insatiable lover. I mean, where are her priorities, really? She got there in the end, just not in time to redeem herself in my books. Meanwhile, I found myself wondering what Hilda, her free-thinking, unfiltered and unapologetic older sister was up to. Now that would have made an interesting novel!

Ladies of the book club and kind readers, I am dying to know you think!  Leave a comment to let me know.

Otherwise, I welcome you all to get a head start on our August book club pick: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I’m kind of pissing myself with excitement for this one. I hope it lives up to the hype! 

14 Books to Read Before the Movie Comes Out

Look what I scrounged up from the internet! A pretty good list from BuzzFeed of highly anticipated book to film adaptations: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/books-to-read-before-they-hit-the-big-screen

For once, I agree with this BuzzFeed list, in particular for putting Ender’s Game and The Fault in Our Stars up there.

Which book-to-film adaptation are guys looking forward to?

Bye Bye Zelda…Hello Lady Chatterley!

Here at This Ain’t Your Mama’s Book Club, we just wrapped another fun-filled meeting over delicious sushi dinner. A splendid evening was spent with good friends, good sushi, and good conversation. Although I have to confess the evening was slightly spoiled by two things: A) the restaurant ran out of green tea ice cream; and B) we had to discuss a dreadfully boring book called Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerlad.

First off, how the hell does a popular sushi restaurant in busy downtown Toronto RUN OUT OF GREEN TEA ICE CREAM!?!? Do the proprietors know that sushi dinner is not complete without the complimentary ice cream? I hope I don’t sound like a drama queen by saying that I felt like a jilted bride left to weep alone at the altar.

Second concern of the night: only 2 out of 5 of the book club ladies actually bothered to finish the Zelda book. Their excuse? It was a terribly boring book and finishing was a chore more tedious than getting one’s eyebrows threaded. If you’ve ever put yourself through this procedure then you have a general sense of what reading this book was like.

This is a summary from the book’s Amazon.com page:

“When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it. ”

First off, the “beautiful, reckless” Zelda Sayre is only that for 20 pages out of the 368. The rest of the time she was as interesting as a wet mop. I was expecting the flapper girl who painted Paris red while dancing on champagne bubbles, but was left disappointed with a flat rather than fizzy character.

Zelda’s slow, emotional decay is drawn out over the course of 6 chapters. As an experienced reader, I understand the logic in focusing the story line on a character’s breakdown. But 6 chapters was a waste of time. We never become intimately connected with the character in the first place. After a while I just stopped caring, primarily due to losing interest early on.

The book is not a romping, thrilling work of fiction as the above carefully constructed summary lead me to believe. Snippets of the Fitzgeralds’ partying ways are concentrated mostly on the their early years together but then dissipate as they age and move around from Europe and America.

When I first heard about a book being written about the Fitzgeralds, I was eager to throw myself along with their travels and escapades. After spending 35 of my hard-earned dollars, I can say without a doubt that this book was not worth a cent it’s priced at.

But on to bigger and better and dare I say wetter things (gross!). The book club ladies have selected D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as our next read. Folks, this is a novel dripping in sensuality, social commentary, and incomprehensible Derbyshire  dialect. The love affair between the wife of an aristocrat and his gamekeeper is enough to pique anyone’s interest. It created quite a stir at the time of its publication in 1928. In England, it was even subject to a famous obscenity trial in the early 60s when Penguin Books wanted to publish an unexpurgated version. Luckily Penguin won and today we can enjoy Lawrence’s most well known work just as he intended.

How John Green Changed the Book Shame Game

I have a very close relationship with young adult novels; unfortunately I only discovered them in my late adolescence. Surprisingly, I learned to love reading through Western canon, in high school it was only ever Austen and Bronte and even Huxley. They were my thing; I was the book-whore who loved to impress her teachers with cross-literary references using examples from novels outside of the course syllabus. And then university started and I realized my breadth and depth of literary knowledge was mediocre at best. I had a lot of catching up to do and somewhere in the process reading lost its novelty. It was no longer my escape, that is, until I discovered the YA genre.

It began with the Harry Potter audiobooks. Narrator by Stephen Fry, they were so good, it almost felt like watching an extended version of the films, but better, because my imagination was the director. At some point, I don’t know when, or how, I decided to step up my Harry Potter game. I began reading the books, without shame because even as an adult, Harry Potter was still relevant, and somehow society accepted that. By the time my deep and passionate love affair with Rowling was at its peak, there was tons of contemporary young adult fiction competing with Harry for my attention.

I started reading them. Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Sisterhood of the (god damn) Traveling Pants! It was that bad! Books, I as a no-longer-young adult, had no business reading. But I loved them, and as I continued to read, I would guilt myself into a depression. Here I was spending tens-of-thousands of dollars on a literary degree; meanwhile, in the dark of the night, with the curtains closed, I would cuddle-up with my YA novels, imagining my Profs cringing in horror.

Enter John Green.

Amen!

Amen!

In 2007 I discovered the Vlog Brothers. Two brothers who make youtube content about many nerdy things, including but not limited to young adult fiction. John is an author, a content creator, and a teacher to nerdfighters everywhere.

Yes, he writes young adult fiction, but he also proves that Jk Rowling is not the only author capable of writing YA for the masses. His characters are always young but have the intellectual maturity of a 40 year-old, not unlike myself at their age. His prose are poetic, telling and distinctly his own. He uses his fine aptitude for the English language to guide his characters through their own unique coming-of-age experiences. There is always a moral or a message; a line to be dissected, interpreted or reinterpreted. And with John Green, the reading experience is never fully complete until you feel like your mind has been blown.

#mindblown

#mindblown

I am a member of a community of people who have the pleasure of learning from John on a bi-weekly basis. John and his brother Hank have taught me to take pride in my interests, however nerdy they may be. In this case, they have taught me to read for pleasure and personal interest; that YA can be for everyone, and that I should never feel ashamed of reading because every reading experience provides something to be taken away.

Now I browse the YA aisle of my local bookstore without shame, head held high, hoping to one day contribute to the growth and development of this wonderful genre.

Okay?

Okay? Always.

Signs That You’re a Book Addict…Better Than Crack

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By now, you have probably heard about the scandal surrounding Toronto mayor Rob Ford allegedly using crack cocaine. Apparently there’s a video out there of him getting high, saying some homophobic shit about another Canadian politician, and generally being an idiot.

If it is confirmed that Rob Ford has a substance abuse problem, then I think he should first step down and get the f*** out of City Hall, then seek some serious help for his drug issues.

The book worm in me can’t help but think how much better would it have been for Ford if instead of crack he was a book addict! What if, for example, his biggest worry was not when’s the next fix but waiting for the next Game of Thrones novel to come out. Wow, Robbie you could have avoided so much media drama. My advice to Mayor Ford: drop that crack pipe, pick up a good book instead!

The Mayor loves Louisa May Alcott! Look at him...he loves it!

The Mayor loves the novel, Little Women! Look at him…he loves it!

Do you think you’re a book addict as well? Here’s a list from Buzzfeed for the tell-tale signs of book addiction: http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/signs-youre-addicted-to-books-reading

If you answer yes to one or more of the “25 Signs”, then good news you’re a book addict!