Hello blog readers! Sorry for being MIA
No not this MIA
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.
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.
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.