It may be blizzarding outside, but at least that's put me in a mood to write! I might get a few more book reviews posted this weekend and catch up a little bit :)
I had been wanting to re-read Ender's Game for a long time. I first read it when I was in grad school, getting my master's in gifted education, and we focused on literature that would appeal to gifted children. I'd never heard of the book before, even though I was a big sci-fi reader as a child and the book was published around the time I was born. So I read it about 10 years ago and loved it, and bought a copy to keep in my classroom library when I was a teacher. I always meant to read it again, and I got my chance when my book club chose to read it for our December meeting.
Ender's Game's main character is, not surprisingly, a boy named Ender. Ender is actually his nickname because he is the third and final, or ending, child his parents had. He's an exception, a Third. Most families are only allowed to have two children, but Ender's older siblings were so promising to the government for a special project that they allowed his parents to have a third child, hoping he'd be perfect. His older brother, Peter, is essentially a complete sociopath with no human compassion. His sister Valentine is too loving and compassionate. Lucky for the government (and humanity at large), Ender is juuuuuust right. At age 6, Ender is sent to Battle School to learn how to become a fighter for Earth in the coming war against the Buggers. He goes through rigorous military training, and it soon becomes clear that he's expected to be the Great Hope to win the Bugger war.
I've heard a lot of complaints about this book. I've heard that it doesn't portray children accruately, that the children are too smart and too ruthless. I believe those people have never met a truly gifted child and must not remember what it's like to be a child themselves. The old adage "Children are cruel" has its foundation in truth. Children have not developed the emotional maturity to be sympathetic or empathetic; as much as adults try to teach them by saying, "How would you feel if someone did that to you?" they just can't comprehend it. And so they are absolutely horrid to each other when the mood strikes, and they are ruthless. I remember that about childhood. And just as quickly, it's all forgotten and children are best friends again. I remember that, too. Gifted children are no different in that respect; they just have the intelligence to suss out exactly the most hurtful things to say and do to one another. They are logical and have the intellingence of any of the smartest adults, but they don't have the emotional development to temper it.
And that's why I think this book is brilliant. It shows, in what I think is a highly accurate way, what happens when you throw a bunch of crazy-smart children into a military situation and teach them to be soldiers, pitting them against each other in war games. The book is science fiction, and it is ultimately about two races' misunderstanding of each other and the resulting destruction because of this, but the book succeeds because of its exploration of these kids' psyches, and Ender's in particular. It's the reason gifted kids all over the world feel so passionately about the book: they feel like someone finally understands them, that there may be other people like them, after living their whole lives feeling isolated. That, in my opinion, makes the book one of the best ever written dealing with gifted children, and it's reasonably decent sci-fi in addition to that.