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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is a gripping and emotional sci-fi novel, originally published in 1985, that will appeal to older tweens and teens. It's a dystopian novel about kids trained from age 6, mostly by playing computer games, to find a way to wipe out an entire species of alien invaders. The violence is at times quite brutal, as kids kill other kids. And main character Ender is admired for his ruthlessly efficient violence, though he himself is disturbed by it. Some bullying by an older brother is intense and disturbing, and the conclusion to the story is shocking. Author Card is an outspoken proponent of racist and homophobic views. They don't appear in this novel, but they have gotten wide exposure in articles, essays, and social media in recent years. The release of the 2013 film adaptation of the novel was accompanied by controversy due to Card's expressed views and political writings.
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What's the story?
In ENDER’S GAME, the Earth has been attacked twice by aliens called Formics, or more popularly, Buggers, and everyone is sure a third invasion is coming. So the military embarks on a crash program to breed the ultimate military genius to lead the fleet in a pre-emptive attack against the Formic home world. These kids are trained from age 6 in an off-world facility called Battle School, and their training consists mostly of games. Ender Wiggins may be the child they are looking for. Brilliant, compassionate, and tormented, he's better at the games than anyone has ever been. But how can they manipulate a compassionate child into wiping out an entire species, and at the same time give him the skills to do it effectively? The adults who run the school are literally out to save the world: They will stop at nothing to achieve their ends, and one small boy, or even a school full of kids, is nothing but a means to that end.
Is it any good?
Considered by some to be the best sci-fi novel ever written, Enders Game hits the trifecta: deeply emotional and character-driven, brilliantly intellectual, and exciting as all get out. This is the kind of book the phrase "page-turner" was invented to describe: Most people finish it in one sitting, unable to put it down.
But the images and ideas linger long after the last thrilling page is turned, making it a perfect discussion book, even for reluctant readers. Its view of politics in the internet age is prescient, especially considering it was published in 1985, and as a treatise on ruthless education it's without peer. Though it wasn't written for children, it has been embraced by middle- and high-schoolers. The violence can be quite disturbing to parents, who might want to preview it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Battle School in Ender's Game, where kids are trained from age 6 in an off-world facility in which their training consists mostly of games. How do these games train them? Do you see any implications here for our current world?
Ender's Game was originally published in 1985 and won the Nebula Award for best novel that year. Why is it so well regarded? Why does it appeal to readers today?
Do you see a connection between Ender's Game and the Hunger Games trilogy? How are they similar? How are they different?
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