Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Time and trains are relative
Since I bought it a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been devouring Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. I discovered Card’s work through one of the sequels to Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow. As usual, the first book in the series was nowhere to be found in the whole kingdom of Belgium. That is, until I found it recently in an English bookshop in Brussels.
Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel about Ender Wiggin, a young boy that was bred in a genetic improvement scheme to become a military genius. Earth is desperately in need for such a person, after two invasions by an alien race, called the buggers. Both times, humans barely succeeded in defeating the invasion forces and subsequently, a counter attack was launched to the home system of the enemy.
Like his older brother and sister, Ender is no ordinary boy, but a genius whose mind doesn’t work like any ordinary kid. He goes to battle school, a space station where other young geniuses like himself are trained to become the future commanders of earth’s fleet. Most of their time is devoted to ‘the game’, where in total weightlessness, different armies of kids fight each other in mock battle, learning command, tactics, and so on. Ender makes a blitz career, advancing at a much faster pace than the others. But this seems to create more enemies than friends. And then there’s the growing manipulation of the school commander, who never seems to give Ender any rest.
Ender’s Game is an enormously captive read. Yesterday, I was so totally absorbed in the story while I was waiting for my 17.25 train, that I completely forgot that I had to get onto one. Suddenly, I woke out of the spell, and I noticed that it was already 17.30h. And I honestly couldn’t tell if it had already passed or not. Another train stopped, not going to Antwerp, so I waited and after a couple of minutes I discovered that I didn’t forget to get on my train. It was just fifteen minutes late. Which was a good thing, because with the extra time I could just finish the book before we arrived.
Ender’s Game is not a new book – it was first published in 1985 – but if you want an original and captivating read, this one should be in your library. Or you can just wait for the movie to come out. And if science-fiction is not your thing, I would still recommend it, because this is light years away from the 'traditional' Star Wars/Star Trek/Alien formats. It’s incredible how Orson Scott Card gets the reader into the mind of the young students of Battle School and how he builds an intricate story in a deceptively simple setting.
I’m off to buy the second book, 'Speaker for the Dead'.