Ender's Game is one of the Modern Library Reader's List Top 100 Novels; a list which I am trying to read through. It is also a novel I thought I had read in middle school or high school, but after reading it, I know this is my first read. I have heard of young adults reading this book, but I now think that the themes of warfare and psychological manipulation may be too advanced for some younger readers. I don't know that I would present this book to just any group of 8th graders--they would have to be mature and intelligent enough to comprehend the gravity of the story.
Imagine a world in which alien lifeforms have presented themselves as our enemy. There have been two previous wars with these aliens, and our world as we know it has changed completely. For one thing, space travel has become common and "big brother" monitors us by controlling our households. Families apply to have children, and at any moment a promising child may be taken away for government purposes. Ender is just such a child. He is the third child, which is a rare occurrence in itself. He is chosen by the government at the age of 6 to be groomed as a warfare commander. He is taken off Earth and put into the Battle school where he first learns how to fight, and then how to lead. He is a only a child, but the future of Earth and all mankind is put into his hands. The trick of it is, he has no idea. To Ender, it's just a big game that he excels at. He is aware that at some point in the distant future, as an adult, he may be chosen to be a commander, but he has no idea that he will fulfill that mission long before he is 16 years old.
Ender is a brilliant child who has equal parts aggression and compassion, making him the perfect candidate to lead an army. He can not only predict how the alien species will act, but he is strong enough to oppose them as well. He has quick thinking and is able to keep his army out of danger. He is also emotionally immature, frustrated by manipulating teachers, and heartbroken by a family that is never quite what he wants them to be.
Ender's Game has been heralded as "a scathing indictment of the military mind" (Library Journal). I read the military mind as malleable and gullible. Ender was an exception because he was aware of how he was being tested at every turn. He knew he was being manipulated and he used that knowledge to his own advantage. It is the other students at the battle school who illustrate perfectly the competitive and brainless spirit of military pawns. They act without question and have only success in mind. It is Ender who has to be reminded of how wonderful Earth is and that its human connections are worth fighting for. He simply doesn't have enough competitive spirit to keep him fighting without question.
To analyze this entire novel and discuss the many layers and themes would take at least an 8 page essay, so I'll leave the analyzing to someone else. I will state that I enjoyed the reading of Ender's Game and think it is an important novel. The most important aspect of the novel is in the last chapter. I believe it's true that compassion and understanding may well be the key to survival of our species.