Ender’s Game (eventually, after lots of blather)

[–Also, spoilers potentially throughout… But, seriously, Ender’s Game was originally written in 1977, it’s not new news…] I think I’ve mentioned before how much of a sci-fi/fantasy nut I am, and how very picky I am about my fiction. So, science fiction as a vessel for teen angst has been a little ridiculous in the last 5 or so years as far as movie releases (Divergent? Really? So bad. So disingenuously incomplete as a society, shallowly written as a novel and so badly acted as a movie. Hunger Games was a level of silly, but Divergent made it look like an Oscar contender in comparison…) but it has also allowed the release of a few very clever pieces that might not otherwise have been made for the big screen.

Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, is unabashedly aimed at my age group and irreverently silly, but I enjoy it thoroughly for those qualities in conjunction with the excellent pacing, action and CG, as well as the relatively “believable” (as far as super hero movies go) story and sympathetically ridiculous main character. Also, Zoe Saldana. Movies with Zoe Saldana tend to get at least a bit of a pass. I mean, Star Trek was unforgivable, but between Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana, at least there was something fun to look at.

So, I remember seeing Ender’s Game trailers and wanting to see it, and then Real Life(TM) intervened and between the cleaning, screaming, appointments and general frustration, I completely forgot about it… Until last night. I had happened to pull up the HBO Go (<3 Lance) to find a movie to watch while I folded clothes, and found another good one (which I’ll talk about at another time, in another entry) and the Apple TV was still in HBO mode when Tim turned it on after the kids went to bed. He found Ender’s Game and started watching. I remembered about it, but was chest deep in NURBs, trying to reteach myself 3d modeling after a 6 year hiatus (another entry, as well) and so I half-watched the first half out of the corner of my eye in the reflection in the front window, and half-listened to the dialogue.

[Complete tangent explanation: The house we live in is equipped with full length mirrors in at least one side of most of the doors, and there are a couple of extra mirrors hung on the wall in strategic spots, as well as large paneled windows, so getting a visual of what someone is doing on the other side of the house is not actually that hard, if you know the trick. Very handy when small children suddenly become suspiciously quiet.]

By the time Tim said, “Hey, you should come watch with me,” I was interested enough to turn off Maya and go see. I started paying attention around the time that Ender got his own Dragonball Z command. Or, whatever. There were too many references I didn’t quite get to understand completely, but I was entranced by the great CGI and the fact that the main character looked like he might conceivably, with a little imagination, be a real kid. (If he was too handsome, I wouldn’t care about the plot. Too-handsome main characters are a MAJOR FLAW. Real people are real. The fact that his crew ‘happened’ to be incredibly racially inclusive to the point of being a selectively organized bag of mixed nuts was ridiculous, but such is the requirement of current cultural expectation. Reading the novel, there was some of that, but not in the selectively ridiculous extreme that the movie portrayed it at all.)

The reference for “Ender” as a name completely eluded me. [Actually, after reading and rereading the first few chapters of the very catching novel by Orson Scott card, he seems to just know himself as Ender, thought his name is Alexander and the detrimental nickname for him is “Thirdy”… Maybe it’s supposed to be End child, maybe it’s a weird modern form of Xander. I didn’t get that completely. Possible it’s simply a device for the play on words that is the novel’s title. In any case…] The ‘fairyland’ game also completely confused me, but if they hadn’t shown the real-world counselor and principal arguing about the ‘unexpected changes’ going on in the program, I would have assumed it was a really advanced version of Final Fantasy. Final  Fantasy:MCMVII;WTF, as it were. Cos the game sequences seriously looked like they belonged in that franchise. Aaanyway. The book illuminates the ideas behind the computer a little bit more, but the movie has a better interface.

The climax is fantastic, although the ‘deception’ of the adults isn’t played so well and makes Ender seem like a lone psychopath in the end. And while I know there is a (reportedly) excellent sequel to the novel, I’m pretty sure they didn’t make enough money on the movie to go that far. So, the ending of the movie was enormously unsatisfactory.

For that reason, I went looking for the novel on Overdrive. Completely unexpectedly, my library had an ebook copy immediately available, and so I started reading. I have read one of Orson Scott Card’s books and know him as a prolific author, enough that I recognized his name in the credits and explained him in general ‘hugely famous genre author’ ideas to Tim, but I’ve never read Ender’s Game. I was missing out.

To be fair, I haven’t actually finished it… But the fact that I picked it up at midnight and only forced myself to sleep at 4AM, and then had incredibly vivid dreams about the universe and circumstances, convinces me that it’ll be a good one. Tim has often mentioned how he loved Tom Swift books as a child, and I liked Nancy Drew, the Nancy Drew Files and the Bobsey Twins. This is like that, except… for grown-ups. And if the author’s introduction is to be believed, it has been similarly inspiring over several decades for a number of gifted children as well as adults in unique situations around the world.

I’m looking forward to the end. And then, the next one. Because you know the best part of one fantastic novel is knowing it has sequels that might be as good or better.

[Just hang that hope on Joss Whedon, not the Wachowski brothers….]


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