“Ender’s Game” is a science fiction novel written by Orson Scott Card and published in 1985. The book was originally a short story, published in the August 1977 in an issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. Critical reception of the book was positive and it won both the Nebula Award (1985) and the Hugo Award (1986) for best new science fiction novel. Card later wrote four additional sequels to the book, creating a series. A feature film was created and released in 2013 and was co-produced by Card.
The novel revolves around the main character a six-year-old boy named Ender Wiggins who lives on Earth and spends every day terrified of his older, sadistic brother, Peter. One day, Ender gets into a fight at school and he is later visited at home by a man named Colonel Graff who tells him that he is the leader of a school called the Battle School. The Battle School trains soldiers for the war with an alien race called the buggers. Graff does not give Ender a choice in attending and Ender is quickly shipped off-planet to the school. Ender succeeds to an unprecedented degree in the school and spends three years there before graduating to Command School.
While in Command School, Ender participates in a virtual reality-style game where he is supposed to show his strategy in destroying the enemy. Ender does well and it is only after he wins the game that he is told that it wasn’t a game and he just destroyed the bugger’s home planet. Ender is devastated to have committed genocide. The Earth is relieved to have an end to the war and Ender decides to go to live on the first colony that is inhabiting the buggers former planet. While there he finds a pupa of a bugger queen who tells him the story of her planet from her perspective and Ender decides to help her restart her race on another planet.
The novel opens with two unnamed characters discussing three siblings. They need someone to save the world from “buggers” and eventually decide that the youngest boy is the one to do it. The boy, six-year-old Andrew (or Ender) Wiggins begins the story by having a monitor that was installed on his body removed. The monitor made it so that the authorities could see the world from his perspective. From Ender’s inner thoughts the reader discovers that the monitor has made him a social outcast among his peers. His brother, Peter had a monitor also but Ender’s monitor was in place for a year longer and Ender thinks that Peter hates him for this. Ender feels that Peter hates him for a lot of things and wishes that they got along better. However, he feels that Peter is too dangerous and unpredictable for them to ever truly be friends.
Ender is drugged to deal with the pain of removing the monitor and then returned to his class in school. Ender returns to class only to be teased by a boy named Stilson about being a “Third”. However, Ender feels that it is the government’s fault that he is a third since they were the ones that authorized his birth. Ender is bored by school and feels that he knows all of the answers and doesn’t need to pay attention. After school, Ender is again cornered by Stilson and a group of his friends. He manages to talk the boys into letting him go and then kicks Stilson in the chest. Ender continues to kick Stilson several times very violently because he feels that it will get the boys to stop bullying him. Later, Ender waits for the school bus and cries because he feels that he is turning into his brother.
At the beginning of the second chapter, the reader is taken to another conversation between the two mysterious voices who are saying that the approve of the way that Ender dealt with Stilson but are worried about how Peter will react. They compare Ender’s actions to someone named Mazer Rackham. The mysterious voices reassert that they are only there to save the world and not to make Ender happy.
When Ender returns home, he is comforted by his sister, Valentine. Peter is still angry that Ender had his monitor longer than he did and decides that they are going to play a game called “Buggers and Astronauts”. During the game, Peter physically hurts Ender and takes the game too far. Ender wonders what it feels like to really be a bugger and what they must think about humans.
Peter is four years older that Ender and easily able to get the physical advantage over him. He says out loud that he could kill Ender easily by crushing the air out of his lungs with his knee. Ender thinks this is possible although he doesn’t think Peter would actually do it. Valentine attempts to broker peace between the boys and reminds Peter that if he wants to someday be a politician he can’t have anything in his past that looks bad. This makes Peter relent. But Peter warns Valentine to keep an eye on Ender because he intends to kill him one day and make it look like an accident.
The children’s parents soon come home and it is obvious that Ender cannot relate to them at all. He feels awkward being a Third and resents this feeling. Later that night, Ender is lying in bed when Peter comes in to apologize to him. Peter tells him that he loves him. After Peter falls asleep, Ender cries again.
At the beginning of chapter 3, the mysterious voices talk about another Wiggin child, Valentine. The voices admit that they need Ender to go with them somewhere and they are worried that his love for his sister will stop him. It becomes obvious over the course of this conversation that one of them is soon going to retrieve Ender and that it is critical that he succeed.
The next morning, Ender is eating breakfast when a man comes to the door. The man is wearing the uniform of the International Fleet. When Ender is called into the parlor to talk to the man, he knows he has been chosen for something. The man asks Ender about the fight that he got into with Stilson. Ender admits that he did not want to hurt the boy but he didn’t want to be hurt anymore either. After hearing this, the man introduces himself as Colonel Graff, director of the Battle School. He offers Ender an invitation to attend the school. Ender is surprised by this. Since the authorities have already taken his monitor away he doesn’t understand how they know about the fight. Graff tells him that the fight was his final test and that he has passed. Ender asks how he passed and Graff tells him that he was satisfied with his motivations for the fight. He nearly slips and admits that he needed to be sure that Ender was not like his brother.
It is revealed that there are sanctions against having any more than two children that have gotten stricter over time. Graff implies that because Ender is a Third and his conception was only allowed by I.F. decree, he is basically I.F. property. However, Graff says that he wants Ender to choose to go to the school on his own because that is the only way he will do well. Graff tells Ender that they originally wanted to take Peter to the Battle School, but felt that he was too cruel. They asked for a girl next, but Valentine was too gentle. So they asked for a third, thinking this child would be half of both of his siblings. Graff says that mankind would have been destroyed before except for the heroics of a commander named Mazer Rackham and he tells Ender that they need him to save the world again on behalf of all of the mankind. Ender finally agrees to go and says goodbye to his family. Valentine begs him to be safe and come back to her one day.
One of the mysterious voices is Graff, who starts out chapter 4 talking with the other voice. They say that they need Ender to be a leader and need to get rid of his kindness. The other voice says that Graff seems to enjoy breaking the children and Graff admits that he only enjoys it when they end up being pieced back together stronger than before.
Ender boards a shuttle bound for the Battle School. There are nineteen other children on the shuttle with him who all seem to be in good spirits. Ender is the only child that is nervous and this only isolates him further. The shuttle takes off and launches into outer space. While they are in low gravity, Ender thinks that it is funny to see things floating around in the shuttle and laughs. Graff asks the other children if they think this is funny and they admit that they don’t. He then says that Ender is clearly the most intelligent one among them. This angers the other children and one of them begins hitting Ender on the back of the head. Ender waits until he can grab the boys hand and pushes him away. However, the boy ends up hitting a wall and breaking his arms. Ender feels terrible and worries that he is just like his brother.
When they arrive at the school, Ender tells Graff that he feels betrayed by the man. Graff informs him that his job is to train soldiers so that they can save the Earth. He also preaches that everyone is free until they are needed by their race and then they are only tools. He tells Ender that this is the way it will be until the war is over. Graff later tells a teacher named Anderson that he actually does like Ender and it’s terrible what they are going to do to him. Anderson reminds Graff that they are going to make Ender the best commander in the history of military history.
Ender and the children that he shipped out with are put together in the school and referred to as fellow “Launchies”. The Launchies find their rooms and a man named Dap introduces himself to them and tells them that he is in charge of advising them and answering any questions they may have. However, he tells them that the school is very hard and they are going to be left to mostly fend for themselves.
Ender is lonely and cries at night before going to sleep but he begins learning very quickly and soon the other students begin to feel threatened by his attitude. The boy that Ender injured on the shuttle, Bernard begins to bully Ender and another boy named Shen with his group of friends. Ender settles this by breaking into the computer system and sending a message out to the entire school making fun of Bernard. Dap asks who sent the message and Bernard tries to say that it was Ender but is overruled. This shames Bernard and makes him lose his standing among his friends. After this, Ender becomes friends with Shen and a few others.In his free time, Ender plays a game called Free Play which is a virtual reality mind game that the children are encouraged to play. There is a level called “Giant’s Drink” that Ender cannot seem to get past. In the level, a giant sets two drinks down in front of the player and the player has to choose the one that is not poison to continue.
In his free time, Ender plays a game called Free Play which is a virtual reality mind game that the children are encouraged to play. There is a level called “Giant’s Drink” that Ender cannot seem to get past. In the level, a giant sets two drinks down in front of the player and the player has to choose the one that is not poison to continue. However, Ender always chooses wrong and the game ends. Ender becomes so angered that he attacks the giant and the giant dies. After this, the game continues and welcomes him to Fairyland. Ender is saddened that he sunk to this level and not happy to be advancing.
The two mysterious voices are now revealed to be Graff and an I.F. commander named General Levy. Their officials are happy that Ender passed the “Giant’s Drink” because no student has ever been able to before. Levy worries that the children at the school don’t think like normal kids and Graff points out that that is their whole purpose. They are highly intelligent children who are there to save the world.
Ender begins playing the game again, advancing until he gets to a door that is labeled with the words: “The End of the World”. Ender goes through the door and finds himself in a tower with no escape. A message pops up telling Ender to see his commander. The man in charge of the battle scenarios that Ender takes part in, Major Anderson clashes with Graff about Ender’s schooling. Graff requests several scenarios in the so-called “Battleroom” that Anderson sees as unfair. Anderson considers reporting Graff for his actions. Graff admits that he isn’t doing what’s morally right but if it fails it won’t matter because the buggers will win.
Ender is assigned to a battalion called “Rat Army”. He is assigned with another boy named Dink Meeker who is one of the star pupils in the school. Dink is good but Ender finds many problems with the boys game sessions and begins teaching him to be better. The commander of the battalion, Rose tries to get Ender to stop using his computer but Ender refuses. Rose sends Ender in first during the next practice session so that he will be killed and fail the game immediately, but Ender wins and Rose no longer bothers him.
Ender discovers that Dink has been offered the promotion to commander of the battalion twice but hasn’t taken it because he doesn’t believe in the main mission of the school. He doesn’t think it’s right that they train children to command armies and that children should just be children. Refusing to be commander is Dink’s small rebellion. He also says that he thinks the buggers are all dead and the school is just kept running to give the I.F. an illusion of control. Ender isn’t sure he believes this but he begins to question the motives of the people around him.
During one of the practice sessions, some older boys surround Ender and taunt him. A fight ensues and Ender injures four of the boys. Although he had no choice, he feels bad about hurting them. Ender plays the mind game later that night and goes up to the tower room again. While there he looks into a mirror and sees Peter’s face looking back at him. This disturbs Ender. He realizes that the school is killing the part of him that his teachers and friends like most. When Graff discovers the image of Peter in Ender’s game, he is furious. He argues with the computer expert at the school, Major Imbu. Imbu tells him that the game is only between the mind of the child playing it and the computer. The computer obviously decided to show the picture, thinking that it would help Ender. Graff points out that the picture was too recent to be in the I.F database and Imbu tells him that the program can take information from anywhere. Graff wonders why Peter is so important to Ender. Imbu says that he has no idea and that the computer doesn’t either – it is making up the program as it goes along. As Graff feels that he is essentially doing the same thing, this information actually makes him feel slightly better.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Ender’s family has moved to another town called Greensboro. Valentine still misses Ender and celebrated his last birthday on her own. Valentine is also growing increasingly worried about Peter. She knows that he is inwardly very evil although he is acting normally. Peter has told her that he has the plan to take over the world. He has learned that Russia is preparing for war as the pact that joined it with several nations under the treat of the bugger wars has been broken. Peter tells Valentine that it is in his nature to control and he will gain power one way or another.
At the Battle School, Ender is now nine years old. He is the leader of the Phoenix Army battalion and the top ranked soldier in the school. However, he is very depressed. Graff goes back to Earth to talk to Valentine because he feels that she needs to help Ender. He convinces her to write a letter to her brother but when Ender reads the letter he sees through it immediately. He knows that they made her write it and that the goal was to show him that he isn’t like Peter. Ender is furious that they bothered his sister and corrupted his last true happiness.
Ender goes back into the mind game and the snake that he had previously crushed under his feet now turns into an image of his sister. They walk into the mirror in the tower room together. This makes Ender happy for a while. Graff decides to make Ender commander of the Dragon Army and give him mostly untrained students to command. All of them are younger than Ender. Ender begins training the soldiers and pays special attention to a quick, smart boy named Bean. Bean is very cocky. He asks Ender to make him a platoon leader and Ender tells him that he has to prove himself as a soldier first.
Ender begins to single Bean out and isolate him. He realizes that he is doing the exact same thing that Graff did to him when he first showed up. Ender determines to be Bean’s friend. Ender begins leading his army in training fights against the other top armies. His army is unbeatable in the fights, working together in an unprecedented way. Ender is a great commander and by the end of the first week, Dragon Army has one seven straight battles. Ender begins watching videos of former bugger invasions to learn attack strategies. Ender speaks to Bean and makes sure that the boy knows the significance of the practice battles and is taking it seriously. He tells Bean that the game is so that the school can find the best soldiers for the war against the buggers. Ender tells Bean to pick one soldier from each platoon in Dragon Army to create a special unit for him to train.
Ender is put in charge of a battle against two armies. He is upset by the assignment and doesn’t want to fight. He wins the fight in a brilliant way but only wants to go back to his room. Later, Bean visits him and tells him that he has been put in charge of his own battalion. Graff also visits Ender and tells him that he has graduated to Command School. Ender is taken back to Earth for a short time before going to Command School and he finds that it feels odd to be there as he is so accustomed to Battle School.
Meanwhile, Valentine and Peter have hacked into the computer system on Earth to sway public opinion. Valentine is going under the screen name Demosthenes and pretending to be a warmonger and anti-Russian while Peter is pretending to be a sweet, compassionate character named Locke who has a plan for world peace. The I.F. tracks them down but allows them to carry on what they are doing as it helps the Earth. Valentine has enjoyed being her alter-ego and is starting to feel like Demosthenes is actually her real self. One day, Graff picks her up from school and tells her that Ender is on Earth and wants to see her.
The two siblings meet and talk for a long time. Ender tells her that he is tired of fighting and doesn’t want to go back to school. He has learned his enemies so well that he sympathizes with them now. Valentine convinces Ender to continue fighting and leaves him, hating Graff for asking her to intervene. Graff tells Ender that he had to use Valentine to show Ender what he is really fighting for. He knows that Ender will hate him for doing so but it couldn’t be helped. Ender briefly wonders if Graff cares for him but decides that he is too calculated and cold to care for anyone.
On the way to Command School, Ender learns a little more about the buggers. He discovers that they can communicate through thought and Graff reveals that he wonders if the buggers even realize that Earth has intelligent life. He says that it’s possible that the whole war could be a mistake on their part but since they attacked Earth we had to fight back.
Ender begins to take to Command School well and begins another virtual game where he ends up being in Command of an entire fleet. Mazer Rackham introduces himself to Ender by attacking and subduing him. He tells him that as his enemy, he will be his most effective teacher. Ender begins to do nothing but command simulations and leading battalions. He becomes more depressed than ever. One day, Rackham tells him that he is to take a final test to see if he can graduate. Ender is happy at first to be nearing the end of the school but when he sees the battle and realizes that it is the most difficult one he has ever faced he despairs. Ender picks himself up quickly and wins the battle. He destroyed the planet that the creatures were living on and everyone in the room cheers. After the simulation is done, Ender learns from Graff and Rackham that it wasn’t a simulation at all and he really did just blow up the bugger planet. Ender is furious for being used and ill over having destroyed an entire race. He sleeps for five days as a war rages on Earth with the leftover buggers. When he wakes, a plan called the “Locke Proposal” has already been accepted. This proposal was put forth by Peter in order to save the Earth.
In the last chapter of the book, Ender tries to find a way to help out during peace time but finds that he doesn’t know how. Valentine tells him that Peter is in control of the Earth and he can never go home. Valentine is also leaving. She plans to go to the first colonization of the bugger planet and asks if Ender wants to come. Ender does not want to remember that he killed all of the buggers so he declines, initially. Valentine convinces him by reminding him that she loves him and that he can repay the buggers by learning about their planet and their past.
Ender and Valentine join a colony on the bugger planet and live peacefully for a while. One day as Ender is exploring he begins coming across images that he recognizes from the game. The dead giant, the tower room, etc. He climbs up to the tower room and realizes that the buggers must have built all of this to leave him a message.
Behind the mirror, in the room, Ender finds the pupa of a bugger queen and she communicates with him telepathically. She shows him the battles from the buggers point of view and then shows him what he needs to do to let her live again so she can start a new bugger colony. She tells him that the buggers were unaware that the humans were an intelligent civilization and stopped attacking after they figured it out. Ender goes on to write a book based off of their conversation that tells the bugger history and calls it “Speaker for the Dead”. A religion is formed based off of the book back on Earth and on the bugger planet where Ender lives. Ender speaks to Peter once and his brother tells him his story. Ender writes another book about this and gives it the same title. Ender then convinces Valentine to go with him to different worlds to find somewhere to start the new bugger colony.
Andrew (Ender) Wiggins – the main character of the book. At the start of the novel, Ender is a six-year-old boy who lives in constant fear of his sadistic older brother and a bully at school. Ender bests the school bully in a fight and this is what ostensibly draws the notice of Colonel Graff from the Battle school. However, it is later revealed that the Battle School had been watching Ender all of his life. Ender is a brilliant child, capable of leading entire armies before he is even a teenager. He is a military strategist as well as a technological wiz kid. Ender learns very quickly and takes to any lesson impressively well. Throughout the novel, it is made obvious that Ender was chosen to join the school and lead the war because of his intelligence and ruthlessness but also because of his compassion and kindness. Ender has a wonderful relationship with his older sister, Valentine and it is from her that he gets his compassion. Ender’s love for Valentine is often used against him, however, as Graff knows that it is sometimes the only way to keep Ender fighting for the good of the planet.
Ender also struggles with the other side of his identity – the vicious, violent side that he gets from Peter, his brother. Whenever Ender’s ruthless side comes out, such as when he is commanding his army or when he gets into a physical altercation, Ender feels ill with regret and worries that he is turning into his brother. In the end, Ender destroys the bugger race unknowingly and only makes this sacrifice right with himself when he decides to help the race reestablish themselves on another planet.
Peter Wiggen – Ender’s older brother. A violent, ruthless boy who is as vicious as he is brilliant. The International Fleet specifically turned down Peter’s candidacy for the Battle School because they felt that he was too ruthless and wouldn’t be able to win the love of his subordinates. The reasoning behind this is unknown to Peter but it is obvious that he feels slighted for not getting into the Battle School when Ender did. Throughout the novel, Peter does mature and mellow somewhat and he and Valentine begin to become more like each other as they work together at Locke and Demosthenes.
Peter’s alter ego, Locke spreads a message of peace and harmony and uses the influence that is calm and wise. This is Peter’s brilliant strategy for altering his personality to win influence and the love of his subordinates. By the end of the book, Peter’s plan for the post-bugger war Earth has been implemented and he is the effective ruler of the planet.
Valentine Wiggin – Ender’s older sister. A compassionate and kind child who is just as intelligent as her brothers but has none of the ruthlessness that would allow her to be an army commander or a world leader. Valentine is the only person that Ender loves truly in the entire world. She protects him from their brother throughout their very young childhood before Ender is chosen for Battle School. Valentine uses her alter ego Demosthenes in a way that almost echoes Peter to influence public opinion away from that thought process. However, the brutal, warmongering personality seems to grow on her a little and she seems to enjoy getting to express that aspect of herself.
Colonel Graff – the head of the Battle School that Ender attends. Graff is the one that personally invited Ender to attend the school and has the biggest investment in the boy from a career standpoint. Ender feels that Graff does not feel any affection for anyone but it is obvious through scenes that he is not there for that Graff seems to love Ender in his own way. Although he is tough with him because he knows the boy is the only one who can save the planet and kill the buggers. Graff becomes something of a father figure to Ender, whose own father never seemed to pay him much attention. In the end, Graff tricks Ender into destroying the buggers. This is enough of a betrayal that it severs their relationship completely and Ender does not want to see him again. However, since Graff got what he needed out of Ender—an end to the war—it is arguable that he did not want to see the boy again either.
Bean – a young boy who goes to the Battle School with Ender. Bean is initially Ender’s subordinate but later becomes an army leader in his own right after Ender allows him to build his own battalion.
Bean is another exceptionally clever child. Ender finds himself isolating Bean from the other children to make him a better commander just as Graff did to him. It is implied that Bean would have been Ender’s replacement if something should have happened to him.
Orson Scott Card Biography
Orson Scott Card was born on August 24th, 1951 in Richland Washington. The third of six children, Card grew up in California and served as a missionary in the LDS church in Brazil. Card graduated from Brigham Young University and attended the University of Utah and the University of Notre Dame.
It was during his time at Brigham Young that he began writing. He began writing poetry and his own plays many of which were produced by the college. While working at the college’s paper, Card began dabbling in science fiction and wrote one of his most famous novels ‘Ender’s Game’ as a short story. He later adapted the story into a full-length novel and it was purchased by the magazine Analog Science Fiction and Fact and published in an issue in August of 1977. During this time, he was also writing short audio plays on the history of the LDS church and their gospel as well as working as an associate editor for the Ensign, the church’s official magazine.
When he received a novel contract for two more books he left the magazine and began writing full time. In October of 1983, Card received a contract for a full series called the Alvin Maker trilogy that published between 1987 and 2003. He also began writing a full series of sequels to ‘Ender’s Game’, which went on to have 11 books in the series total, including short stories and prequels. The most recent were published in 2008.
Card won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award in consecutive years (1985 and 1986, respectively). Card is the only author to have ever won Science Fiction’s two biggest prizes in two consecutive years.
In 2008, Card began writing a screenplay for an ‘Ender’s Game’ movie, which was released in 2013. Card has also dabbled in many other genres of writing including horror novels, film novelizations, and graphic novels as well as contributing dialog to video games.
In 2005 Card became a creative writing professor at Southern Virginia University, a small college run by the LDS church. He has also written two books on the subject of writing, ‘Characters and Viewpoint’ (1988) and ‘How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy’ (1990).
Card is married to Kristin Allen Card and the two have five children together. Each child is named after an author that he and his wife admire. He and his family currently live in Greensboro, North Carolina.