Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beginning of the Ender

I was a loyal reader of Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine for many years, starting with my father's collection from the late 50s until I just stopped keeping up in the 90s. So of course I read the original short story that inspired the novel that inspired the movie Ender's Game (2013). I mainly remember the immersive descriptions of zero-grav personal combat tactics, and a very cool black and white illustration of the Battle Room.

Since then, I've read a few of the Ender's series novels, as well as some other Orson Scott Card books. I've followed his controversial politics, with some sorrow, but not much surprise (Short version: He's a Mormon, he doesn't like gay folk. I know, imagine that). I sort of lost interest in his books before I had a chance to start boycotting him. But I always had soft spot for Ender's Game.

It is set in a future in which Earth has been attacked by aliens, and barely driven them off. We are now training a group of child soldiers to take the battle to the aliens. Little Asa Butterfield (Hugo) is Ender Wiggin, who excels at zero-g Battle Room exercises. He is also a bit of an outcast, bullied by his brother and the upperclassmen at Space School, although his sister and one of the girls at school defend him. Colonel Harrison Ford thinks a lot of him, but doesn't really make much of an impression (on my, anyway). Ben Kingsley, however, with Maori facial tattoos and a nifty N-Zed accent, is maybe my favorite part.

I'm not sure that the movie gets the idea of Ender across - he's both brilliant and damaged, bullied and vicious, wimpy and strong. The movie doesn't seem to communicate these nuances, so we see him let his brother beat him up, but aren't shown how this toughens him, teaches him to confront a wily and sadistic opponent. Instead, it feels to me like they are just loading on the emo. And maybe they are. The trimmed down plot seems nakedly aimed at the nerdy kids who dream that their skills at video games means might one day make them planetary saviors.

Or is that the plot of The Last Starfighter?

All in all, it wasn't bad, wasn't great, well-made but a bit shallow. I did like the special effects, but the Battle Room battles were not that impressive. Since those were my favorite parts of the original story, I guess I was pretty disappointed.


mr. schprock said...

I'll never forget the Shadrach stories you shared with me from one of those magazines.

I'm not a great science fiction reader, but I have just recently finished the Worldwar series by Harry Turledove and loved it. Have you heard of these books?

Beveridge D. Spenser said...

I've read a lot of Harry Turtledove - his specialty is alternate history. Somehow, I forget why, I got fed up with him and quit reading. Maybe I'll check him out again.