Monday, April 8, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter 2, in which the villainous Peter Wiggin fails to be as horrifying as our hero

(Content: violence, death threats, abusive family environment.)

Ender's Game: p. 9--15

Chapter Two ("Peter") begins again with the Unlabelled Unset Dialogue of the Powers That Be, who have observed the brutality that Ender just unleashed and are trying to decide what it means.  They were, apparently, still observing this happening, but the analyst protests that he can't be sure what to read into it since he doesn't have the spinal monitor dealy.  Also, worldbuilding name-drop:
"He was thorough.  He didn't just beat him, he beat him deep.  Like Mazer Rackham at the--"
"Spare me.  So in the judgment of the committee, he passes."
"Mostly.  Let's see what he does with his brother, now that the monitor's off."
It's a bit of a clunker, that reference to Mazer Rackham, but it could probably be much worse.  We'll find out shortly that Mazer saved humanity in the last war with the aliens, and is essentially the inspiration for this whole 'perfect general' system they run.  More terrifyingly, they don't think they know why Ender killed Stilson, but they're pretty sure they're cool with it, and now want to see what happens when he goes home to his volatile and violent brother.  But first, this boggling passage:
"I went back through the tapes.  I can't help it.  I like the kid.  I think we're going to screw him up."
"Of course we are.  It's our job.  We're the wicked witch.  We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive."
So: they can look at one child murder another and their response is not merely 'Huh', but in fact 'Gosh, he's so innocent and we're really going to ruin him'.  I don't--

How does--

What in--
Moving along.

Ender is at home; Valentine is expressing sympathy that he's apparently been kicked out of the military screening program, and Peter arrives munching PB&J and looking like every grown-up's idea of a "beautiful ten-year-old boy".  Ender doesn't notice his brother's perfectly-shaped features, we're told, because he's only ever interested in identifying anger or boredom in Peter, "the dangerous moods that almost always led to pain".  So, for whatever reason, apparently Ender has been getting tormented for quite some time now by his brother, and there has been no intervention from anyone.  I'm not sure how that meshes with the earlier implication that the bullies at school wouldn't touch Ender for fear of soldiers appearing out of nowhere, but this is what we're told.  I guess the totalitarian military government does rank familial privacy over the salvation of the entire species, which is in turn ranked over the lives of random children.  Anyone is welcome to try to figure out how this is consistent.

Peter is angry that Ender kept his monitor until age six (he lost his at four; Valentine at three).  He notes that he's not being monitored anymore for pain or threats; I'm no longer sure what this means, but presumably he feels free to do worse than he's done before.  Peter cheerfully suggests they play 'buggers and astronauts' and digs out the toy masks and rayguns, telling Ender he'll have to be the bugger.  Valentine nonchalantly suggests she's going to try to contact their parents, and Peter counters that neither of them are near home or going to answer the phone, which--okay, apparently parents in this world really just don't take any kind of precautions, since even if no one in the house was a nascent killer, the implication is that if anything else goes wrong, all three kids are without any assistance.

Ender briefly recollects that their mother wasn't happy about the toys, but their father had successfully argued that the war wouldn't go away if you didn't play war games and that playing these games might give them a better chance of surviving invasion.  There are a variety of reasons this is stupid in the specific (yes, let's simplify the realities of logistics and morality in engaging in what might be a war of extinction with an entire civilisation down to 'shoot the bad things'; clearly this can't harm anything and will teach valuable life skills) and so I think it's safe at this point to conclude that the parents of these three genius children are themselves as sharp as a bag of hammers.*

Ender puts on the alien mask and immediately starts trying to get into character.  He wonders if alien children on their world put on human masks to play games, and wonders what they call humans.  Humanity calls them buggers because they look like bugs, with their exoskeletons; he decides that they call us soft and oily folk 'Slimies'.  Points given for consistency: Ender's signature move is trying to understand how the aliens think, right from the start.  Points withdrawn: he didn't do a damn thing trying to understand how Stilson was thinking prior to their fight.  Ender doesn't appear to try to understand what's going on inside any human's brain (I'm thinking ahead here of many, many failures in this area) but he's obsessed with the aliens' minds.  I hadn't noticed that until just this moment, and I'm not sure if it's a consequence of the other themes or something entirely new.  Neat.  (And more than a little disturbing.)

He manages to get into character and call Peter a 'Slimy' once before Peter decks him and declares that, having caught an alien alive, they must now vivisect him for science.  He quickly drops the facade of the game and whispers to Ender--trapped on his back with Peter kneeling on his chest--about how he could just  keep pressing down and let Ender die and claim it was an accident.  Valentine says she'd tell; Peter threatens her too; Valentine declares that she has secret computer programs set up so that in the event of her death they will automatically send letters to various people stating that her accidental death was in fact Peter's doing.  She's implied to be making this up, but that's a pretty good improvisation on the spot.

So, obviously this family is fucked in all of their heads.  More to the point, this is the best chance we have to explain Ender's bizarre mindset: he defaults to fighting for his life because his brother makes death threats, and he assumes no one will come help because, well, no one ever comes to help.  This isn't the perfect explanation that it might be--if the monitor really was making Peter hold back, then he presumably hasn't been making death threats until now--but maybe it explains why Ender is convinced he's alone: no one has ever stopped Peter.  Ender knows that the military has been listening in on his life, and apparently Peter has been allowed to continue with minor torments at a whim.  Maybe this isn't some kind of inborn trait; maybe this is what the monitor has taught him.  Top notch job, faceless military tyrants!  Are you familiar with the Heisenberg Principle?

Peter abruptly lets Ender go, moves like he's going to attack Valentine, and then falls over laughing at his own joke.  Well:
"Not a joke, a game.  I can make you guys believe anything.  I can make you dance around like puppets."  In a phony monster voice he said, "I'm going to kill you and chop you into little pieces and put you into the garbage hole."  He laughed again.  "Biggest suckers in the solar system."
Peter's argument is that he's not doing it for the violence, but for the fun of exerting power.  Ender and Valentine insist that they (and only they) know that Peter is "a murderer at heart"; I'm not sure if that's agreeing or not.  This comes up again later in the Shadow books, the idea of being "a murderer at heart", and that might be an interesting philosophical discussion except ENDER LITERALLY MURDERED A KID LAST CHAPTER.  I don't even know how to begin parsing the cognitive dissonance and the hypocrisy here, for Ender to be sneering at his (total jackass, no question) older brother for having an impure soul while Ender himself still has a dead boy's blood on his shoes.  (He does; he tries and fails to intimidate Peter with it.)

Their parents arrive and commiserate with Ender for having been kicked out of the program and gush about how wonderful it is that they now get to keep all three of their kids, causing Ender more Third Angst.  That night, Ender lies in bed and Peter stirs, wanders to Ender's bedside, and Ender fears that Peter's about to kill him, but instead he whispers:
"Ender, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know how it feels, I'm sorry, I'm your brother, I love you."
And then goes back to bed, and Ender cries himself to sleep.  When I first read this, I was totally on board with Ender's side; I was convinced that Peter was a terrible monster and that this last outpouring was some kind of playacting--not precisely a lie, but a futile attempt to pretend to be a better person.  Looking back, Peter is still awful, but he seems a lot more sympathetic, given that he too has grown up in this deeply awful society and family environment, trying to manipulate everyone to either adore or fear him.  It's bad enough feeling like the new baby will replace you in your parents' eyes; it's got to be worse when the new babies might grow up to be the salvation of the entire world.

Nothing excuses Peter's actions, but like Ender, he mostly seems like he desperately needs some kind of therapy.  (And indeed that's sort of what his plotline will be about in this book.  Ender, not so much.)  It's very hard to see him as the biggest monster in the room, even when he's tormenting and torturing his siblings, when Our Hero murdered someone that afternoon.  The implication it seems like we're left with is not that Peter is too violent, but that Peter wants to be liked, while Ender just wants to be left alone.  Peter has social skills (in the way that sociopaths do) while Ender can't tell the difference between someone pushing him around for fun and someone trying to kill him.  Of the two of them, Peter actually seems much more normal to me, a conflicted mess, and that apparently makes him useless as a heroic general.

Our agreeing with this depends on us caring more about Peter's cruelties (mostly off-page, even later in the book) than Ender's  actual atrocities.  And I'm more than a little freaked out that Card thinks he can sell this. Protagonist-centred morality is one thing in a narrative and another when it apparently permeates the entire world and affects interplanetary military strategy.

Tune in next time to see one of the Faceless Nameless Voices show up in person, Ender's mother be the only reasonable person in the room and so automatically shushed by the menfolk, and basically everything continue to be awful forever.  I promise to find some way of making it more entertaining by then, because the stark horror is kicking is way earlier than I expected.

In the meantime, have a corgi in a scarf.

*Card eventually noticed the same apparent contradiction, and the Shadow sequels will retcon/explain that their parents are in fact similar calibres of geniuses but played daft for their kids, both to make them feel better (I have freedom because I can outsmart my guardians) and to make the kids underestimate them, thus retaining some advantage.  This family is messed.


  1. so I think it's safe at this point to conclude that the parents of these
    three genius children are themselves as sharp as a bag of hammers.*


    I hated Peter. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate. The point at which I threw the book at the wall was the point at which I realized that we were supposed to accept a bullshit quasi-redemptive arc for him that happened mostly off-screen and NO. Give the kid therapy, yes. Keep him away from me, fuck yes. Expect me to be okay with him and Valentine doing all the stuff they do? NO. (Really, the whole side-plot with Valentine and Peter struck me as Bag O Hammers bad at the time; it'll be interesting to see whether it seems better/different now in deconstruction.)

    I had wondered, when you were talking about this decon, if Ender would seem as sympathetic on a slow-read as he does to many on a fast read. (See also: Capsian and High King Peter.) I am SO DELIGHTED by this decon, Will. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. Also, please use the pineapple in ALL THE POSTS. LOL.

  3. They were, apparently, still observing this happening, but the analyst protests that he can't be sure what to read into it since he doesn't have the spinal monitor dealy.

    And yet, I notice they did nothing to save the kid from being kicked to death by their savior. Go team us. (I find myself very tempted to root for the aliens at this point. Whoo, Formics! Slaughter humanity! It's for the best.)

    Also, does Card ever even acknowledge the fundamental lack of privacy that spinal monitor leaves kids with? It doesn't appear so from your excerpts and the bit on Amazon. (I'm still 22nd in line at work, I think I'm going to have to hit the used bookstores...) Because I really don't see how having no privacy for several years as a kid could not have a profound impact on people. And it's not just that you're being watched all the time - that may be a given in this society (though I find this society really hard to get a grip on - it's like Leave it to Beaver with disturbed kids and futuristic technology*) - it's that you're being watched from inside. You don't even have internal privacy - every thought and feeling is monitored, and you know this. That's going to lead to people trying to censor themselves inside and be whatever they think the powers that be think they should be. That's a recipe for fucked up beyond all belief. (Maybe Card doesn't think kids are capable of thinking like that, but, come on, kids will behave differently - just like anyone else - if they think authority figures are watching. Knowing authority figures are with them all the time is going to affect them.)

    *I don't know why, but I get a really weird TV 1950s feel from the society. Maybe its a combination of the free range kids, the fact that parents aren't needed for medical procedures (at school? dafuq?), and the ambient underlying sexism?

  4. Yeah, I still don't understand the level of parental/societal neglect here. I didn't read the Shadow books (I stopped reading the Ender books after Xenocide, and even then I felt the series had jumped the shark) but honestly, that retcon doesn't work for me. Wouldn't you think that if allowing a couple to have a third child is such a big deal, the powers that be would pay some attention to more than just the genetics involved but also to their child-rearing techniques? Or are we in a world where genetics are all?

  5. Worse still, given the timelines of the story, the Wiggin parents should have also gone through this military screening program (unless it's very new, a last-ditch desperation scheme), which y'might think would raise further questions about how they interact with their kids. Overall, I think Card could have done better by suggesting that the Battle School geniuses are the result of some kind of genetic engineering, and left Mrs and Mr Wiggin as more average folks, but that would raise further questions. (The Shadow books have a huge amount about genetic engineering and its moral implications. Even then, when we meet one genetically-engineered prodigy and one kid who is genetically the same minus the engineering, they're both geniuses; the tweaked one is just even better at it. And their parents are not stupid, but still not that bright. I have no idea what the consistency is supposed to be.)

  6. The monitor bothers me more and more as I think about it. It's implied to be attached very early in life; Valentine had already been booted from the program at 3, so when do they get it, age 2? The kids may not even remember life before they were monitored.

    Of course, Card is quite religious, as are many of his characters (spoilers for chapter 3: Ender's parents are a devout Mormon and I think a Catholic, ripples of which affect various things), so presumably being monitored at all times with zero privacy by the military is just a somewhat less abstract version of being watched by God at all times. (Whether people can or should trust the military comes up a few times through the books. As fraser mentioned in another thread, Card's position appears to be "good people don't need to explain themselves".) From that angle, I can see why one might not expect zero privacy to substantially impact a person--if you're already trying to make sure you do what one invisible authority wants, how different can it be to add a second one? And, if the monitoring process is good enough, it should pick up on people trying to match what the military wants, and determine whether that makes them unsuitable. Just... you know, trust them to do what's best for you with zero accountability and unlimited power. That's safe, right?

  7. @ Ana: The Whatnapple is such a mainstay of this blog that I'm beginning to think it should be listed as a contributor. If you peruse Erika's 50 Shades posts, you will find it scattered throughout, attempting to help us express our total inability to parse the horrors these fictions present us with. When all reasoned commentary fails, Whatnapple is the last line of defence. So yeah, I'd guess once per chapter for Ender's Game, too.

    I'm currently suspecting that I will find Peter rather contradictory over the course of the book, and deciding whether I can sympathise with him will be a challenge. I still don't understand why this world doesn't have, like, actual counsellors drawn from the ranks of its apparent hundreds or thousands of super-geniuses.

    By the time Peter shows up in the Shadow books, he feels utterly divorced from the character we're shown here, with no remaining hints of hunger for violence or even particularly to be liked (except by his parents). I'm not sure if that's choppy character development, or Card deciding that Peter in Ender's Game was too much of a mess to sustain and so whitewashing his backstory to produce the backup hero needed for Shadow's long arc.

  8. I need to read the 50 Shades deconstruction, but I cannot get around sharing a name with the main character. THIS BOTHERS ME. But please tell me I'm not the only one who read "Whatnapple" as "Whatnipple" and dissolved into giggles. I am twelve years old, apparently.

    I'll be interested to see what you, a fellow Shaker, thinks about the Peter/Valentine side-bit since there's a lot of Ethics of Blogging involved. (I really, really hated Peter and Valentine. Can you tell? AM I WEARING MY HEART ON MY SLEEVE.) But it may seem more different/reasonable in a slow-paced decon. I'm quivering with anticipation. (Or maybe the rain.)

  9. It's been a while since I read this, but I don't remember anyone, ever, in this book showing the slightest concern for Stilson, as in "gee, a child has been killed", not even, "gee, a child has been killed before our eyes by another kid and none of us did anything to stop it." I realize our focus is very tightly on Ender, and of course he doesn't know that the other boy is dead (this is carefully kept from him, I think so that it won't mess up his training), but there are people who do, at the very least the people in his school who have to deal with the corpse of one of their students, and possibly police, and so forth, not to mention his parents. The more I think about this, the more aberrant it feels.

  10. Yeah, the coverup of Stilson's death raises a bunch of questions--I expect this is the reason that Graff shows up the very next morning and yoinks Ender that very instant, but Valentine and Peter never talk about it, which suggests to me that somehow they never heard about Stilson dying either. That doesn't seem like something either of them would just shrug off: Valentine because it says so much about who Ender is, and Peter because it's the type of thing that supposedly the military was so afraid of that they kicked him out. Sloppy, sloppy work. (I heard Card speak in person, many years ago, and he talked about how it had been necessary to cut Stilson from the movie script because he realised that, presented on-screen, it would make Ender unsympathetic to the audience. This level of half-awareness baffles me.)

  11. @ Ana -- I can hardly wait to get into the Revolutionary Blogging subplot. In the meantime, this xkcd seems highly appropriate:

  12. Ana,

    Now I find myself wondering if Card is one of those religious people who really feels like God is watching them, or not. The idea of being constantly monitored is really quite horrifying, but I get no sense from the book bits I've been able to read that Card finds it horrifying or even considers it at all except as a plot point. (Which rather makes me suspect he's one of those religious people who believes God is watching them, but doesn't actually believe it. If that makes sense.)


    Yeah, the society doesn't come together for me. A six year old can kill someone and this is barely blinked at ("He was thorough"???? THIS IS YOUR RESPONSE!?), somehow no one's noticed that Peter's messed up (though in a world where six year old's kick people to death, perhaps he's not), yet there's also this really weird cozy, 1950s TV vibe that I keep getting from the adults Ender interacts with that just makes the whole thing extra bizarre.

  13. *love* The alt-text is especially appropriate.

  14. I will also say, for the record, that when I read this in college, tablets were not a thing but laptops were and it took me a long time to understand what the "desks" were. LOL.

    My biggest problem was trying to decide if they had pillows stitched to the bottom, like those "lap desks" I had as a kid. Clearly, I am too stupid for the manly awesome that is ENDER'S GAME. :D

  15. Tangentially, has anyone done a comparison between Ender's Game and Neon Genesis Evangelion? Because when it comes to enlisting deeply psychologically-damaged children into a war and then destroying their minds even further, all totally justified to save humanity, Eva's a big contender.

    More on topic: I can more-or-less buy the idea that, if these kids have had monitoring devices in their bodies all their lives and this is how their society works, then they won't quite get how invasive it is -- especially if it's true that Peter has never suffered a direct repercussion from tormenting Ender. As far as Peter is concerned, the device is more significant as "another sign that Ender is special and everyone likes him better than me". Good old sibling jealousy.

    On t'other hand, these are super-duper child-prodigies and the narrative is going to remind us of this on every page.

    I mentioned this elsewhere while linking these blog to some other folk (I hope you continue to the end! And maybe do Ender's Shadow afterwards?), but it bears repeating that when I first read the book, I assumed that this was the kind of dystopian future where all children have been designed and programmed from a genetic level, and that's how they got a kid that was a perfect mix of Valentine and Peter. Because the alternative, that they just let the Wiggins conceive another kid and hope for the best, is such a bizarre thing to do when you're in the middle of a war and you need solutions with some kind of guarantee.

    (This line of thought became hilariously relevant when I read Shadow, but maybe I shouldn't discuss that further since that's getting way ahead of things...)

  16. I can imagine people for whom the idea of constantly being monitored would not be horrifying, in much the same way that I know there are people who find the idea of handing over all autonomy and decisions to a perfect god very restful rather than traumatic. While I would find the idea of introducing such monitoring to my life now hideous, I don't know how I'd feel about it if it had always been that way. (I've got a story concept lying around somewhere about a society where people are still individuals but there is one 'god' consciousness that lives in everyone's heads and guides and advises them individually using what it knows from everyone else. The protagonists are outsiders who can't decide if this is awesome or nightmarishly creepy.)

    I hope that He-Was-Thorough Guy is supposed to not realise that Stilson is dead at the time (or maybe he wasn't yet) but how there weren't already paramedics on the scene and people going to intercept Ender at home...

    Perhaps the weirdest part is that the military guys still know exactly what's going on around Ender, suggesting that they are perhaps even monitoring inside his house without anyone's knowledge. If that is true (and why else would they have said "Let's see how he handles his brother"?) then the monitors make even less sense, since they are super-obvious and mostly serve to highlight that individuals are being monitored. I begin to feel like the whole point of the monitor is in fact to see how people react to being watched and evaluated...

  17. CN: Discussion of bodily functions

    From my own experience, the ALWAYS WATCHING concept works better when NOT coupled with "some behaviors are shameful and shouldn't be done". I didn't mind (so much) my guardian angel watching me use the toilet, but having a guardian angel watching me sort out pantsfeelings was another thing entirely.

    I had stopped believing in guardian angels by the time I was married, but I was also deeply distressed that Peretti's angels could (presumably) watch the Mr. and Mrs. in the series any time they fucked. That seemed wrong.

    I will note that I had a stronger and more visceral reaction to the idea of a guardian angel always watching than to the idea of god always watching, possibly because god has more people to keep tabs on. I mean, sure, he's watching all the time, but he's watching EVERYONE all the time, so no matter how naughty I was, there was surely someone elsewhere being naughtier. Relative moral superiority and therefore safety. But a guardian angel only has YOU to focus on. Instant squirm.

  18. (I've got a story concept lying around somewhere about a society where
    people are still individuals but there is one 'god' consciousness that
    lives in everyone's heads and guides and advises them individually using
    what it knows from everyone else. The protagonists are outsiders who
    can't decide if this is awesome or nightmarishly creepy.)

    Sounds like the people of Mars in A Miracle of Science

  19. It's the temporary monitoring (combined with the mysterious external monitoring, which makes it all very WHUT) that I find hardest to not result in massive fucked up-ness. If everyone's always monitored, its normal, and humans make the usual adjustments to that-which-is-normal (which can be some very abnormal things, really). But here we have people temporarily monitored in a very invasive way. That just seems like the best recipe for not-well that could be arranged.

    Or, as you suggest, they're trying to see how people respond to being watched even while they're asleep or peeing.

    Wait... how in frak does this work from the watcher's point of view? Is there one watcher for Ender, experiencing Ender's life overlayed over their own every moment of the day? Or is there a series of watchers who plug in and out of Ender's consciousness? How does it work that the watcher is aware of Ender's feelings? Do they feel them with him or are they somehow just... aware of them? I know, I know, a wizard did it. Or the MST3K mantra. But still.

  20. Oop, guess we can't sweep that murder under the audience's awareness if they see it.

    *shakes head*

    I get seeing the flaws in your work when you look at it later. Happens to authors all the time, but I'm having a lot of trouble working out what Card thought he was doing when he sat down to write this book in the first place.

  21. Tangentially, has anyone done a comparison between Ender's Game and Neon Genesis Evangelion? Because when it comes to enlisting deeply psychologically-damaged children into a war and then destroying their minds even further, all totally justified to save humanity, Eva's a big contender.

    Not to quite the same extent, though. The children in Evangelion are pretty messed up, and get worse on account of their experiences, but it's... it's not the objective of the program, as it is in Ender's Game. It's also not presented as a sign of their superiority, and of course, 'Fnir Uhznavgl' vf abg npghnyyl gur raq tbny (jryy, fbegn. Whfg va n irel ovmneer jnl).

    The whole thing with Stilson (and the total militaristic culture, and to some extent the monitors) makes me think of the Imperium of Man for some reason. I can definitely imagine them praising children for beating each other to death. I suppose in that regard Ender looks kind of good, an Imperial citizen would be proud of destroying the Buggers. (Actually, I don't have to imagine it, Space Marine recruitment/initiation is a lot like Battle School with a much higher casualty rate).

    Whoo, Formics! Slaughter humanity! It's for the best.)
    Npghnyyl, gur guvat vf, gurl qba'g jnag gb fynhtugre uhznavgl. Orvat uvir-zvaqrq vafrpgf, vaqvivqhny Sbezvp qebarf nera'g fncvrag. Fb jura gurl rapbhagrerq uhznavgl, gurl qrpvqrq gb obeebj n srj bs gurfr arj nyvra'f qebarf naq eha grfgf ba gurz, fvapr gurl arrqrq gb svaq fbzr jnl gb pbzzhavpngr naq fheryl gurl jbhyqa'g zvaq?

    Gurl qvq, naq n onggyr rehcgrq, erfhygvat va gur qrfgehpgvba bs gur Sbezvp fuvcf naq gurve dhrra (gur npghny fncvrag bar). Guvf va ghea yrq gb n 'pbhagrenggnpx' ntnvafg jung gurl fgvyy oryvrirq jnf hacebibxrq zheqre. Abg ybat nsgre, ubjrire, gurl ernyvmrq jung gurl'q qbar, naq ergerngrq, ubcvat gb nibvq gur uhznaf... jub gurl fgvyy pbhyqa'g pbzzhavpngr jvgu naq qvqa'g haqrefgnaq. Guvf vf jul gurer jnf fhpu n ybat qrynl nsgre gur frpbaq 'vainfvba' (bar be zber qrpnqrf) - gurer jnf ab guveq nggnpx pbzvat. Ubjrire, gur uhznaf qrpvqr gb ynhapu n pbhagrenggnpx bs gurve bja naq qrfgebl gur Sbezvp'f ubzrjbeyq...

  22. @ BaseDeltaZero

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn...

    I'll just be over here banging my head on the wall now. If I had any confidence that the moral of the story is supposed to be "War is bad, y'all." that would make a good twist ending. Since I don't have that confidence... *thud* *thud* *thud*

  23. @ BaseDeltaZero
    > 'Fnir Uhznavgl' vf abg npghnyyl gur raq tbny (jryy, fbegn. Whfg va n irel ovmneer jnl).

    Yeahhh. (Imagine I waved my hands vaguely in the air and made a scrunched-up face when I made my original comment, because I don't know how else to succinctly describe Eva... Though, yby, vs raqre'f tnzr pybfrq jvgu rirelbar fgnaqvat ba n oyhr beo naq pynccvat. Pbatenghyngvbaf, Raqre, vg jnf nyy va lbhe urnq (be fbzrguvat) naq gur jbeyq vfa'g npghnyyl guvf shpxrq hc!)

    The formic war really is one of the worst possible outcomes of a first contact scenario with intelligent aliens, isn't it? I've been looking for films/novels/etc where things ended up like this (uhznaf rapbhagref nyvraf naq vg'f hf gung orpbzrf gur greevslvat znff-zheqrevat vainqvat sbepr) and haven't had much joy. The 2009 Avatar film is... kind of along similar lines... but that's about it.

  24. I read the wikipedia summary of Ender's Game. Oh. Dear. Bog.

  25. The Whatnapple is a necessity for this series. These chapters are seriously messed up. Also, it appears that this entire culture is composed solely of military personnel. Where are their quartermasters, their logistics personnel, the support staff, and, hell, all of the civilian population! There's no way that Ender is only going to be exposed to people who are...

    ...right. I'll stop there before I make an unkind comparison between the cult of the Battle School and popular perception of the Mormon religion.

  26. Oh, Frank. He's just not that good at novels (and I don't think he wrote much more than novels). Iffy theology aside, he wrote pretty damn cliched crap--which is meant to be taken seriously--and more often than not, it's boring as hell. I discovered him too late to be scarred, but you have my sympathies.

  27. A 1:1 moment by moment ratio is unreasonable, though it would solve the unemployment problem. I'd think the process would have to be automated. A set of criteria could flag the watchers on duty to come see in realtime. Or perhaps the monitor transmits a signal that produces digital video and the watchers can scan for key images. I favor the on-duty watchers responding to flags idea. Staffing becomes less of a burden. And just how many kids have monitors implanted? All of them?

    Some sort of image-based OCR and automated database conversion tools could archive the complete data. Each kid would only generate a few thousand exabytes - after compression. Incidentally, the real world has an equivalent for documents. The field of litigation technology comes to mind.

  28. I only read one Shadow book, the first one about Bean, but... it featured Bean as being basically completely aware, capable of speaking, perceiving subtext and forming an escape plan at like... 6 months old? Maybe a little older? Definitely still an infant and not even a toddler. Which just about killed any suspension of disbelief I had for the book. I will grant you genius kids at 4-5 years old; that occasionally happens. But the brain takes time to physically develop, as does the body. Even including "genetic engineering" that can do magic things, I'm not convinced you could end up with an infant doing the things that Bean does.

  29. Still, do religious people really feel like God is watching them pee and listening to their every thought, no matter how mundane?

    Like everything else, it varies, but I was definitely told at some point about the bit in the Bible that says something like 'to think about adultery is to commit adultery, to think about murder is to commit murder,' and so on. So yeah, the idea is that every bad thought, every weird fantasy or daydream or negative emotion is subject to God's scrutiny and punishment. I definitely believed this at least partially when I was younger--I used to begin prayers with apologies for not praying more often or for doubts I had. Now that I've pretty much given up on religion, I realize just how horrifying an idea that is. o__o

  30. That bothered me in this book, too. I'm sorry, but there is no way Ender ever felt like a six year old, even a six year old genius. Did Card ever spend any time with children? Did he do any research about child development, even for geniuses?

  31. Card's justification seems to be in the introduction, where he talks about how he always felt like a whole person even as a child. Which... sure, but that doesn't mean that your behavior isn't subject to certain bounds as a child based on your development. This seems to show up all over in his books-- in hindsight, it is hilarious to me that Valentine & Peter essentially take over the internet and sway world leaders with the power of their blogging and that no one figures them out. At least on the current Internet, you can nearly always tell the teenagers apart by how they write/act. Even very mature kids, you can usually tell. I've read essays and such by middle school kids and high school kids; even the award-winning ones that are very good for their age are just that. You can still tell that they are not adult writers, even when the essays are very thoughtful or well-done.

    So no, I don't think Card has any idea what children are actually like or how they develop.

  32. It was interesting when I was re-reading the introduction, because Card talks about having this really cool idea (the battle room) but then not having any idea how to build a story around it, because he didn't have an awesome character [like Foundation's Hari Seldon] to base the story around. When I read that, I thought, "that's wrong, you don't base your story around one character, you base your story around conflict." Yes, the characters are involved, but it's because they want something and that conflict between wanting and getting it drives the plot.

    Thinking about that, I realize there's not a lot of conflict in Ender's Game-- Ender himself doesn't want anything, it's just him being forced into all these situations and how he reacts. The book is about how these situations mess him up, but because he doesn't have that personal stake, I think he makes a much less compelling character than, say, Katniss. The Hunger Games trilogy is also a series where you essentially see one person's life systematically ruined by terrible people and terrible situations, but at least in the beginning Katniss wants something.

  33. The Whatnapple is a necessity for this series. These chapters are seriously messed up. Also, it appears that this entire culture is composed solely of military personnel. Where are their quartermasters, their logistics personnel, the support staff, and, hell, all of the civilian population! There's no way that Ender is only going to be exposed to people who are... Continuing my 'Ender's Game is set in the Proto-Imperium' theory. Logistics? Support Personnel? Do you mean more guns? Possibly priests?

    or even Zvfpbzzhavpngvba xvyyf.
    In fairness, I think that's what Card was going for. He just kinda piled on so much fail that it was kinda lost.

  34. The implication it seems like we're left with is not that Peter is too
    violent, but that Peter wants to be liked, while Ender just wants to be
    left alone. Peter has social skills (in the way that sociopaths do)
    while Ender can't tell the difference between someone pushing him around
    for fun and someone trying to kill him. Of the two of them, Peter
    actually seems much more normal to me, a conflicted mess, and that apparently makes him useless as a heroic general.

    It's really hard for me to tell the difference between a bully pushing me around for fun, and someone trying to kill me. I thought that was a common difficulty, and a big part of what makes it so scary to be the target of bullying. Now that I'm in my 40s, and have decades of experience with non-violent bullying (direct, and through other people's stories), I can do it much better than I could as a child.

    Pushing somebody around for fun can be serious intimidation, when the person getting pushed doesn't know it's supposed to be "for fun." I don't think it's unreasonable to perceive it as threatening, especially when it's many vs one.

    In recent years, as part of learning to be more compassionate, I've tried to regard fewer people as attacking me. (Or fewer of them as trying to attack me. Some of them are only being incidentally hurtful, because they are misinformed.) While this approach is good for my blood pressure, I think it would make me a terrible general. A military leader really does need to respond quickly to attacks--it's a different skillset than a diplomat needs.

  35. I don't even know how to begin parsing the cognitive dissonance and the
    hypocrisy here, for Ender to be sneering at his (total jackass, no
    question) older brother for having an impure soul while Ender himself
    still has a dead boy's blood on his shoes.

    OK. I'm pretty sure Ender doesn't know he killed Stiltson, but thinking about it, are *we* supposed to know it? I vaguely remember reading the book 10 years ago or so (I read it late) and thinking Stiltson might be dead, but not having any actual proof until much later in the book. In fact, i seem to remember that pattern repeating. Which creeped me out.

    Anyone with a better memory of this who can help me out?

    And reading the book as an adult, after having so many people who read it as kids/teens praise it to me, really hammered home the whole "Kid who is too smart and picked on by everyone and no one will help" aspect. It's like it is just a direct power fantasy to smart kids who are picked on. Which also creeped me out.

  36. Perhaps the implanted monitor was only for vital signs (so the watchers would know if Ender was experiencing physical duress) but there were also video cameras to actually show them what's going on. There could be areas outside of the recording field where Peter would feel free to make threats known, without actually physically attacking Ender. [Spoiler] We know he tortured animals; he could have used this a way to frighten Ender.

  37. The implication it seems like we're left with is not that Peter is too
    violent, but that Peter wants to be liked, while Ender just wants to be
    left alone.

    I thought the implication was that Peter delighted in cruelty while Ender found it distasteful and used it only as he deemed necessary.

  38. I'm not convinced Card has any idea what adults are actually like, never mind kids. There's something really odd about the characters - at least judging from the excerpts. (Which probably feeds into the weird TV '50s vibe I'm getting. Nobody really quite acts right.)

  39. Will can correct me, but I was under the impression that the monitor somehow gave the watchers access to Ender's emotions. (A wizard did it, clearly.)

    Though as fucked up as this society is, I can well believe that Peter could've made all kinds of interesting indirect threats and been safe from repercussions.

  40. I got bullied a lot as a kid as well (and high school) and despite the fact that I got pushed around/beaten up by kids who were much larger and much more male than I was, I learned when they were fucking with me and when they were trying to actually hurt me. I never feared for my life, though I often feared for my safety. It only started to get better when I started to hit back and THEY ran to the teacher. That.. backfired horribly for them and they were the ones to get suspended when I was just encouraged to try and ignore them some more.

    I think a military leader even more so than a diplomat would need to be able to correctly assess a threat level. A good military leader doesn't want to engage full force in every threat they meet, as it would waste resources (which, in war, are limited and valuable). Some of which (like soldiers) are not necessarily easily renewed. Speed to responding to a threat is important, but so is responding in the correct proportion. Something that Ender simply isn't doing here. He beat him until he was down, and then kept going. Some kids are going to struggle to identify threat levels, but if I'm being sold a super genius military general prodigy, I expect them to have some grasp of it. I also expect the adults watching not to think "lashing out with max force at uncertain threat level = THE BEST IDEA EVER" because, as Will pointed out, it doesn't add up.

  41. On my part, I didn't realize Stilson had died when I read it -- heck, his death was one of the things I plain forgot in the time between my first reading and when I picked up the book again some years later. I overheard people discussing the scene and I went, "WHAT? That didn't happen... REALLY?"

    I suppose you could say that the narrative does a good job at shoving that death under a rug, because I was pretty surprised at my lack of recollection here.

    I wonder a little about Valentine. That level of hyper-preparedness is actually something I can see myself doing, or at least it's a bluff I can see myself pulling on someone, but I'm a twentysomething paranoid cynic. For the least messed-up kid in the Wiggins family, that's really not normal eight-year-old behavior.

  42. Still, do religious people really feel like God is watching them pee and listening to their every thought, no matter how mundane?

    Well generally, I think, it is a way of not being alone. If someone shares all of your experiences, then there is always there listening and loving you. I personally believe that there is something beautiful in the notion, even though I'm not sure I buy it.

    'to think about adultery is to commit adultery, to think about murder is to commit murder,'

    Matthew 5:27–28

    “You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    You mentioned one interpretation, but there are others. I prefer the less harsh ones.

  43. Regarding Stilson's death: yes, the book/characters hide it from us. The other kids refer to him as looking "wasted" as Ender walks away, and Graff will say the next day that Stilson was taken to the hospital, but it's not until the final act (after Ender kills someone else) that we'll be informed that Stilson died.

    Obviously, this is meant to mediate our sympathy for Ender, since Card realises that watching Our Hero murder another child in chapter 1 is a bit difficult to take. However, that doesn't make it non-canon until the revelation, and books get reread. If Card thinks that the case for Ender, as constructed through this book, is good enough that we should still be able to sympathise with him once we know he kills people for the petrifyingly atrocious crime of shoving him on the playground, then that case should stand up for people who have already read the book--if anything, it should be stronger on a reread. We should see the pieces falling together even before we've seen where they're falling towards. If the only way we can cope with it is to pretend it didn't happen until we've put a few hundred pages between us and the incident, that's just bad writing.

  44. When I got as far as the Shadow book where Peter discovers (OSC retcons) his parents are actually pretty damn smart and KNOW all about the wonderblogging, that was the last one in that series that I read (and I dropped it in a river soon after - by accident, but I wasn't that sorry). My thought was that now Orson Scott Card was a parent,he now identified with Mr and Mrs Wiggin much more than he had when he wrote "Ender's Game", and furthermore he had absorbed much more of the Mormon paterfamilias attitude towards children than he had when he wrote "Ender's Game". And in that state of mind, he just could not stand to write the story of How Peter Fooled His Parents - or, I would guess, could imagine that Mr and Mrs Wiggin would react to having been fooled by Peter and Valentine for so many years (if they were fooled) with anything but rage.

  45. You use 'murder' a bit too loose and free. It was a poor use of self defense, and possibly a bit too violent. Ender didn't want to kill, he wanted to harm Stilson badly enough that nobody would try to go after him again. I have to believe that the monitor only tempered the taunting. If Ender was truly the genius he was supposed to be, then he would have alienated all kids around him by his excellence, much like Bean did (since you brought up the Shadow series and have referenced Bean a few times). Bean and Ender's own siblings are the only ones who are seemingly a match for Ender.

    Graff goes on (later) to describe what sort of Jackal Peter is from watching/listening to both Valentine and Ender's monitor feeds. And (spoiler alert) if you recall the court martial all Ender's violence was deemed self defense....

  46. no, the implanted monitor gave full access to all visual and aural inputs. They saw and heard everything that ender's eyes saw and his ears heard, even from the time of infancy. Graff and the IF knew more about Ender's family than any individual member (remember they had many years with 3 kids having monitors)

  47. Read "The Polish Boy" and "Teacher's Pest" in Card's "First Meetings". You see that the Wiggen parents are not stupid at all. Then go on to read the entire Shadow series where Peter is fully developed and you will see that they finally reveal their true intellect to him.

  48. The monitor was out when Ender beat Stilson. They only knew of it after the fact like any other school yard fights. Well, there are some videos but they must be security camera stuff that wasn't actively monitored.

  49. No, ender did not murder Bonzo. Bonzo was intending to murder Ender, and again it was self defense. But these days self defense is seen the same as instigating I suppose.

  50. Ender's dad DID go through the screening, got moved from Poland to the US (and his family). Read "First Meetings" to get the story.

  51. @ Teds,

    Dude. This is Will's deconstruction and I don't want to step on his toes here, but it is a Not Uncommon facet of deconstructions to take things in the order they were written, precisely because it's possible for authors to later try to "tidy up" problematic things they've noticed later. This is called "retconning" for "retroactive continuity", and it's a thing that deconstructioners are generally aware of.

    All your "go read X" stuff is really 'splainy and grating to me because you seem to be unaware of this context surrounding the concept of deconstruction which means that you're lecturing from a place of ignorance. (Not ignorance about Ender's Game; ignorance about how decons generally work.) You might wanna check that.

    / my two cents.

  52. The dialogue that opens chapter 2 occurs when the fight is over but before Ender has returned home. That's the space of a bus ride, and one short enough that a six-year-old would reasonably take it on their own. The 'after the fact' interval is minutes at best. Additionally, while Ender doesn't know it, his monitor was removed as a final test, not because he got washed out. They had every reason to continue tracking him through whatever cameras they have on hand.

  53. On the topic of retcons, I tend to be pretty mild, since I prefer writers to recognise and correct their mistakes when possible rather than just being hardline that everything was perfect to begin with. I like the Genius Parent Wiggins as characters, and I think it makes them more interesting if they too went through monitoring as kids.

    But I also like contiguous and congruous narratives, and here in the opening chapters of Ender's Game, we're presented with characters who are not merely one-dimensional, but who act in ways that make no sense compared to the versions we meet in later books. The later material can't just stand in for the earlier material and everything is better; it needs to explain or justify. Peter in the Shadow books makes a lot of sense as a child who would have come out of the messed-up Wiggin family as the less-famous older brother of Ender the Deadly Messiah. Peter in the Shadow books does not make sense as the evil monster plus six years of intensive blogging and mucking in world politics.

    If there's something in a short story I haven't read that is relevant to the subject at hand, people are welcome and encouraged to bring it up here to provide perspectives or just for completeness. It just doesn't mean that I'll ignore whether this particular scene or chapter stands up under its own narrative and/or implies really hideous things about morality.

    (Tangentially, I'm not referring to this analysis as a deconstruction, because I consider that a more technical term. I hang with an internet crowd that does a fair bit of this stuff, and they call their stuff decons; that's fine, but it's not the word I personally choose for my work.)

  54. (Tangentially, I'm not referring to this analysis as a deconstruction, because I consider that a more technical term. I hang with an internet crowd that does a fair bit of this stuff, and they call their stuff decons; that's fine, but it's not the word I personally choose for my work.)

    Whoops! Good to know, thank you. I will remember that for the future when recommending this analysis to ALL THE PEOPLE. :D

  55. That's certainly the implication that's intended, except that Peter frequently seems to be in more control of himself than Ender, at least right now. (Yes, later we'll hear about Peter doing atrocious things to animals on a whim, and Ender taking pride in his own ability to remain calm even when aggressed upon.) The lack of details of things Peter is supposed to have done up until now really hurts this case in the second chapter, since Peter's bullying of Ender is, like I wrote above, inexcusable but still a long way from killing.

    The idea that Ender's apparent 'distaste' for violence is a virtue is presumably one that people will vary on, but personally, I'm a lot more interested in what a person is willing to do (e.g., kill a child in a playground fight) than in how they feel while doing so (e.g., bad). Now, it's known that one of the hardest things to teach a soldier to do is kill on command, so that's certainly a plus for the International Fleet when they recruit Ender, but it's not particularly obvious that Peter and Ender differ in this area.

  56. And if I had said Ender murdered Bonzo in the comment you're replying to, that might be a relevant point, but I specifically used 'kill', acknowledging that the circumstances are different.

    I recommend reading what people actually say and responding to that. It'll make you seem more credible and less like you can't bear opposing perspectives.

  57. I'd start with murder, as well. Just because we see it from the perpetrator's perspective, and there's clear Author Approval for what he did (the whole "manly rules of war" thing, and the court-martial result), doesn't necessarily make it magically not-murder.

    Content Note: Steubenville

    If you want a recent example, the Steubenville case has the same hallmarks: we saw it from the perspective of the assailants (they took pictures and posted them on the Internet), and there was a lot of tacit approval for their actions, in how people in the community, and at least one major news outlet, chose to focus on how horrible and career destroying this action was for the assailants, without sparing much of a thought to the victim. That doesn't mean the assailants magically did not commit sexual assault, buddy that we're supposed to sympathize with them and not the victim. Which does not make for good reality, and it takes good writing to pull it off in fiction.

  58. Have you read the Animorphs books? They're a late-90's middle-grade series (54 books + specials), but they're really quite well done (and also chock-full of nightmare fuel). The premise is an invasion of alien parasites who enter the host's brain and control them completely. Fighting them off are 5 children (implied to be 11-12 years old at the start of the series, 20 or so by the end) who are given (good) alien technology to shapeshift.

    The series has no illusions about the impossibility of this task, and no reservations on the horrors of war, either. The stakes are incredibly high from the beginning; the kids learn that not only will the invading aliens take over all the humans if they win, they'll also destroy nearly every other species on the planet that's not "necessary" to support human life. The situations are often a little simplified because of the age range of the books/characters, but the aliens are all really creative and well-done-- while it appears to be a good/evil situation in the beginning, there is some nuance later-- and it handles well the series' overarching theme of "war is absolutely awful... but sometimes necessary." I'm currently re-reading the books since I never actually finished the series when I was younger, and really enjoying it.

  59. While I felt that there was a lot of filler in the later part of the series, the good Animorphs books are amazing. It wasn't until years later that I realised just how quickly and effectively it got into grappling with heavy moral issues and serious depictions of PTSD. The worldbuilding (universebuilding, really) is also fantastically creative on a regular basis.

    I was pretty torn on the final book--I understand now what the author (Katherine Alice Applegate) was going for, but I felt that as a conclusion she was trying to spend more narrative capital than she had built up, so parts of it felt entirely too fast and convenient (not for the characters, but for the writing). Too many improbable adventures and then a final episode of Reality Ensues rings hollow to me.

    The spinoff Chronicle specials are also excellent and audacious, though as 'stories from the aliens' perspectives' they bear little thematic similarity to the main series, I think. That's not a bad thing. The Ellimist Chronicles was mindblowing to me.

  60. My understanding is the later books were mostly ghostwritten, and my experience is that they start to get subpar (probably why I stopped reading the first time.) Still, the immediate horror of it all has been a surprise to me on the re-read. I remembered that Elfangor was killed in the first book--- I did NOT remember that he dies by being eaten alive by a terrible monster alien morph. o_o

    I definitely agree that some parts of the stories feel a little too convenient, but that's somewhat to be expected from a middle-grade book. It's one of the things that makes me really want to see something like a fanfiction AU that sets the series either in modern times (with all our current technology to further complicate matters), or have the kids be college-age from the start (better tactics, more complex solutions), or both. It's still a really fascinating setting and story, though.

  61. The ghostwriting, at least in parts, started relatively early and ramped up to whole books later on, as I understand it. The convenience, to my reading, was less in the 'things need to be simpler for YA' and more that, for example, pretty much the entire cast wears Plot Armor until the final books, and then the absolute final battle kills off a huge swathe of secondary characters and leaves the main cast pretty much ruined. It retroactively made their resilience (and survival) feel more false, and the final book's events were so complicated, spanning years, that they could only be superficially skipped over, while the story up to that point might just be a day's worth of events in a book. I'm sure there are industry reasons for doing it like that, but it wasn't the best treatment for the story Applegate apparently wanted to tell.

    Occasionally, as a plotting exercise, I have tried to figure how I would turn the core Animorphs story into a movie trilogy. It's got great potential, but you have to go in knowing that you'll be immediately ditching vast chunks of the saga, which always stings.

  62. [CN: GWDT spoilers!]

    'one fight to win them all' is in no way more effective than any other measure
    (e.g., adult intervention) that could get this specific gang off his back.

    Will, I forget if you've read Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but the author actually does have his protagonist -- a small girl picked on by bullies -- take this approach and it repeatedly ends badly for her. She thinks that going full deadly/near-deadly force will teach people not to fuck with her, but it consistently causes them (and others) to view her as dangerous and double-down on the oppression.

    I actually felt this aligned more with my lived experience, to be honest. I think Ender/Card has an incorrect view of the motives behind oppression.

  63. I think it's interesting that you cite the oatmeal incident as a filler book, because that's one of my favourites both in terms of tone (it's a rollicking infiltration caper) and in morality (because what it's really coming down to is chemical warfare, but it does so with a parallel that keeps the heart of the issue while changing the context to Hot Cereal warfare).

    It seems quite natural to me that the Battle School kids would be functionally far more bloodthirsty than random schoolkids, given that they're receiving military indoctrination and the Animorphs did not. (Animorphs hit the horror of child soldiers from like five different angles, too.)

  64. Good point - the oatmeal caper is the first one that comes to mind to me, since the characters themselves point out the ludicrousness of the situation, but it does still address serious issues (now that I think about it, it might even have brought up the Hork Bajir virus, or at least foreshadowed its inclusion). Maybe a better example would have been the modest horses book.

    Went to look up on wikipedia for confirmation, and... woah, Battle School students are so much younger than the animorphs: they start at six and graduate at around twelve. Anyway, I'm not really arguing the reality of the students' reaction to war -- I may expect more from child geniuses, as I said, but as the readthrough progresses we'll see the School encouraging jockeying for rank and status, way more than learning about the war they're gonna join -- just the massive differences between these two sets of kids. Sorry for lack of clarity.

  65. This is also clearly a universe that has never heard of revenge. Or at least Ender hadn't. If he'd done as he intended and merely hurt Stilson, would he have successfully intimidated him into leaving him alone... or would Stilson have planned revenge? Is this possibility even considered? Or should we take the fact that it's not to mean that, actually, Ender did mean to kill him? Hello first degree murder.

  66. So they were geniuses playing at being stupid because that's the best way to raise children? Whut. Also, if the first book in a series fails to successfully sell anything (like the plausibility of the society, how (and why) they're searching for "the one," etc, etc) to a reader, that reader probably isn't going to rush out and read the rest of it. Now, maybe Ana's more sold than I am, but so far, Card hasn't really sold me on anything he's wanted to sell me on.

  67. Heh, nope, not me.

    I liked Ender's Game fine enough the first time through for what I initially saw it being: a swiffy little sci-fi with interesting world-building elements, by which I largely mean The Battle oom with the battles. I thought everything post battle room, i.e., the actual Bugger Battle and the consequences, struggled under the weight of not really having its cool idea anymore to support it, but was still a quasi-decent wrap-up to the overall story.

    The revelation, from the friend who'd loaded me the book, that there were sequels/prequels to the book, though, just struck me as massively silly. I felt that the raison d'etre for EG was the Battle Room and that anything else was just a supporting framework for that; and I was too totally underwhelmed by Card's characterization of Valentine / Peter to make me want to read MORE about them. (Ugh.)

  68. A number of characters seem weirdly convinced that grudges are easy things to dissipate. Much later in the book, when Ender has another enemy pack of bullies, one of his friends will intentionally try to lead him into an ambush--it's not until Ender's Shadow that she explains that she thought the circumstances were favourable for her and Ender to handle the brawl, there would be bloody noses all around, and the bullies would feel they had taken Ender down a notch and thus let him be, thus defusing the situation and preventing further attacks. Because obviously that's how that works.

    So, no, I think evidence is strongly that Ender really did not plan to kill Stilson, and somehow believed that this one fight would get him a reputation that would keep everyone else off him forever. The characters who do keep grudges (Achilles, not featured in this book) are basically presented as unholy monsters beyond normal human experience.

  69. What? Was that character's logic presented as reasonable? Because that lines up even less well with the way things generally work (at least in this reality. Perhaps in the Enderverse people are completely different.). I've heard of kids getting a bully to leave them alone by winning a fight with them - that's at least part of our cultural mythology (though how often it actually works, I don't know. Revenge seems an equally likely outcome.), but I've never heard of bullying being ended by the victim getting beat up once.

    Grudges and seeking revenge are not exactly unusual, so you'd expect Card to be familiar with the concepts. If he was trying to make a point that we shouldn't hold grudges or seek revenge, this isn't the way to go about it.

  70. It's Petra making the argument for walking into the trap, and Bean critiquing her plan--Bean is the one who foiled her, basically by summoning a crowd of good people who would not just stand by if a fight started. He isn't sure he buys her plan, but he admits that his own didn't work out either (since the bullies just postponed their attack until the next day when they could find Ender alone), so the narrative basically withholds judgment on whether Petra might have been right.

    (I think I'm definitely going to have to do Shadow after Game. Bean is hardly flawless as a person, and he's even more the Ultimate Genius than Ender, but I find him vastly more sympathetic as a hero.)

  71. There's a lot of love and hate for EG all over the internet. I liked it, but I was blown away by its sequel, Speaker for the Dead. I'd love to see an analysis of that book, because I think it had so much more of an interesting and deep message, a plug for secular humanism, and a look at colonialism. I'd love to see somebody wiser than me parse that out and discover all the problematic elements I've probably missed. It's a far better book than EG and far more humanist than you would expect from Card. The later sequels went downhill, though.

  72. I liked Speaker for the Dead much better than this book, though there were some annoying aspects to that, too (Ender continues to be Right All the Time and knows more than everybody around him). Then there was Xenocide, which basically undid all the good aspects of Speaker and turned me off the series forever.

  73. I also learned about this from Ana and will follow along. I haven't read the books and won't read them (thinking about whether to read the wikipedia plot summary or save it all to discover through the posts...)
    I only heard about these books once in someone's comments section, and I think they were described as similar to Ayn Rand, liked by reddit boys who think the books prove their intellectual superiority over the masses.
    Could someone tell me how to translate the spoilers code? I remember it's the same as in Slacktivist, but I forgot the name of the code.

  74. I'll note it in the next Ender's Game post as well, since I forgot that rot13 is not actually in the handbook everyone gets on their first day on the internet--the cipher that folks are using for spoilers in these comments is rot13, and can be easily deciphered at by copying, pasting, and clicking. Anyone who's new to rot13 will probably be relieved to know that exactly the same process is used to cipher normal text; just keep clicking the button until it's readable or unreadable as desired.

    Of course, since I'm taking a freewheeling attitude to spoilers in the posts themselves (STILSON IS DEAD Y'ALL) I think it's fine to only use rot13 when discussing other stories; Evangelion or what have you.

  75. The introduction in my edition of Ender's Game contains some letters/discussions on exactly who appreciates Ender most as a hero, and I definitely want to get into those at some point, but I thought it was probably best to leave them for the end. (Well, the first post I did was kind of about that--why the books are appealing and why I now find that appeal unsettling--but there is more to come, once everyone's excruciatingly aware of the contents of this novel.) "I'm smarter than the plebes" is definitely a big part of it.

  76. Speaker for the Dead is a much stronger book IMO -- far less formulaic, with a really interesting premise, some first-contact elements, a mystery plot line, and engaging alien and AI characters. It's the only one I ended up keeping out of the whole series; the ones after it headed for China with remarkable speed.

  77. I can't hear that verse as saying anything but, "Once you've had the thought, there's no reason not to go ahead and do the deed, because you're just as guilty either way in the eyes of God." And I reject that line of reasoning utterly. If there is no value in resisting temptation, what's the point of being able to think and reason and have ethics?

  78. The oatmeal is silly in tone (because again, we're making light of chemical warfare), but I still appreciated it because it pointed out a common thing that a lot of sci-fi misses, which is that when you visit a different planet, you are likely to run into lots of things that are harmful/deadly to you, simply because your immune system is not prepared to deal with them. Disease is one of the biggest killers in history, regardless of time, place, and circumstances, and to have the Yeerks not be susceptible to Earth pathogens and substances doesn't make any sense. Really, there should have been more things that harmed them than just this one type of oatmeal, but I understand that they didn't want to spend multiple books on "the Yeerks are dying off-screen from this disease/substance" because this is a book for children and fight scenes are way more exciting.

  79. The code's rot13. To decode, move each letter forward in the alphabet by 13 letters, or copy-paste it into the window at ro13(dot)com and click the button. :)

  80. (floops, will already answered. Sorry!)

  81. Thanks! I've actually used it before, I just drew a blank now trying to remember the name of the deciphering site.

  82. You know, I was picked up in elementary school - A LOT (and then again in 7th grade) - it was the worst 4 years of my life - especially grade 4. Not just verbally, but physically too - the boys would just always beat me and I was neither strong enough, nor fast enough to retort or escape. I spent a lot of time dreaming that I could - even sometimes about killing people (though I doubt I would, if I actually had the opportunity). I am not siding with Ender here, I am just saying - I get it, but I still don't condemn killing someone (though from what I figured Ender doesn't actually kill Stilson there). Peter... yeah, he is a sociopath. He reminds me a lot of Heathcliff, except he's the one with the power. But all I could think about him is give the kid some therapy! I really just feel sorry for him. I love your re-caps, but it would be nice if you could a full chapter at once.