Time for Graff to justify a bunch of things that he can't actually justify and, in some cases, doesn't actually need to be justified. I didn't notice that until Ender's Shadow, when they keep a bit of information from Bean while saying they had to give it to Ender--but I am getting ahead of myself. The point is that Graff is useless.
Ender's Game: p. 242--254
Valentine has gone, and Ender literally walks up off the beach, into the house, and asks Graff if they'll leave right away. Have to give him points for decisiveness, I guess. For the fifth time in the book, Ender reflects on how he's not taking anything with him, and I'm trying to find a progression now--when he left home, Graff told him everything would be provided and he didn't need to bring anything; when he joined Salamander and then Rat, he was forbidden to bring anything; when he left Battle School, he was comforted to see that Graff also came away empty-handed; now, leaving Earth, there isn't anything he can imagine wanting to bring with him. Perhaps not a progression, then, but (if not for how bizarre some of those 'he can't bring anything' moments were) it is perhaps an interesting way of checking in on his mindset. Ender is committed to the goal now; he's going back to school to win the war and save the world, not to do well on tests. Not that Graff will let that go by without bludgeoning us with some blunt metaphors along the way.
"Back when the population was growing [...] they kept this area in woods and farms. Watershed land. The rainfall starts a lot of rivers flowing, a lot of underground water moving around. The Earth is deep, and right to the heart it's alive, Ender. We people only live on the top, like the bugs that live on the scum of the still water near the shore. [....] When you live with metal walls keeping out the cold of space, it's easy to forget why Earth is worth saving."Weeeeeeelll no. Not really, no. (And not just because space isn't 'cold' unless you are in the shade.) The Earth is indeed deep, but anything that could be considered 'alive' is pretty much done once you get a surprisingly short distance underground. Then it's thousands and thousands of miles of increasingly hot stone and metal. There are a lot of living things in the world other than humans, that's a good thing to keep in mind, but 'save the whales' and 'save the plate tectonics' are rather different concepts and only one of them makes a good rallying cry.
"We train our commanders the way we do because that's what it takes--they have to think in certain ways, they can't be distracted by a lot of things, so we isolate them. You. Keep you separate. And it works."Just in case we've forgotten, Graff: in the seventy or eighty years since the Second Invasion, you've been running Battle School and you have never had a candidate who was capable of passing all your tests. They fail or they burn out. It's not that there was once a great one or two but it was long ago and they're too old now--this method has never worked. So why, Graff, why are you so sure that the problem is with the students and not the tests? Mazer Rackham wasn't trained like this. Mazer Rackham wasn't anything special--he was a nigh-unheard-of low-ranking commander with a history of disciplinary problems. But we'll start getting into that more next week.
They march through the Fleet base to the shuttle; Ender notices that at first everyone pays attention to Graff with his Maximum Clearance Ball (he's carrying around some kind of pingpong ball that opens every door), but as they get into high-clearance areas they're more interested in Ender, who seems even less likely to be there. Ultimately, just the two of them board the shuttle; Graff confirms that his only job now is to stay with Ender. Ender thinks about what this implies for his importance, and basically starts channelling every white guy who has just stared into the face of privilege theory.
Peter could have fantasies about ruling the world, but Ender didn't have them. Still, thinking back on his life in Battle School, it occurred to him that although he had never sought power, he had always had it. But he decided that it was a power born of excellence, not manipulation. He had no reason to be ashamed of it. He had never, except perhaps with Bean, used his power to hurt someone.I was deeply tempted to bring in Five-Tongue Fleming again to tell Ender that he is Wrong about this, but eventually I had to conclude that he is right that he did not use his power to hurt Bonzo. He got away with killing Bonzo because he's the favourite son, the Chosen One, but I will grant that if he had been in the same situation and was not Graff's favourite, he would have killed Bonzo anyway. (Possibly not the most sterling absolution ever.) And in the years leading up to that point, when he could have apparently revolutionised tactics and training for Rat and Phoenix and ultimately the entire Battle School, and perhaps given insights and skills to hundreds of students rather than saving them all so he could show off when he got command of Dragon, strictly speaking he wasn't using his power to hurt people, but instead actively failing to use his power to help people. Ender is innocent of not abusing his power by only the slightest margin, and he has benefitted from it anyway, but because he never intended to hurt people, he assures himself that he's a perfectly moral person.
Sometimes I am embarrassed for just how accurately and ruthlessly this book portrays its morality.
There's some competent SFing about the shuttle up to Inter-Planetary Launch and Graff requisitioning a ship to a secret destination. Graff takes a moment to show affection to Ender with a gentle touch while he thinks Ender is asleep, which is shockingly not-creepy, before he gets right back to being a supervillain. The pilot of their little ship thinks they're going to Inter-Stellar Launch, but is corrected that he'll actually be taking them to I.F. Command, the location of which which he does not have clearance to know (rather, his ship will guide him with the help of Graff's Ping-Pong Ball of Leadership).
"And I'm supposed to close my eyes during the whole voyage so I don't figure out where we are?"
"Oh, no, of course not. I.F. Command is on the minor planet Eros, which should be about three months away from here at the highest possible speed. Which is the speed you'll use, of course."
"Eros? But I thought that the buggers burned that to a radioactive--ah. When did I receive security clearance to know this?"
"You didn't. So when we arrive at Eros, you will undoubtedly be assigned to permanent duty there."Graff adds jokingly that the war might be over in fifteen years and so the location can be declassified and their pilot will be free to go. Seriously, this happens. There's no advance planning to make sure a pilot with clearance is available, there are no volunteers for 'a one-way trip' to help with the war effort; Graff just decides 'You look like a convenient pilot; your life and career are now over because I need a ride'. The pilot is predictably furious; Graff benevolently 'overlooks' his insubordination. Skipping temporarily ahead to when they leave the ship, three months later:
The captain was bitter at having to leave his tug; Ender and Graff felt like prisoners finally paroled from jail. When they boarded the shuttle that would take them to the surface of Eros, they repeated perverse misquotations of the lines from the videos that the captain had endlessly watched, and laughed like madmen. The captain grew surly and withdrew by pretending to go to sleep.Even here on a black rock in space at the end of humanity, Ender and Graff can take time to amuse themselves by bullying someone who can't fight back. It is especially hilarious that we're told they feel like prisoners freed from jail, given that their pilot is now literally a prisoner until the end of either the war or his life, whichever comes first. Ender Wiggin, master of empathy and sweetness.
But before that, they have three months aboard the shuttle, during which Graff jeopardises everything for no reason at all by giving Ender a lot of information that he absolutely does not need. I understand giving him information on the formics--how they're all drones and they've never managed to hold one in captivity for long before it just fell over dead, how they lack any apparent sex organs but are probably mostly female, which doesn't stop Graff from calling them 'he'. That's worth knowing, the hive structure and all. What Ender really doesn't need to know about is the philotic effect: instantaneous telepathic communication, which humanity has now built into our ships.
"So they knew about their defeat the moment it happened," said Ender. "I always figured--everybody always said that they probably only found out they lost the battle twenty-five years ago."
"It keeps people from panicking," said Graff. [....] "We've taken some terrible risks, Ender, and we don't want to have every net on earth second-guessing those decisions. You see, as soon as we had a working ansible, we tucked it into our best starships and launched them to attack the buggers home systems. [....] Our timing was pretty good. They'll all be arriving in combat range within a few months of each other. Unfortunately, our most primitive, outdated equipment will be attacking their homeworld." [....]
"When will they arrive?"
"Within the next five years, Ender."Graff explains that the master ansible is waiting for them at I.F. Command, ready for humanity's greatest command to lead those ships into battle. They want it to be Ender. Ender says he can't possibly be ready in five years. Graff says then they'll make do with what they have, which he immediately clarifies is "nobody". Ender at least sees this for the transparent rubbish that it is, but thinks to himself that he doesn't need the extra motivation anyway:
I'll become exactly the tool you want me to be, said Ender silently, but at least I won't be fooled into it. I'll do it because I choose to, not because you tricked me, you sly bastard.Which is in turn hilarious because Ender is absolutely being fooled, and it baffles me that he doesn't expect it at all. In Ender's Shadow, Graff specifically says that Bean mustn't be allowed to learn about the ansible because he'll guess the whole thing from that, but that Ender had to be told in order to do his job. Except that as far as Ender is aware, his job for the next five years consists entirely of study and testing. The entire point, supposedly, of letting Ender fight Bonzo, of bringing Valentine to fix him, was to make sure that Ender was independent and committed to saving humanity--this bit with the ansible and the five-year timeline is unnecessary for motivation. Graff will also insist later that his whole plan desperately depended on Ender not knowing what he was doing--so why in hell is he telling Ender right now the two facts that he needs in order to puzzle it out?
The answer is of course purely Doylist: Card needs the reader to have this information so that he can spring the big reveal on us quickly later instead of having to throw in all this stuff about philotic physics and the human assault fleet in order to have it make sense.
Also, because we skipped it over--Ender asks if the Third Invasion (humans attacking aliens) is necessary, and if they aren't just going to leave us alone now that we've beaten them twice. Graff says that they have to be safe, that the aliens already tried to exterminate us twice without provocation, and we can't risk it again. But he also acknowledges that with the whole human fleet flying out to invade, we're defenceless on Earth and if there is a third alien invasion coming our way, we'll probably all get wiped out. In other words, they're attacking the aliens because they might invade us again, but our military strategy is also completely built on the assumption that they aren't attacking us again, despite having had seventy years to build and launch their own fleet.
At this point I'm pretty sure that humanity's military would drastically increase in efficiency and effectiveness if they gave absolute power to one of those painting elephants.
As they take the final shuttle down to Eros, Ender asks why they're fighting the war to begin with, and Graff rattles off the list of unproven hypotheses--it's their religion, or their need to colonise, or they picked up our TV broadcasts and decided that we were too evil to be saved. (If only they had caught the right anime series, they might think we were just delightful and ridiculous. "My queen! The blond ones grow delicious mushrooms to express despair!") Graff's explanation is simply that, with the insurmountable communication barrier (their inborn telepathy keeps them from grasping how else beings might communicate) they decided we just couldn't be trusted and so had to be subjugated for their own safety, and humanity has made the same decision about them. Basically, 'this might be an us-or-them situation, so let's assume it is and let's make sure we win'. Graff also evopsychs about how nature can't produce a species that doesn't have a collective desire to survive, even if it allows individual sacrifice, because apparently he's never heard of panda breeding programs, but more to the point:
"As for me," said Ender, "I'm in favour of surviving."
"I know," said Graff. "That's why you're here."Weeeeell, actually, Ender is in favour of defiantly doing as he pleases and handling threats to his safety through the focused application of violence. That's not quite the same thing. There are a lot of things Ender could have done, as we've discussed before, that would have let him survive without having to kill other children. That is why he's there. Because he has a toolbox full of solutions to your problems and all of them are murder. Remember? That's why Valentine couldn't be the Chosen One? Yeah. That. It's about the killing, not the survival. And in the end, it turns out you didn't need to make those things touch anyway.
Next week: Ender meets someone who should have replaced Graff from the very beginning.