Ender’s Game

A few weeks ago I read “Ender’s Game”. I think Orson Scott Card is a pretty loathesome individual, but it’s one of those SF novels everyone references, so I thought I ought to read it.

To my surprise, I discovered that the novel is full of homoerotic subtexts. Well, actually, sometimes they’re surface texts: The horrible alien creatures menacing earth are called “buggers”; the young boys trained to fight them sleep naked together in group dormitories; there’s a soaped-up wrestling match in the showers; and in one particularly touching scene, one boy gives another boy a forbidden kiss. Oh, and the teenage boys show practically no interest in girls.

Given that Card is infamously homophobic and against same-sex marriage, I’m going to guess that it’s all unintentional, and that in his case homophobia indicates what it usually does: repressed same-sex desire. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for him–but not quite.

As to the literary merits of the novel, I wish they had been more evident. The dialog is simply absurd. He tries to head off the criticism in the introduction, but I’m not buying it. No child speaks like the kids in “Ender’s Game”; not even a child prodigy.

[Spoilers follow]

I suspect the popularity of the novel is all about the fact that the innocent geeky weakling kid grows up to be the savior of humanity and kick the ass of the bullies. It pulls the wish-fulfilment strings of Internet nerds even more blatantly than “Atlas Shrugged”.

“Ender’s Game” also manages to have an even more odious message than Ayn Rand’s work. At the end of the novel we discover that not only is Ender a genetically superior übermensch, but he’s committed genocide too. Morally correct genocide, performed out of a sense of duty. Ender’s innocent, he was only following orders.

After wallowing in guilt for a bit, Ender discovers that the whole alien attack was a ghastly mistake, and Card sets up the sequel, in which Ender wanders around demonstrating his nobility until society accepts his awesomeness.

If it all sounds a bit crypto-fascist, well, that’s only the half of it; Elaine Radford can fill you in on the rest, and there’s some interesting speculation you can read too.

So in summary: Badly written novel with an odious message. A closeted author displays his fascist sympathies. Popular with nerds who read it as a wish-fulfillment fantasy when they were at school.