Ender’s Game, Revisited Thoughts and Issues
2024 May 08

I used to think that “Ender’s Game” was one of the deepest novels and series I’ve ever read. I’ve since reconsidered my opinion on this significantly. I’ve since decided its quite dumb and overplayed. The characterization of the children is too much. There’s an obsession with hyper intelligent children that isn’t realistic or believable in this day and age. I’ve revised this opinion because I’ve been listening to the audio drama version of it with “Ender’s Game Alive,” it a great audio production with an extremely high production values with a full cast and excellent voice actors. It’s been really nice to revisit this novel and revise my opinions on this novel. Also all spoilers are unmarked and may include details in the other novels. This is not quite a book review, its more a rant about organizations and how to build a stable system.

”Ender’s Game” is about these children who are sent up to battle school to train against the Formics, who attacked Earth and were defeated by a stroke of luck by a lone genius. It follows a story that lasts 70+ years. The timescales feel really realistic except for the logistics. Also child soldiers are a big ick, but existenisional threat and all that. Children are instructed in this one game that takes place in zero-G. There’s stars/boxes that are anchored firmly in place to serve as fortifications and terrain. Ender is the third child, and families aren’t supposed to have more than 2 children. So he’s an extra child ordered to fight the final war.

The final war is all about the humans bringing the fight to the Formics after the attempted colonization. Ender ends up at command school and they say none of the battles are real, but in reality Ender is fighting the final battle. Alright enough with the summarization of the actual story and on to my issues.

I have several issues with the logistics and human resource aspects of Battle School. They are as follows:

  1. Launching children is extremely expensive. They might use monitors for selection, but there’s still the possibility to wash out. There should be a 6 month period on Earth to complete training and ensure they are ready to go. Even if these children are the best of the best. It’s still risky to assume that they will be able to mesh with each other.
  2. The story talks about how the battles need to be made more and more unfair. Why weren’t they unfair to begin with? Every battle should be unfair and every scenario should be tested and new. You can generate whatever scenario you want with the tools available. E-Sports are already doing this. Why wouldn’t the children be developing their own scenarios and why aren’t armies constantly being paired up for pincer attacks?
  3. Bean gets his hands on some cable. Improvised tooling and all that are necessary for the creative juices. Even with the best cad, people don’t learn at best. These resources need to be made available to everyone.
  4. In zero-G orientation is what you make it. Pick a set of basis vectors and be done with it. It’s something that needs to be taught to everyone. (This version of the production handles it significantly better than the original. Do you really expect me to believe that Ender is the only kid who understood this from the beginning?) I expect all these children can understand what the basis vectors are.
  5. We created an invasion fleet, that’s secretly a colonization force. How did they make this happen with a two child limit? That’s below replacement birth rate, and some how there’s enough to handle the colonization effort. Even if it’s imperfectly enforced on purpose or the intent was for people to be operationally defiant. It fails as a strategy entirely.
  6. In order for a colony to be formed you need at least 75 breeding pairs. Battle school is not nearly large enough to fully supply these colonies, and there’s an off-kilter gender balance at battle school. There’s something like 10 armies of 40 children each. That’s 400 kids total. With each of the fleets being launched, that’s not enough. Where’s the enlisted force in this series? You need an enlisted force. Where are the pilots being trained? How quickly can you train up a pilot? How do they get this enlisted force?
  7. The mind game existing is a big issue. It’s a psychological evaluation tool without controls or explainability on why it does anything. If these cadets are so important where are the logs? Why would you trust an unexplainable solution?
  8. I like that they include a cyber range for the students. A space for the students to learn and mess with each other. This is an incredible learning tool for them.

At the end of the day this is just a story. It was well crafted when I originally read it. I still want a television series (the movie is forgettable) which goes further in depth and covers more of Locke and Demotheses. Something that includes many battles and properly ages the children up and shows their personal growth. I want this so badly. Even with these plot holes and other issues it really scratches a personal itch.

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Written by Henry J Schmale on 2024 May 08
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