Books to the Big Screen: Ender’s Game

Ender's Game

In my Books to the Big Screen blog about Ready Player One, I mentioned how I credit Orson Scott Card’s epic science fiction sage, Ender’s Game for sparking my desire to become a professional sci-fi writer.

As a matter of fact, I can probably credit this novel for my love of reading, too. I was first introduced to the book in high school by a close friend of mine. At the time, I refused to read recreationally — my exposure to books was confined to the class curriculum and I refused to like anything I read because, for whatever reason, I thought reading was lame and uncool.

With that mentality, I don’t remember why I was in the market for a new book (I was probably looking for something to do during study hall other than, well, studying). Whatever the reason, I’m grateful I listened to my friend, it’s not very often we can look back on our lives and pinpoint exact moments which changed our lives.

Orson Scott Card’s story of a young child forced into a military school to learn how to fight an alien threat captivated me page one. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is such a fascinating character unlike any I’d ever read before. This was due in large part because Ender doesn’t fall into a traditional mindset of a sci-fi hero.

Unlike many heroes who are motivated by fear or anger (which would be understandable if your entire species was almost eliminated by alien invaders), Ender runs completely on compassion. He’s smart and ruthless but every time he defeats an enemy, his heart breaks for him. I always found this attribute to be relatable. Yes, it’s fun to have a ruthless, hard-charging hero who doesn’t blink in the face of death, but I think most people, in the real world, would have a difficult time if they were to cause serious physical harm – or death – to another person.

Another reason I think Card’s story is so masterful is his inclusion of a secondary storyline about Ender’s brother and sister, Peter and Valentine. The story takes place during a time when parents were only allowed to have two children, but after Battle School learned how sadistic Peter was and how Valentine was too compassionate to become a soldier, the government allowed their parents to birth a third child.

Ender is the perfect blend of the two, passionate yet ruthless, and the secondary storyline helps build Ender’s character by shedding a light on how his siblings behave and interact with the world. Both storylines collide at the end of the book with a surprise ending that literally made my jaw drop the first time I read it.

It was the ending of the book, I think, that made me fall in love with storytelling. The shift was sudden yet natural and made your head reel with questions. I needed to know more and almost immediately went to my library to see if they had the second book – and the rest of the series was just as good as the first book. With the exception of Ready Player One, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced emotion reading a book like I did with Ender’s Game.

So, as you can imagine, I was thrilled to hear they were finally making the book into a movie. I say finally because for years I’d heard rumors about a possible screen adaptation, but it never came to fruition.

Before the release of the film, I did what all fanboys do and reread the book and fell in love with the story all over again. However, unlike with Ready Player One, I made the effort to go into the theater with an open mind – knowing the movie is not going to be a carbon copy of the book.

Overall, I think the film did a great job capturing the essence of Ender and the Card’s story. There were obviously several changes from the book, but unlike many movie adaptations, these changes didn’t conscientiously alter the meaning of the story. The only difference I wasn’t a fan of was the director’s choice to downplay the storyline of Peter and Valentine. I understand the issue it would’ve caused with the runtime and I think it was smart to drop that storyline rather than take away from Ender’s, but there was so much world building in that storyline and we lost out on a key event which drove the following books, making me doubtful for a sequel.

Out of all the screen adaptations I’ve seen, I think Ender’s Game is probably one of the best. Maybe this is because it’s my favorite book, maybe it’s because it stays true to Card’s original story, which is a masterpiece in itself.

What did you think of the book and movie? Let me know in the comments!

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Published by Tim Koster

Tim Koster is an American author who was born and raised in Portland, Maine. After graduating from Deering High School, Tim attended Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, where he studied English with an emphasis on creative writing. In his junior year, Tim enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a public affairs specialist and deployed on two combat missions – his first was to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn (2011) and his second was to Syria in Support of Operation Inherent Resolve (2018). Tim currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

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