Science fiction featuring military training, detailed battle tactics and space warfare often skips developing characters, particularly female ones. However Orson Scott Card’s classic Ender’s Game is so successful in large part because his characters are well-rounded. The central one, Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, may be a male child set to save the world (cliché alert), yet the women in his life – his sister and his mother in particular – are far more than cardboard cut outs, and the military storyline is the background to the development of the central character’s personality as he grows and is trained.
Moreover, the logic of why a young child might be placed in the position of saving the world is well worked out. That plausibility makes the fictional universe created by Orson Scott Card hang together, with a strong internal logic that allows the reader to try to second-guess what is being done and why – though I’ll admit the major twist caught me out unexpectedly.
The book has its fair share of clever military ruses but it is the way highly talented children are taught and react that makes the book far more than the likes of a Gordon R Dickson novel. It also has a very sparse writing style as, rather than going for elaborate descriptions, Scott Card leaves it to the reader to imagine the details triggered by the fast-moving action.
If you get the book it is well worth going for either the second hardback edition (or later) or the anniversary audio edition as they both include Orson Scott Card’s own reflections on writing the book and what makes it work.