'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card

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Great science fiction must contain an element of truth. For Orson Scott Card, that element is the minds of children; he breaks through existing stereotypes and portrays incredibly gifted young people who are not dependent, because they cannot be. The fate of the world rests on their shoulders.

The Formics (or, in children's slang, the Buggers) are an ant-like species with their insectoid hearts set on using Earth as a colony world. They've attacked Earth before, many years before, and were driven away under curious circumstances by a young officer named Mazer Rackham. But they are about to attack again, and this time, they might very well win - unless the International Fleet can find someone brilliant enough to save the world again.

Meet Ender Wiggin. He's six years old, and he should never have been born at all. In this future world, each family is allowed two children, and having any more means almost certainly losing their jobs. But the Wiggin family is special. The government saw promise in Peter and Valentine, but one was too aggressive, and the other too passive. So they commissioned another child; Ender.

Peter makes his life a living hell, and while his more compassionate sister Valentine sides with him when she can, she's far too self-preserving to intervene when she knows she can't win. He is ridiculed by his peers for being a Third, an unusual position in this society. But Ender finally gets away from it all when he's sent to Battle School, a space station established for the sole purpose of training children to command armies. He becomes, essentially, a pre-pubescent adult and assumes the role of steadfast general, leading his soldiers to victory again and again in the war games the students play to prepare them for battle. But he doesn't care about his standings, because he has seen through the facade set up by his teachers and knows his true purpose: to defeat the Formics.

Orson Scott Card presents a superb picture of a world where gifted children must behave as adults, and is surprisingly accurate and noncondescending in his portrayal of said children. His characters struggle with the roles they must assume, of generals and soldiers, knowing all the while that the decisions they make will affect many lives.

'Ender's Game' (1985) is followed by 'Speaker for the Dead' (1986), 'Xenocide' (1991), and 'Children of the Mind' (1996), all of which take place after the Formic War. There also exists a companion series told from the point of view of another Battle School student, Bean, which contains 'Ender's Shadow' (1999), 'Shadow of the Hegemon' (2000), and 'Shadow Puppets' (2002) to date. There have been rumors circulating that a fourth novel, 'Children of the Shadow', will be coming next, but nothing has yet been confirmed by Orson himself.

Orson Scott Card has also written many Biblicly inspired novels, such as 'Sarah' (2000) and 'Rebekah' (2001), and the Homecoming series. He maintains an official website, Hatrack River, at which the first chapters of most of his books can be accessed, as well as the original short story that was the basis of 'Ender's Game'.

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