Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game – Finally, a movie!

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So there’s a movie!  Ender’s Game, the science fiction book that we all know and love, has finally been adapted for the big screen.  I went and saw it yesterday, and I was bracing myself for the worse.  That being said, I thought Ender’s Game (the movie) was well done.  It stuck to closely to the plot of the book, albeit abbreviating everything madly for time.

Anytime a book I feel strongly about is adapted to the big screen, I’m ready for disappointment as its impossible to translate my personal reading experience into a film (how awesome would that be, though?).  The great thing about reading is each reader’s mind builds our own unique ideas of what the story looks like.  In this sense, books have access to our imaginations in a way I think films don’t.   Movies, while fun, are entertaining in a different way:  unless the creators of the film have a specifically nutty or imaginative vision, it can be a challenge to top a story you have already detailed to your own liking.

With the challenge of book adaptation in mind, I think the movie did a great job of casting and bringing to life some of the book’s characters: especially notable were Bonzo (Moisés Arias), Ender’s battle school enemy, and soft-spoken and small Bean (Aramis Knight), Ender’s sidekick.  Asa Butterfield as Ender does a great job balancing Ender’s insecurity and intelligence, especially through the first half of the movie.  A bit ill-suited for his brief part, I thought, was Jimmy Pinchak, who played Peter.  The visuals are, of course, stunning.  Battle School is viewed from space, with the Battle Room as a gigantic dome looming to the side, and the shot is startling.  The alien planets, and the videos of legendary battles between human and alien ships, are a great reminder for someone who doesn’t go to the movies too often (like me) of how neat today’s special effects can really be.

My main complaint is that this the movie was about 20 minutes too long.  I won’t give anything away here for those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I think much of the last bit could have been saved for the next film.  Ender’s Game has sequels and prequels and novellas and spin-off series, and if there isn’t a sequel to the film it would be ironic as the book has just so many follow-ups.  It would also be a shame to not let the other characters (Bean especially pops to mind) have more screen time.

As I’ve mentioned before, Ender’s Game influenced my love of science fiction as a genre when I was young, as it seemed to with so many others.  (Before Orson Scott Card there was perhaps only H.M. Hoover, author of Away Is a Strange Place to Be, a young adult novel read to my rapt 3rd grade class by a librarian–hearing this book may have been the highlight of my mainly unpleasant elementary experience.)  My dad gave me a copy of Ender’s Game that I have lovingly kept even today, now worn, with a cracked binding, banded in a sparky hair band that reveals the book’s era.

I think Ender’s Game helped me see how far an author could really go within a novel.  I’m not sure how old I was when I read it, but I know I had begun moving from Nancy Drew toward Michael Crichton and John Grisham with my sister’s help. Coming from young adult fiction, the very seemingly huge amount of thin pages and hefty total weight of each paperback Crichton novel was daunting.  I remember my sister sitting me down and telling me about Congo, “You can read any amount of pages, the length just doesn’t really matter.  You can read that.” Hence I was able to take on the longer-than-Y.A. Ender’s saga series, and then move on to the rest of the big world of grown-up books.

I do think Ender’s Game has influenced a bunch of science fiction today, and I saw the Ender’s Game movie with a friend who asked me “This is like a Y.A. story right?” as we were walking into the theatre and talking about the book.  Comparing Ender’s Game to the Y.A. stories of today, there is a reminder of how it sort of translates into the same material and how it also sort of doesn’t.  Ender’s Game has a young underdog who struggles with bullies, but while The Hunger Games exudes love and revolution, Ender’s Game weeps manipulation and mourning.  Not as glamorous, by far.   When I was talking to my friend about the book’s sequels as we were walking out of the theatre she asked, “Man are they going to make a movie called Genocide?”  I think that is a very good question.

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Epic book of the day – Wool by Hugh Howey.

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When a book features a blurb from Justin Cronin, author of the massive dystopian masterpiece The Passage, I’m ready to read.  Cronin says of Wool, “Howey’s WOOL is an epic feat of imagination.  You will live in this world.”  And he is for serious, as this book is the real thing.

I discovered Wool via an article on Howey’s underground success, and found I could download the first Part in the series for free for my Kindle through Amazon.  The book is broken into small easily consumable parts, short-story length interconnected tales of a future in which humans live in an underground silo.  I read Part One quick, and purchased Parts 1-5 right away.  This is everything that makes scifi worth reading:  the commentary on our social structures; exploration of our weird rituals and lore in societies; the struggles for control over knowledge, material wealth, and power in social systems.  I think this will be the new Hunger Games, a series that gets non-readers reading.  It is simple to understand and draws you in quick.

Wool – Part One blew my mind right away.  It reminded me a bit of how sucked in I was by the first chapter of Ender’s Game, called Third, when I read that for the first time in my childhood.  In the chapter Ender gets his monitor removed and brutally beats Stilson to prevent future bullying.  I thought it was so crazy the way Orson Scott Card drops in Ender’s age near the end – “Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was only six.”

That first part of Wool was so intriguing that it really brought me back to that Ender’s Game level of interest – I was dropped into this dystopian world, and right away I could see it all happening, all the rituals and beliefs and fears and concerns of these new people made so much sense to me.  I feel like the greatest science fiction I’ve read doesn’t stop to explain itself to the reader, it just lets the story play out while the reader watches from the sidelines and picks things up as the story goes along.

The concept of Wool, humans living in a silo underground, is one that has such a sweeping amount of plot to play with.  I’m always so interested in the myths and rituals and culture that build up in a society not like our own, and what these things say about our own culture.  I love the development of an entire world after ours in dystopian fiction (The Passage does such a great job of this, as does Oryx and Crake), and this book definitely leaves room to create a history of a people.  There are questions of maintaining power and control within the silo, and, without giving too much away, the daunting prospects of the entire world outside the silo’s safety.  And above all this, the constant sense of claustrophobia that comes with containment.

A group of people in an enclosed space always makes for interesting fiction – think of Stephen King’s Under the Dome.  I love cozy mysteries, and some of my favorite cozies take place in enclosed areas.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie takes place on an island during a storm, so guests are stranded.  The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny takes place in an isolated monastery, where the monks have little contact with the outside world and must be reached by boat or plane.  Science Fiction as a genre has a great opportunity to play with this tension by building situations where people are stuck together in enclosed spaces.

I’m excited to read the next part in the Wool series, called Shift.  I’m trying to put it off a bit for now, as I know I’ll just compulsively read it once I kindle it and get nothing else done in my life.

Wool – Part One by Hugh Howey on Amazon.com

Wool Omnibus Edition Parts 1-5 by Hugh Howey on Amazon.com

Shift Omnibus Edition Volume 2 by Hugh Howey on Amazon.com