Headscratchers: Enderís Game
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Video Cruelty Non-Potential
- So, are we really supposed to believe that of all the children that have ever been put through battle school, not ONE of them ever tried to attack an annoying NPC? Seriously.
- I think the explanation was that all the other children gave up on the Giant after awhile (except the one that committed suicide for real), but Ender never did, persisting months and months longer than anybody else had, so eventually the Game (established, especially in later books, as being basically sapient) gave in and gave him the option to attack, an option which no other kids had ever been given. But that might not have been the author's intention.
- If they had tried, the game wouldn't have let them. The only reason Ender was allowed to was because The Formics had infiltrated his version of the game via Jane. The only reason it took Ender so long to try to attack the Giant was that he is incredibly patient. Most kids probably get killed a few times, try to attack the Giant, and then give up.
- Jane doesn't exist at that point in the timeline. If you read the Shadows books, she's reverse engineered from the Battle School computer and set to keep track of Ender's finances, and becomes self aware several decades after that.
- And if you read the sequels, she was originally conceived as a bridge between the Hive Queens and Ender via the game, and while she wasn't immediately sentient, was being used by the Hive Queens to mess with/learn about Ender, resulting in the game giving him options nobody else had.
- But but but the Author's Definitive Edition, at the beginning of Chapter 9, states that Fairy Land was programmed in! The section that wasn't programmed in was The End Of The World! I think the controversy was that Ender was taking too long to get pissed at the giant and realizing that both drinks were poisoned. The giant's game is likely a test of motivation and conviction, designed to see if the prospect will be defeated by a seemingly unsolvable riddle. Also, the giant is a test to see if the prospect will even consider Taking A Third Option.
- Exactly. The other kid never tried for the third option, just kept at the two options that killed him over and over, and the other students just gave up the options altogether for a different set of options. Though this does bring me to another Headscratchers...(ctrl+F "Battle School Game interface")
- This explanation is effectively confirmed in added material from the audioplay—an aside with Graff and the programmer explaining that the game wasn't supposed to have that bug, and Graff and the programmer are shocked both by the fact Ender broke through and the extremely graphic graphics shown when Ender burrows into the Giant's eye.
Not All-Seeing Government
- This troper finds it hard to believe that the One World Government could have such detailed info on Ender's older siblings, yet utterly fail to realize they were Locke and Demosthenes.
- They did realize it. After awhile.
- When reading the Shadow books, I was shocked that there wasn't a Lampshade Hanging on this. They talk about the battle school folks influencing world politics, why not just mention they figured out Locke and Demosthenes and were protecting them because they were useful?
- It was Lampshade Hung in Ender's Game itself. The Hegemon and Strategos (I think) discuss it briefly in one of the chapter opening segments, as well as Graff and someone else in the IF. Moreover, I believe Graff mentions it to Bean at the end of Ender's Shadow (pointing out that his letter just went to both people anyway). Besides, the thing about One World Governments is that they are... not terribly efficient. The IF would not have been the go-to organization to identify the identity of minor political pundits, but they would probably have had all of the access to Battle School Candidate Files. It just took them a while to get the departments together.
- And besides, there was no One World Government, at least not a meaningful one. Yes, the existing nations of the world banded together to defend themselves against an extraterrestrial threat, evolving a One World Military (the International Fleet) out of NATO or something... But as we see in the book, the instant interplanetary war was over, everyone went straight back to international war.
- As to your other question "Why didn't they do something about two rampaging teenagers who, in Peter's own words, have about three pubic hairs between them?" it's probably because, well, they kept being right. They accurately predicted the political ramifications of victory (civil war), and then brokered a peace treaty to stop that war. You can't argue with success.
- This troper finds the fact that they accomplished all this by arguing on the Internet a transcendent WallBanger beyond all others.
- It was a simpler time. When this was written, the Internet had not yet emerged from its cocoon, and its primary purpose had not yet been discovered. Think of it as an alternate future where only intelligent people are allowed on there.
- Card has admitted in a recent interview that, when predicting the Internet, few could have thought of the porn goldmine it would become.
All Your Eggs In One Basket
- It was never explained to my satisfaction just why all the Queens were all on the one planet in the book. It was established that they had multiple Queens. It was established that they had many colonies. It was established that Queens were sent to colonies as a matter of course (and that it was in fact necessary to have a Queen on every planet to spawn workers). Ender never destroyed or even attacked any planets except the homeworld (he did in the short story, but not in the book). Why did the Formics pull all their Queens back from their colonies to their homeworld, trusting in Ender to be a decent enough person to not use Dr. Device on the basket that now held all their egg(-layer)s?
- It's implied that the colonies' queens were in the defensive fleets, in which case they would have been killed in the smaller battles. At any rate, just because the battle ended doesn't mean the human soldiers disappeared—presumably, once Ender's part was done, they headed down to the planet and kicked some butts. Finally, remember that the buggers didn't know about Dr. Device until their first battle against Ender—the homeworld, with an overwhelming force protecting it, must have seemed like the safest place in the galaxy. Since there's no faster-than-light travel, there wasn't enough time to re-disperse once they found out about the Little Doctor.
- There isn't faster than light travel, but the Buggers do have faster than light communication. The minute Ender used the MD Device in the first battle, the queens back on their homeworld would have been aware of it. They would have had time (at least a few months) to disperse. Instead, they knew that the humans would never stop hunting them if they knew that the Buggers still live so they hid one larval queen for Ender to find. Since all of their collective memories and experiences live on in that one queen, they're not really dying at all. The Speaker for the Dead series reveals that the queens have few qualms about dying themselves as long as their species survives.
- It's also implied that there's a limit to the number of drones each queen can control - even with most of the queens gathered in one spot there were problems with irregular ship movement and such. Having all the queens possible closer to the battle and bringing their hives was the best they could do.
- It was established that the queens could remotely control drones from light-years away, because otherwise the buggers would have completely depopulated all of their colony worlds when they pulled out the queens to join the defensive fleet, and they could not have built the giant where Ender found the last queen's cocoon.
- This is answered in the most recently published book, Ender In Exile.
- Specifically, the Formics willingly allowed themselves to be destroyed because they knew that if humanity knew they continued to exist they would not stop trying to destroy them. They imbued the single queen pupa with all their memories and left her for Ender to find, hoping that he could help humanity understand them and bring about a time in which they could begin to rebuild their race.
- Small correction: They allowed themselves to be cut down to A Single Cell. Minor semantic difference, but the change in meaning is kind of important when it comes to the theme of the book, and the reason for all three Human-Formic wars.
To Xenocide or Not Xenocide
- Are we supposed to feel sorry that Ender exterminated the Buggers? It's implied (or outright stated) that the Buggers assumed that the humans they were killing weren't sentient creatures during the First and Second Invasions. We're led to think that the first war was just a huge misunderstanding and the Buggers weren't intending to attack us again, but then they came back and tried again. Did they really expect humanity to just sit back and not do anything to assert our species' need to survive?
- Humans were the Third Invasion. It was not a defensive effort to survive, it was a preemptive strike against a no-longer-threatening enemy.
- They could have taken the trouble to drop an note saying "Sorry we killed you guys, thought you weren't sentient. Have a nice day." Because honestly now, when something attacks you twice, do you really think it's too irrational to expect it to attack again, and that maybe you want to take measures so you don't have to fight a defensive war?
- This is discussed in the sequel. As natural telepaths, the Formics have no need to filter their thoughts through language, and were literally incapable of communicating anything to humanity. They were, at the last moment, able to establish mind-to-mind contact with precisely one human - Ender. The series has different words for each level of interspecies communicative and biological compatibility, but I forget what they were.
- Google "hierarchy of alienness".
- The whole series repeatedly comes back to this point - when two species are butting heads and are literally incapable of compromise, natural selection is the only way for it to end. The Formics were nearly extinct because they couldn't explain themselves to us, and because nobody wants to repeat that tragedy, the later books are all about the struggle to understand and communicate with truly alien forms of life.
- I agree. I think that both humans and the Formics were behaving rationally given what they knew at the time (Humans didn't know whether the Formics would attack again, Formics didn't know that humans were sentient), and that they caused tragedies for the other species was unintentional on both parts, though still quite sad.
- Original author here. The problem is, they invaded and almost destroyed us not once, but twice. With no provocation. Sorry, but once you try to annihilate an entire species twice in a row, you should see retaliation coming.
- They did. They even came up with a backup plan once they figured out what form the retaliation was going to take.
- OSC is on TV Tropes! Squee!
- I think the point was more to show how truly pointless the suicide mission was.
- Ender wiped out an entire species. It would be like exterminating every single Soviet citizen because of what Stalin did, during Gorbachev's rule. Only worse than that, because it was (as far as they knew) an entire fucking species.
- No, it isn't, because Russians aren't a Hive Mind. Each Russian is an independently thinking creature, with its own morals and ideals. The buggers are all identical, because they all share the exact same thoughts at the exact same time, and their only thoughts were expansion of their own race and the destruction of others. So actually, he only killed one being, and not permanently. And as far as Graff knew it may have been a species, but as far as Ender knew it was a bunch of computer programs.
- An entire fucking species that, as far as the humans knew, was hostile. Going off wikipedia, Earth itself got invaded. So, really, it was a defensive effort to survive, because only an idiot would restrain themselves to fighting purely defensive battles. Plus, it can be argued that the various invasions were parts of the same conflict that the Buggers themselves started. Granted, it was a misunderstanding, but from humanity's POV, it was the Buggers who launched the "preemptive strike"
- I think we're supposed to feel bad that it came to the annihilation of an entire species due to the inability for either species to communicate. So yes and no. The destruction of the Buggers I believe is both a completely rational act for the humans while at the same time being a terrible tragedy caused by the ignorance of both sides who could have gotten along well had they the ability to communicate with one another.
- While it's a tragedy that one species had to die, think what humanity had to go through. An advanced species shows up and dissects a live crew sent over to investigate. Then, when the first group is destroyed, a second, larger force shows up. At that point, I'd be ready to wipe out an enemy species as well.
- I have a problem with the whole premise. Even if the Buggers had no concept of spoken or written language, they had to be aware that they were entering a solar system inhabited by a sapient, technologically advanced (even if not quite as advanced as the Buggers), space-faring civilization, and they certainly had a concept of territoriality (it's established in one of the later books that their concept of territoriality is actually extreme by our standards). There's no way they didn't know that they were violently invading someone else's territory, and that they should expect a very violent response. Furthermore, there's no way they got into space without somewhere along the way discovering electromagnetism, in particular radio waves. And their ships must have had the ability to detect radio waves. So they must have known that the human ships were broadcasting radio signals to one another, and surely they must have likewise detected patterns in those signals. Did they not attribute any significance to this? At all? And did the Buggers really never encounter a species that communicated by sound before? Really? That's just impossible to credit.
- But that attitude is exactly what the book is trying to prove: Your experience as a human is what is making this response an automatic one. Why would one assume any other species would communicate by sound? It's a rather ineffective way to communicate, and just because the human experience teaches us that this is how things communicate, doesn't make it the universal standard. No where in the series does the Queen ever mention encountering any other intelligent species in the entire time they had been in space.
- They were aware that they were entering the territory of another sapient species, they just weren't aware that every single member of that species was a conscious self aware entity. It was speculated in book that for Buggers war was more like a chess game. They resolved disputes by combat between drone armies but didn't resort to slaying of actual Hive Queens. They thought that the humans they were killing were just drones. It took the shock of the death of Hive Queens to make them realize that humans were different. The concept was as alien to them as they were to humans. Also why would they need ships to be equipped with radio detection? They never needed to invent radios for communication. Finally, the fact that it was about 3,000 years before humans encountered piggies pretty much gives credit to the Buggers' experience.
- Their ships had to have been equipped with the ability to detect electromagnetic radiation, and radio in particular, because how else could they navigate? They weren't detecting stars by telepathy. Secondly, while it's very clear that the piggies were the first sapient life form that humanity encountered after the buggers, it's also made clear in a number of places that these were not the first alien lifeforms that humanity had encountered. Even if the buggers had never encountered other sapients before, they had to have encountered other animals before. Heck, there had to have been other animals on their home planet. Did none of them use sound to communicate? The idea could not have been totally alien to them. And again, even if they didn't realize they were killing individual people, they had to realize that they were launching an unprovoked invasion of someone else's territory. They had to know that would provoke a brutally violent response.
- Sure, they probably encountered plenty of alien animals that communicate via sound, but not a sapient one. They probably had their own version of Humanoid Aliens. They thought that a sapient alien species was one that evolved from a hive-like society such as they did. So even if they know that humans were a sapient species and one that communicates via sound, they didn't imagine that killing a single human was the equivalent to murdering a Hive-Queen. They probably saw the First Invasion as a routine battle for territory, which were more like contests of strength to them. Mindless drones are lost but the only damage the player may sustain is a blow to the ego. They did expect the humans to respond the same fashion that they, the Formics, had acted. What they did not realize initially was just how brutally violent their actions actually were to the humans. And when they finally got the message, they knew that the humans were probably going to respond just as violently. This is why they were focusing on surviving the retribution that they unintentionally provoked. Part of the reason they allowed themselves to be nearly exterminated was so that the next generation of Hive-Queens would have a better understanding of what they inflicted on the humans and may be better able to form a peaceful coexistence with alien species in the future.
- The first book refers to an event called "The Scouring of China" in the First Bugger War. The Bugger offensive made it all the way to our homeworld, where they bombarded us. They had to know that they were provoking just as violent a response as they got.
- I feel bad at the end because it turns out that Earth was never in danger and all those children went through all that emotional stress and manipulation and were taken from home for nothing.
- The extermination of a sentient form of life is a tragedy whether or not it is in self defense.
Golden Snitch Gate and Commander Kids
- So, in a whole school of freaking super generals, not a single one, before Ender himself, thought of accomplishing the mission as stated, that is, entering the gate? Also, why the heck did they need Ender to destroy the planet? They just wanted to give traumas to the kid? Couldn't some battle hardened soldier do it? Because they weren't even doing a lot of planning, Ender was just commanding battles as they went, not planning where, when and how to fight.
- That was kind of the point of Battle school. A battle hardened soldier couldn't have won in the first place. It took a naturally talented child whose genius was at its peak to win.
- This troper recalls that entering the gate was treated as a formality. The computer registered the team who went through as the winner, but victory was stated to be whoever beat the opposing team. Ender was notable as he basically accepted that, 'screw this', and believed in winning no matter what. The easiest way to think outside the box is to never get in the box. The kids were taken at an early age and Ender is the one who thought, "This may only work once, but hey, it works." They got their out of the box military genius. As far as putting Ender at only the Tactical level, rather than the strategic level, it's partially because that's what Battle School covered, but also might be justified as strategy is harder to pull off on truly alien entities on a battlefield you've never really fought on. How do you create blockades in 3-D space? What exactly are the Formics' supply lines? Everyone was having to think outside the box, and with limited troops (it would take a long time to send reinforcements) they needed every engagement to be as efficient as possible. So Ender and his friends were put on Tactical duty, because from early childhood they were the new breed of soldier trained to fight in 3-D space, not necessarily strategize.
- Most of the kids were thinking competitively. They were taught to think competitively, and it's probably what they would do naturally. Even among good generals that's common- most commanders' natural response is to try and defeat the enemy directly rather than try to outmaneuver them and defeat them without a major battle. And there's a reason for that: outmaneuvering the enemy usually only works if the enemy is dumb or surprised enough to let you. When it works it works wonderfully and is a much better plan than brute force, but when it fails it often fails completely. Ender's trick is an example of this. It could never have worked twice, because the other team would watch for it.
- The rules of the Battle Room can be assumed to be "1: Defeat the enemy. 2: Use four soldiers to unlock the gate and claim victory. 3: If neither team has 5 soldiers active to enact the victory ritual, the match is considered a draw." Ender is the first person to think outside of that little box. Which is the problem. Too many of us would look at the rules and the victory ritual and say "Let's just go for the gate instead of fighting it out!"
- Given how almost all these kids are way beyond the level of almost any kid their age today, it's kind of unbelievable that Ender was the first one was to ever think of it. Of course, it's also unbelievable that Rackham couldn't have thought of using the Dr. to destroy a planet.
- Rackham knew to do it, he just didn't want to and have to deal with the guilt of xenocide.
- It's not that he didn't want to have to deal with the guilt of xenocide, it was that blowing up the planet would also inevitably destroy most of the ships in the fleet; ships crewed by men who were his former comrades from the Second Invasion. He either didn't trust himself to give the order and ensure their deaths, or hoped against hope that Ender would think of some brilliant solution that didn't involve sacrificing 95% of the human forces in the system.
- As to blowing up the planet (not to mention the "going for the gate" cheat), one must remember that Ender wasn't fighting the buggers during that battle, he was fighting the teachers. He'd had enough of getting Jerkass'd around by them; he wanted to flunk out and go home. So when the teachers explicitly told him not to destroy the planet, of course he did it.
- They didn't tell him not to, they just gave him a caveat.
- On top of that, the teachers didn't know that Ender was going to blow up the planet. They had no idea how Ender would win the battle, or even if he could; they just hoped that it would be possible for him to somehow find a way to win against the overwhelming odds they expected.
- As to why he wasn't involved in the strategic planning, it was because that was decided forty, fifty years ago: battle groups were simply flung at every Formic colony the IF knew of, in an order that would make them arrive within a few weeks of each other, and Ender was put in charge of them whenever they happened to get there.
- What bothered me was that nobody seemed to pay attention to what I thought was one of the most obvious ways to gain an 'unfair' advantage to the battleroom: there's air in there. There are no airlocks; no mention of radios to communicate; nothing that would suggest anything other than perfectly normal air - indeed, I believe friction and slowing is mentioned. Air... air resistance... and no gravity. And yet, no one has noticed that a couple of big flat things will allow you to outmaneuver the best army in the school??
- Probably for the same reason why nobody ever brought in anything resembling a shield - you couldn't get something that giant past the teachers. Bean's weird rope trick was possible because the stuff was nearly invisible and he extorted it out of a teacher. As a child I always wondered why they didn't cover their suits with some sort of grease (or better yet, sunblock) - it would have been possible to get, and would have had some benefit against enemy lasers.
- This troper always thought that no one brought in extra stuff to give them an advantage/entered the enemy's gate prematurely because they didn't realize that the teachers were looking for people who "thought outside the box" *cough*cheaters*cough*. They were playing by the implicit rules of the game and probably thought trying to work the system would be frowned upon by the teachers (since promotion is dependent mostly on the teacher's subjective thoughts on you and not your win ratio).
- Explained in Ender's Shadow—bringing in stuff was explicitly against the rules of the game, and the teachers only allowed the deadline thanks to Bean's manipulation and Ender's near-BSOD.
- I'm sure that several battle group leaders had attempted the go for the gate route; however, due to the way the traditional squads were set up and the insane gamble that is involved, the few that tried probably never succeeded and decided to go with more traditional strategies in future engagements. As for why they didn't just have a veteran commander take over the final battle against the Buggers? It's because they needed Ender and his jeesh to fight the several dozen battles up until that point where they destroyed the Bugger fleets throughout their territory. And the second they saw the Bugger fleet around their home world, they knew that the fight was hopeless. They knew that nobody could take on those odds and win, not a veteran, not Ender, nobody.
- Here's an idea: Since college is too much work, why not show up to graduation, bribe someone to edit the list so your name appears there, and graduate without doing all that hard work? Why hasn't anybody ever thought of that? Probably because it wouldn't work—graduation is a formality at the end and nobody's going to treat you like a college graduate because of that ceremony or act like you didn't graduate if you were out of town that weekend. Ender had to have been really desperate to try what he did in that battle, because he was really lucky that anybody at all counted it as a victory. They probably only did because the alternative was admitting their star candidate had been defeated.
- The big difference is that the battle arena is actually a game. Maybe when the book was written, the gaming scene wasn't big enough for it to be relevant, but "Go for what the computer has programmed as a victory" is what many gamers do, "Play by the rules as written" is what (some) tabletop gamers run on, and "Use everything in the game to win, even if others don't like it" is what most competitive game players use. Ender was doing something that is clever, but the same kind of thing that plenty of people do all the time in games nowadays.
- This is my problem with the scene in the movie—Dap explicitly tells the kids that the gate is an instant win condition, and the movie changes the rules so you don't need a full team to go through the gate, just one soldier. So how in the wide wide world of sports was no one able to come up with the sort of strategy that every moderately intelligent kid tries in games of Capture the Flag? In the book, on the other hand, there's a strong cultural norm that you win by disabling every enemy soldier and still having enough soldiers left standing to perform the victory ritual. Even in earlier games where performing the victory ritual as an instant win would work (namely, the battle where the enemy periodically unfreezes), Ender doesn't use this trick. Only the combination of desperation and an extreme intent to win—Bean's, not Ender's—motivates Dragon to try their trick.
How Dr. Device Works
- So what type of weapon is the Little Doctor, anyway? Ender's Game describes it as a beam weapon of sorts, whereas the eventual plot of Children of the Mind revolves around it being launched like a missile. Ender's Shadow is vague.
- It's exactly as it's described. During Ender's game, it's a beam weapon because it is a recently developed technology, and as such, anything remotely close to the attack will get vaporized (usually, also including the attacker); for example, when the bugger homeworld is destroyed, all the attacking spaceships also got caught in the field. During Children of the Mind, the Little Doctor has been in existence for thousands of years, so they've had time to think of a way to launch the weapon without harming the person/people using it in the first place.
- It's implied that in the earlier fleet battles, the device could be used to blow up enemy ships without destroying the ships (two sources required to make it work) that fired it. A ship that gets disintegrated creates a (relatively?) small field. But when you fire it at a planet, a lot more mass gets vaporized. The resulting field is larger than the effective range of the weapon, so you have to fire it from inside the blast radius and you get blown up too.
- My assumption was that in Ender's Game it was a beam weapon, but later the beam weapon was incorporated into self-guided missiles, the missiles themselves provide the initial mass to start a reaction rather then relying on a (presumably lightspeed) projected beam hitting a target at interstellar distances. Ender's Shadow would seem to show the origin of this when Bean ordered his ships to activate the Device inside the ships rather then deploying them as weapons, targeting themselves to start the reaction going.
- Except they specifically refer to the Little Doctor as being launched in Ender's Shadow. You don't "launch" beams. It's an obvious Retcon. Additionally, in Shadow, it's stated that the Doctor was only used in that first battle against the spherical formation and against the Bugger homeworld at the end. All other battles involved conventional weapons (i.e. nukes), precisely because the Doctor has been retconned into a missile/bomb. One Doctor is mentioned to have been launched but burned up on re-entry during the final battle.
- All Rackham says in Ender's Game is that the effect occurs "at the focal point of two beams." While we naturally assume that they are beam weapons (and the author may have originally intended this) they could easily be retconned into projectile weapons - Mazer never says how far these beams will hold cohesion, or that they are aimed directly at the target. After the later books, I started thinking of them like the person two entries up: the beam projectors are contained inside a missile or bomb and use mass in the weapon's core to get the reaction started. Come to think of it, this actually might be easier to pull off than focusing two beams onto the surface of a ship at deep-space combat ranges while both are attempting maneuvers, since using a projectile to get the field effect started would make a near-miss good enough to destroy the target.
- What was so special about Ender's strategies for blowing up the Bugger planet in the last book? It doesn't seem to this troper that there's anything special about suicide missions, and the adults in the book were willing to utterly screw up a child, why weren't they able to send willing adults to their death which they had no problem setting up or dealing with afterward?
- In Shadow, Bean makes several references to specific maneuvers, feints, and so on that Ender ordered. While, yes, the BIG genius was "let's go for the planet", he actually was also a micro-scale tactical genius (see: de-facto Toon Leader in Rat Army, when he was assigned to Meeker). Presumably, only Ender and Bean would have been able to actually get close to the planet, even with the suicide strategy in mind.
- That was the big genius? Go for the planet was the single most obvious tactic in the whole book!
- What was special is that any informed adult would hesitate before pulling the trigger on an entire race of sentient beings. Which was why they put a non-informed non-adult in charge of the trigger.
- But that's why it was not special. Ender wasn't overcoming some moral boundary, he thought he was dealing with data. He just went with the Kill 'em All strategy. And that shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Ender's entire schtick was ignoring the rules when pushed into a corner, and they gave him access to the bomb. What did they think was going to happen? It's almost like they were deliberately trying to create a scapegoat, but they didn't know the buggers were no longer a threat, so why would they?
- Even worse, it's like the entire culture hasn't heard of "Lateral Thinking". Mazer Rackham is the worst example of this, as he was one of the few that would accept that the aliens were telepathic and astropathic. Yet he can't think something simple like a suicide run? It's like the entire culture has gone stupid! Or maybe the lot of them went straw.
- It's mentioned specifically why Rackham couldn't when Ender asked him why he doesn't just command the fleets himself. It's because A. Rackham knows that this is real, and B. Rackham knows a lot of the people actually piloting the ships, making him potentially more focused on their survival than the defeat of the enemy. The fact is that they were planning on having Rackham command the fleet, but in the decades that the fleet traveled, they discovered that he wouldn't be an ideal commander for these reasons. There's a good chance they couldn't have gone through with the whole suicide run plan even if he had thought of it. Next, about Ender's strategy for the last simulation. Wasn't it obvious that most of the adults had no idea what would happen? Even if he tried to use it on the planet, the enemy forces were so overwhelming that the possibility of it actually working was minuscule. Not to mention that for every single battle up until now, Ender's entire strategy was to ensure that he had as many ships survive each battle as possible. That's what the adults saw, and that's what the Buggers saw. It wasn't the strategy of one battle so much as it was the compilation of all the strategies throughout all the battles that have been fought so far. Most people, after going through what seems to be hour long 'simulations', would probably be so fatigued that they'd just pursue the strategy that would result in victory as quick as possible, but Ender continued with his 'keep as many ships as possible'. And that's why the suicide run strategy for the last battle was so surprising and why it worked. Because as Bean notes in Ender's Shadow, the Buggers had learned the wrong lessons from the preceding battles. They learned that each human was sentient and not just the queen or something similar, and that each human life was valuable. Which is why the last strategy, in which each human life was sacrificed, was so surprising. And to answer the question as to why the adults didn't just do it, it was because they didn't know if they could succeed. Ender was a legendary unbeatable genius in their eyes, they didn't know what he was going to do. They might have suspected that he was going to destroy the planet, but he might not have. All they knew is that whatever Ender tried, it would probably have a better chance of succeeding than whatever they tried.
- Also, Rackhman personally knew the people on those ships, having fought with them during the Second Invasion. It's hard ordering your comrades in arms to their deaths.
- And yet plenty of great adult generals have done this in real life.
- It's more than the willingness to sacrifice men - humanity was facing an enemy that hadn't the slightest concerns about using suicide tactics, and who could fight with perfect coordination beyond our ability to match. What was needed was a commander who was not only tactically brilliant, but also without even the smallest qualms or remorse about throwing lives away, since any hesitation might make the difference between victory and defeat. Hence, the need for a "simulation" ruse, combined with the finest minds of a generation and extreme pressure to succeed.
- The actual reason for why they need Ender that the book gives is that they needed someone who had enough empathy to be able to intimately understand how the bugs thought, but who could still pull the trigger on a genocide. It wasn't just about Ender being a tactical genius- it was about him being able to think like a bug to the point where he knew exactly what they would do in battle. Rackhman couldn't have developed that kind of empathy for them knowing that he was going to try to wipe them all out.
The Future is Low-Tech
- It bugs me that the future-Earth in all the "Shadow" sequels doesn't seem very futuristic. They all seemed to be set about 20 years in the future at most. Weren't we building awesome starships with weapons that destroy planets?
- Well, I guess since people have been at war with the Buggers for the past ~80 years (I think they mentioned the second invasion being that long ago, correct me if I'm wrong), most new technologies of war would be dedicated to interstellar battles, so no new major developments were made to plain ol' ground warfare.
- There are occasional quiet references to other technology. The car that takes kids to the space port runs on a magnetic track, hovering cars and laser pistols are both mentioned in Children of the Mind. They do point out, though, that much of their jump in technology was thanks to salvaging from the Buggers.
- When your species is on the brink of extinction from an advanced alien threat, what do you focus on: improving the technology used in daily life, or improving the technology used to defeat the threat? Improving the technology used to defeat the threat, of course. Which is why almost all of the advances were in space weaponry.
- Well, this 'future' has the Internet, so perhaps all the people who should have been inventing whatever futuristic device you're thinking of spent all their time on TVTropes instead.
- I can buy all the Hive Queens being on the one world at once. But how did the humans know that? With the transportation and communication technology available to them, they had no possible way of confirming that, and yet it's treated as gospel. (And yes, they were right. But the fact that it turned out to be true doesn't change the impossibility of them knowing it was true ahead of time.)
- Graff mentions in Ender's Shadow that they were still monitoring the ground activity on defeated Bugger worlds. All the living activity on every colony stopped as soon as Ender blew up their homeworld. My guess is that they were monitoring them via the human fleet still left in orbit above each world.
- In Ender's Shadow, Bean is too tired to take a test and writes: "2+2=π*sqrt(2+n) When you know the value of n, I'll finish this test." Is it just me, or is that a completely trivial problem to solve for anyone who's taken algebra?
- While the answer to your question is 'yes, that is a trivial problem to solve.' Keep in mind one thing: Bean is seven when Ender's Shadow ends. When this troper was seven, I don't believe I was even doing basic multiplication.
- I'd agree with that, except that he's clearly doing much higher level math at the time. The test he's taking involves "working out the problems of gravity near planetary and stellar masses." More importantly, I'm sure Bean ought to know that the teachers have taken algebra, even if he hadn't, and wouldn't find it at all challenging.
- I always interpreted it as "the answer, down to the final decimal place" - which would, I believe, require knowing the whole of pi. Which isn't happening.
- I suppose, except that pi is irrational (as is the answer), and so you could never write down the final decimal place for either of them. But it does make sense that he might want them to do an impossible act (though in that case, it would have been clearer to just say so...)
- Any real mathematician would just leave the answer in terms of pi.
- I always took it to mean he was asking them to answer to the final decimal place as well, simply as a jibe at it being mindless busywork... which was, by that point, what he thought of his formal studies.
- Maybe it was just an insult, implying that the teacher doesn't know despite it being trivial.
- That's brilliant! That, I can accept.
- Oh, and for the curious, the answer is:
4 = π*sqrt(2+n)
4/π = sqrt(2+n)
16/(π^2) = 2+n
16/(π^2) - 2 = n
n is approximately -0.379. Hey Bean! Get back here and finish your test!
Playing the Mind Game
- What was the Battle School Game interface? I originally envisioned it as a sort of virtual reality thing, because of all the different things that were possible, that nobody had ever tried attacking the giant before (so it would have to be more difficult than clicking its eye, and selecting any options that come up), and the point-of-view implications, but then descriptions led me to thinking that it was more like an old Zelda II The Adventure Of Link or maybe Divine Divinity (the latter sort of makes sense, now that I think about it), and further contemplation reminded me that it was played on the desks, which are horizontal, with maybe a couple of inches at most of vertical projection (if it even is 3-d, since I was basing it on the "virtual junk" incident, and a little on the extremely ambiguous text-receipt trickery Ender programmed). Unless I'm incorrect on the limit of vertical projection?
- Ender's Shadow mentions Shen typing commands while playing the Mind Game. Of course, it brings up questions of why why Ender would accidentally type things like "kiss the snake" when he meant to kill it again.
- Because the desks use the Dvorak layout and he made a typo?
- Autocorrect has done it again.
- In the Shadow Books, a major plot point is the whole "Bean and Petra's children might have the edited gene that causes giganticism and super-intelligence", so they have to trust a mad scientist who is obviously not trustworthy. Why not just get Nickolai's genes, since he is Bean just without the edited gene? I mean, it's not as "romantic" but I'm pretty sure Petra and Bean could look past it.
- It's been a while since I've read the Shadow Books, but wasn't Petra lying to Bean about being okay with having his kids even if they didn't have the genius gene? She wanted to have Bean's children, genius and all.
The Enemy's Gate Is In No Concrete Direction
- In the Battle Room, how is Ender the first person to realize that, with no gravity, there's no reason to maintain the up-and-down relative to the hallway? It'd be like jumping into a deep swimming pool and thinking that you had to walk on the bottom instead of swimming through. Wouldn't ALL these kids be diving every which way, for speed (since there's still air, and air resistance), to avoid being shot (i.e. Ender's feet-first maneuver), and so on? It took me awhile to visualize the whole Battle Room scenario, but once I did it made no sense that they'd all be 'upright'. Think of how kids play in water, and you'll see what I mean.
- It's not that simple. Remember the battle room is the only place on the space station that is similar to space. Every other part is similar to Earth with gravity and an up-down orientation. Imagine being a child and being alone in front of water. Without having seen any human or animal swim, are you going to be able to realize how to swim on your own? Humans rely on mimicry much more than thinking for themselves. Aside from that, there's also the story justification that Ender's entire life had been an acceleration of what the other kids had gone through, so he would naturally be the first at everything, be it computer hacking or whatever.
- I always saw them as propelling themselves in any angle, but then, while flying, reflexively turning so that they still had the up-down orientation they did coming in. And to the swimming pool thing: if any of the children had learned to swim (which the richer ones did, at least, since Ender could swim) they would try the opposite—to push off with their legs and go headfirst. Of course, in the Battleroom, a shot to the head actually "kills" you whereas a shot anywhere else (if I remember correctly) just freezes that part of your body, they would obviously rule this out as being stupid, and probably not think to reverse it.
- Ender notes that any other kids that thought of it probably were in charge of the battle, and didn't want to risk losing, or were too scared of their superiors. He only got the chance to try it because in his first battle he was forbidden from fighting so he had nothing to lose.
- It's also worth noting that human beings have an up and down naturally. A pool is probably a bad example because, even in a pool, up is up and down is down. And Ender didn't just walk on the ceiling which I'm sure plenty of the students were. He decided he was playing in 3D which honestly was brilliant. Granted I'm not a tactical super genius but that probably wouldn't occur to me until it happened by accident. I'm more shocked that nobody had ever accidentally done it and thought: Wait, this might work!
- Yeah, I know that when I'm swimming, I still generally think of the top of water as up and the floor as down. Even if I'm swimming parallel to the group, I keep my axes oriented the same way, I don't switch them.
- Also, it's not that all the kids always orient their bodies a certain way, but they still visualize the battle room as having a specific top or bottom, whereas Ender best grasps that the top is wherever he wants it to be, so he literally thinks through the alignment from every angle.
- It's well known that this is one of the toughest things for fighter pilots to learn, to think in three dimensions and realize that enemies can be above or below you, rather than just ahead, behind, or to the side. And that's where you have a constant orientation! Being able to reorient your sense of direction at will for maximum combat efficiency sounds simple but is really, really hard in practice.
- I love Bean and the Ender's Shadow series, but did anyone else think that Card made Bean a smarter character by making Ender much, much dumber? It felt like Ender's Shadow was one ginormous Retcon of Ender's Game, to the point where I have to justify the Shadow series as not-actually-in-the-same-continuity as Ender's Game in my head to enjoy them... Also, I thought it was deeply stupid/crazy how the Wiggins parents "decided to hide their intelligence to allow their children to shine." If Peter had actually had adults he could look up to, maybe he wouldn't have been so freaking adrift and he might not have been such a gigantic bully when he was a kid.
- Not really, no. Ender does exactly the same stuff he did in Ender's Game, we just see it from Bean's perspective. Bean has far more information and pieces of the puzzle, but that's because he's not being pressured and isolated and mindscrewed like Ender is.
- Not quite. In Ender's Game, we are led to believe that Ender is stuck with an army of average (for the Battleschool) kids, albeit all younger than him. In Ender's Shadow, it's revealed that Bean handpicked them as the best of the best. At the end of Ender's Game (no pun intended) Bean makes a joke which inspires Ender to come up with his brilliant strategy, but the joke was just that, and could have been made by anyone. In Ender's Shadow, Bean later denies that he had any intention of doing this, but in the passage where he actually says it, it's strongly implied that he had a strategy in mind. Furthermore, Ender's strategy might not have worked if Bean hadn't turned the MD's on the ships that were firing them. I think there's more, but that's all that comes to mind at the moment.
- Although there really are no "average" kids in Battleschool, and most of the ones that Bean picked had problems with their commanders or authority in general. With that in mind, it's more impressive that Ender was able to gel them together into a functional army.
- That point was specifically addressed in Ender's Shadow. The instructors and commanders at the Battle School let their petty biases affect their judgement of the children, so many of the highest rated students had excellent kissass skills, but weren't quite as good. Bean specifically looked for the battle school students who had the best skills, regardless of how much their instructors approved or disapproved of them. Ender just got to read the official reports on students he'd never met before, believed (somewhat wrongly) that they were accurate and unbiased, and assumed he was stuck with a terrible army.
- Ender does note that the kids are all learning at a surprising rate. As for the final strategy, he was doing it out of anger to begin with, so there wasn't really much of a lowering of the accomplishment to begin with. Bean even called it smart.
- I could be remembering it wrong, but I was sure that even in Ender's Game it was made clear that Bean was the "smarter" of the two. But because he lacked Ender's capacity for empathy and personal connections, he never had the right combination of brilliance and command ability, and so served best as a chief advisor of sorts to Ender, rather than a leader in his own right. As for Peter and his parents... that's an excellent question, and the only thing I can think of is that they were trying to be good role models at first by being humble about themselves and attempting to live like a normal family. It was only when the kids started meddling in politics that the parents decided to take the hands-off approach and see where Peter's ego carried him.
- Bean's lack of command ability always struck me as more than a bit of an Informed Flaw. After Ender left Battle School (and Card was free to let Bean do whatever there without worrying about how it would muck with the original book's continuity), Bean single-handedly altered the entire culture of the school by giving a couple speeches. You don't do that without empathy and the ability to inspire loyalty in others... or being a bit of a Mary Sue. Or both.
- It was an Informed Flaw, in-universe. Colonel Graff tells Bean that Mazer Rackham telling Ender that Bean lacks the ability to command lots of troops is a lie to keep him from taking on too many responsibilities. It's partially justified, since Bean is usually the leader in the simulations without Ender and we see everyone excel, but there's still just a hint of jealousy between the other kids and him that there isn't with Ender.
- The Shadow Series further reveals that convincing kids they have Informed Flaws is Graff's M.O. to manipulate events. Shadow of the Giant has the huge reveal that Peter's flaw wasn't that he was too aggressive (as was explained in every previous book), but that he didn't inspire loyalty that a military commander needs. Knowing that, Graff intentionally left Peter out of Battle School so he could be the great civilian leader the world needed. The same book also reveals that Bean's actual flaw is that his ambition is only for survival, not for dominance.
Bean Becoming Nice
- Is anyone else bothered by the transformation in Bean from Ender's Shadow to Shadows in Flight? I mean, in the first two books in the Shadow series, Bean is incredibly brilliant, sarcastic, logical, and unfeeling. But then he finds love and suddenly becomes a lovey dovey fool with not a care in the world and only showing the utmost compassion. Yeah yeah yeah, transformation of love or something, but still, Bean was my favorite character in Ender's Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon, and then....bleh.
- Yeah, I too hate character development. I could talk more about how the "lovey dovey fool" saved the leader of the world's life and career, helped plan out an assault that cracked the Chinese hegemonic control over a quarter of the world's population, or how he led a coalition of world armies in a series of wildly successful campaigns, but I think the phrase "I too hate character development" sums it up better.
- Character development is one thing, but changing his entire persona from a cold, logical kid to a passionate loving character over the course of a couple of years is another. I suppose it didn't really interfere with his accomplishments at all, he was still brilliant, but character development to the extreme of making a character the EXACT OPPOSITE of how he was earlier is just silly, in my opinion.
- Except he wasn't the exact opposite. Bean had always had a deep run of compassion and illogical behavior. Poke was the most obvious bit. He could have just ran when he realized that Achilles wanted them dead but instead he risked his life to try and get to her before Achilles did. Then on the station he could have killed Achilles any number of ways without having his fingerprints anywhere on it but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. Then we have the final battle where he risked giving up the ghost by saying a poem to the ships under his command. The romantic and illogical side of Bean was always there, being with Petra just brought it out more.
- In real life, every teenage boy or young man who finds love changes that dramatically, but it takes about ten minutes. Transformation of love, or just hormones.
- It's been a while since I've read it, but I believe the change starts when Bean finally finds out the truth about his condition where he's destined to die early because of gigantism. Being confronted with your impending death can make you do some weird things, in Bean's case it was to hurry up and have a family.
- Actually, learning the details about his condition pushed him farther towards not having kids, because he didn't want to leave any children orphaned, or pass on the condition to them. His relationship with Petra develops between Shadow of the Hegemon and Shadow Puppets, and he consciously accepts the idea of having a family partway through the latter.
Formic Philotics Psychic Psyence
- It's been a few years since I read the book, but I don't quite recall the book giving an adequate explanation as to how Ender established a psychic link to the buggers. How did this happen, exactly? And furthermore, how exactly did the last hive-queen survive having its molecular bonds ripped apart by the weapon used to defeat them?
- It's been a while for me, too, but I believe that the psychic bond was first created when Ender linked up with the Battle School game, where the queens were examining him via the program. This bond was strengthened when he started using the ansible to communicate with the fleets. As to the queen, she wasn't on their home planet. They hid her on another planet, the same one Ender is exiled to to colonize. It was one of their former colonies that was now empty of sapient life thanks to the war. How they knew that Ender would go to that particular planet, however, is unknown.
- It still doesn't make much sense to me - unless he's the *only* person to have both played the Mind Game and communicated with the Ansible, and somehow that exact combo is necessary for the Formics to mindmeld with him.
- It's true that the Formics created a psychic link through the Battle School game, and used those images to 'talk' to Ender in the finale. I believe that it was said in one of the later books that the Formics actually had no idea where Ender would be in a few years' time, and tried to set up multiple areas that looked like those places. Hiding the last Queen inside the first planet he visited is still a conundrum.
- A.) Philotic links are associated with empathy and loyalty, two traits for which Ender is, by human standards, a prodigy. So it stands to reason that he'd be much more "philotically active" (for lack of a better term) than the average human. B.) Ender created a philotic network of empathy and loyalty with his underlings, with himself at both the center and the hierarchical pinnacle, the place that in a bugger hive would be occupied by the queen. He had, in effect, made himself more like them. C.) At the same time, Ender was desperately trying to empathize with and understand the buggers. First by studying the videos of the First and Second Invasions at the Battle School, then learning about them from Rackham, and finally while fighting against them. He was focusing all of his considerable genius and philotic activity on trying to get into their heads. D.) At the same time as all that, the buggers were doing the exact same thing: they saw the human fleets showing up and tearing them apart in every engagement, knew (now) that they were crewed by individual humans, but also knowing that tying it all together was a single mind, a single will: Ender. They were trying desperately both to empathize with and understand that mind and to communicate with it. All four of those circumstances were required for the unprecedented step of creating a bridge between a human mind and the bugger hive mind.
Welcome to Planet #&^RH 4563 DS$??
- So what is the name of the Buggers' planet?
- Nobody knows. Seeing as they had no language, minus their thought/speak between queens, the most likely reason is that it's untranslatable, much like how we've never learned the name of their species.
Hive Mind Animals
- The Formics may have mistaken Humanity as a hivemind species just like they were, since they had no examples of independent ones. But didn't they have an animals on their home world and colonies to disprove this? Creatures like those should be able to show them autonomous lifeforms can exist on their own, and the Hive Queen appears to display some carnivorism in several of books, such as in Children where she ate cabra. Heck, we even get our own concept of alien hive minds FROM animals: ANTS! Why were we able to get our minds around the alternate possibility so easily, but they were not?
- Probably because they recognized that it's terribly inefficient for a society to have enough think in every member to lead it when most of that society will be doing mindless tasks anyway. We accept the inefficiency as "normal," but we certainly recognize it for what it is. The Formics presumably figured that useless extra brain mass would be selected against. Besides, they didn't have all the spare time/brainpower to come up with outlandish ideas like fully functioning individuals; they had drones to operate.
- Don't forget that in Ender in Exile has the Gold Bugs, which were like the Formics because they had no language, and seemed to operate within a hive-mind atmosphere. Being artificially created or at least genetically tinkered to not speak or 'talk' with pictures and emotions, the Formics could have taken other species from their own world and others and used genetic engineering to create species with a more hive-mind-like thought process. It's reasonable to assume that the fauna on the Formic homeworld were also of such a hive-mind entity.
- It also may be that they knew animals could exist without a hive mind, they had simply never encountered an intelligent species with that trait.
- The children at Battle School had military education, but were trained to be Captains, Commanders, Commodores and Admirals, trained to be the top space-military leaders. Why did they all suddenly became classic warfare specialists after the end of the war? Why did the IF teach them to prepare ground invasion?
- Probably an assumption of Tactics A is Tactics B, that is, that if they can command a navy in one setting, then they have the brain power to command an army in another. It's the same kind of thinking for why the kids were trained to command zero-G armies, in Battle School, then ship navies in Command School. Mostly to teach tactical thinking, rather than technique.
- It's probably for the same reasons modern schools have students learn from Sun Tzu, Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, etc.
What Not A Twist
- How many of you, the readers, figured out the 'Big Reveal' at the end of the first book before it was... well, revealed? Yet the super-duper-withoutequal genius Ender couldn't?
- Unfair question: we, the readers, were privy to communications between the higher-ups that alluded to this, whereas Ender was without this context.
- Also, Ender couldn't see that he was nearly at the end of the book.
- The other answer to this question is the same as the answer to many of the questions on this page: Ender, Bean, and many other characters are super-geniuses. Orson Scott Card is not. He cannot write a character who comes up with a smarter or cleverer idea than one he himself can come up with.
How the Ansible Works
- I had a hard time picturing how the ansible works or what it looks like. How is it possible that only speed of light travel is possible, but ansible communication is "instant"? And it seems that they have ordinary computers in addition to the ansible. Why? Also, it's always called "the ansible" or "by ansible" but the word ansible doesn't seem to have a plural or refer to the machine but the network. Isn't there an internet that existed separately from the ansible network? Did they ever find out how the ansible was able to defy the lightspeed limit on normal communications?
- Yes, and it's explained many times. The ansible manipulates particles called philotes on the quantum level, and those philotes are connected much like quantum strings. Manipulating one causes the others connected to react in same way instantaneously, regardless of distance, and this is used for the Enderverse's faster-than-light communication.
- After reading through Xenocide, the idea came to me that Demosthenes' hierarchy of Alien-ness doesn't really describe different species, but actually the relationships between different species. After finishing the series, I couldn't believe that nobody realized this. For example, the buggers probably would not have had the same communication problems with the piggies as they did with humans, because the piggies use telepathic communication just like the buggers. They would never have had to commit xenocide over a huge misunderstanding. With humans, however, they were varelse for a while because there was no way to communicate and end hostilities, but when a way to communicate was found ( talking to Ender via Jane) they became ramen. The buggers themselves didn't change, just their relationship with the humans. How is it that when the main cast is filled with super-genius philosophers and sociologists/"xenologists", and the main plot deals mostly with deciding whether species are raman or varelse, NONE of them realized this distinction?
- The first time the term is used, she does mention it. "The difference between ramen and varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging. When we declare an alien species to be ramen, it does not mean that they have passed a threshold of moral maturity. It means that we have."
Two Kid Rule
- Is it ever explained why, if the buggers initially hunted down the humans to near-extinction, it's still so darned important not to have more than two children?
- The buggers never directly invaded Earth. They only took humanity out on other planets, and humans are paranoid that they WILL invade Earth. The population restriction only applies to Earth.
- Earth is already hit and resources are scarce. China is said to be razed by the buggers so population, resource and usable land lost is quite significant.
- At the time of Game, humanity is in a total war mindset. Rationing is one of the hallmarks of total war, and families that consume more than their fair share of the planet's resources are weakening Earth's ability to repel the Alien Menace. (Sometimes, some kinds of rationing are not actually necessary, but the social perception of the need for rationing remains.)
- It is strongly implied in later books that the two-kid rule was intentionally put in place by the founders of the One World Government as an obviously-oppressive measure that, once the immediate existential threat was dealt with, would cause the OWG to dissolve. Which always struck me as a Voodoo Shark, but, well, there you have it.
Kids Marrying Young
- How old are the characters in the Shadow series? I enjoyed all the Bean/Petra bits, but it was always tainted by the suspicion in the back of my mind that it was completely illegal.
- In their preteens and early teens. I believe Bean is about 16 in the Shadow of the Giant. Regarding their marriage, well, the whole world knows that they are no ordinary children and are well beyond a teen's usual maturity.
- Also remember that the age of consent is different in various places.
- Plus, underage marriage is often legal with parental consent, and does anyone doubt that the Delphiki and Arkanian parents would have consented given the circumstances of Bean's condition? (Assuming, as seems likely, that it's something like Bean = 13-14 and Petra = 17-18).
- Card has admitted (somewhere, don't recall) that he doesn't really bother to track the ages of his characters, and if you look closely, it shows. Virlomi's time in Battle School only overlapped Petra's by a year ["Shadow of the Hegemon"] Petra was not a new soldier in Salamander Army when she took Ender under her wing ["Ender's Game"] Ender was still young when he was made commander of Dragon Army ["Ender's Game"] and he noted when he took command that none of his soldiers was older than him [both "Ender's Game" and "Ender's Shadow."] Yet when Ender's former Dragon Army soldier Han Tsu proposes marriage to Virlomi, she coolly dismisses the idea of marrying a boy she didn't have a high opinion of back in Battle School. Even given these are kids with different concepts of time than adults, she would have - at the very most - been in her final months at Battle School by the time Han Tsu showed up as a Launchy. She would never have even known he existed.
- The ages of the characters are weird, but Virlomi is special in that way. Considering all her opponents are boys barely starting puberty, she could win half her battles just by jiggling [which is partially how she beat Alai.]
No Empathy For Bullies
- If Ender is supposed be specifically one of the greatest tactical geniuses humanity has ever seen, why is he never able to deal with schoolyard bullies without literally killing them? I understand he's small and his teachers are trying to undermine him socially for their own evil purposes, but both of those things should be pretty minor compared to the fact that he's supposed have this great gift that lets him understand people completely and use this knowledge to defeat them. It seems like the book is saying World's Greatest Tactician and Greatest Empathizer of All Time still can't figure out how to game the social politics of high school.
- First, each time he killed them it was an accident. What he was intending to do was demoralize them and their goons from ever attacking him again. But each time he accidentally smashed their nose into their brain. Being a tactical expert still can't stop a too-hard stamp to the face. Second, only one of them was a school bully. The other was definitely out to kill him. Third, Ender DID use tactics in both fights, like covering himself in soap or attacking spots they didn't expect him to aim for. Fourth, the only way to have had Bonzo treat Ender kindly and not be out for his blood would have been to submit to his command and not perform well. As that runs counter to his goal to be the best commander, it's not an option. Bonzo can't stand a "newbie" doing so well and humiliating him each time their armies fight. As the two-on-one battle and the final assault on the Formic homeworld show, there are some situations where you can't just run and wait for a better outcome. Sometimes all you can do is charge and fight the absolute best you can.
- I'm not saying he didn't use tactics in fights, or that he killed intentionally. I'm saying that since Ender is supposed to have a gift for understanding how other people think, it's difficult to believe he couldn't have used social tactics to prevent himself from endlessly landing in deadly fight after deadly fight. For me, it was hard to believe Ender had this amazing gift of empathy and incredible intelligence when at home he hadn't found a way to deal with Peter, at ground school he thought it was necessary to put a 7-year-old in the hospital to avoid being picked on by other seven-year-olds in the future, and at Battle School, when he has ample warning that Bonzo had it in for him, he neither backed down, nor came up with an effective plan to deal with it. Lastly, considering how deeply horrified Ender is at the outcome of the fight with Bonzo (even without knowing he's dead) and how much he's supposed to love his enemies, I'm not sure it makes sense to claim that Ender valued his career as a future-commander so much that just submitting to Bonzo was out of the question when it might have prevented all of that.
- The common thread with Ender's bullies is that they had authority over him at some point. What Ender is good at is inspiring those equal or below him to want to do their utmost best for him, but that kind of inspiration doesn't work on someone in charge of Ender. Instead it makes them feel like Ender is trying to belittle them and usurp their position. The same thing happened with Petra, who was Ender's mentor but for a while turned against him after he began outshining her in battles. It may be disadvantageous of Ender to not work well with authority, but Graff wanted a leader, not a follower. Getting a kid who knows how to make leaders feel good is probably not a good choice for actually being a leader. To use the Messianic Archetype cliche, even Jesus couldn't get everyone he preached to to convert to his side. He had both disciples and Pharisees. It's the same with Ender.
Additionally, it makes plenty sense for Ender to value his career over submitting to Bonzo. Remember, he wanted to be in charge of the fleet because he was certain humanity's existence was on the line. Bonzo's idea of submission was "lose a few battles once in a while", and Ender didn't want to lose any because it'd risk his chances of becoming admiral. Placing a bully over everyone else's survival is an unreasonable option. As for why he didn't prepare for Bonzo when he had warning, it's because he was in denial about it and hoped the teachers' might intervene if it was this potentially deadly. If they don't intervene, then there's no threat of death, is there?
- See, this is where the logic gets convoluted, at least to me. The book keeps telling me that Ender flawlessly understands how others think, but if he's seriously in denial about Bonzo and thinks his teachers will help him, that proves that he doesn't flawlessly understand Bonzo or his teachers. That would be fine if it were an exception, but it seems more like the rule, especially where non-violent solutions and social logic come into play.
Ender's problems weren't just with authority figures — he was bullied by his ground-school classmates before he left Earth and then bullied by his classmates generally at Battle School(particularly right after he's made commander of his own team, it's mentioned that most of the students despise him and throw things at him in the hall.) Bonzo also apparently has a lot of students on his side, just like Stilson had buddies who helped him attack Ender (see the scene where his practice group is attacked in the battle room). People hating Ender routinely ends in horrible violence (Stilson, Bonzo, the zero-gravity fight scene) but we almost never see Ender applying any of his genius to improve his PR. The one time we DO see him attempt to non-violently resolve a situation with a bully, it works so awesomely that it's hard to claim that he couldn't get along with people if he exerted himself. Bonzo is probably the worst example, because Bonzo makes it incredibly clear that he's likely to attack Ender well in advance, but we actually see Ender taunting Bonzo on more than one occasion prior to the attack (berating his intelligence and ability as a commander even when he's proven himself superior so many times that he's basically just rubbing it in). Stilson's case is less clear since we don't get to see Ender and Stilson interact before the attack, but it's stated that only the monitor kept Stilson from attacking Ender before, so we can assume their history is not pleasant.
My question, ultimately, is why? If the author is content with making Ender the best at everything he touches in the manner of a Chosen One/Messiah figure, why does that abruptly stop before "making people not want to beat me up and murder me"? That would be an odd choice on Card's part even if he'd said "Ender is amazing at all things except having social skills", but Card makes it even more ridiculous by insisting that Ender is brilliant because he understands people so well and has such incredible empathy. It's like he's saying absolutely brilliant people skills will just make people want to kill you, so you better start working on your left hook.
- It isn't just bullies like Bonzo that Ender sometimes misjudges. During his first meeting with his army he demoralizes several of his own soldiers by doing the Drill Sergeant Nasty routine, and it takes him a while to realize what he did and undo the damage. His peaceful "reconciliation" with Bernard didn't entirely convert him either. Bernard is the first to abandon the free time practices when he hears Bonzo is coming to disrupt them and it's later said he becomes one of Bonzo's goons. As Shen says in the side book Ender's Shadow: (paraphrased) "Bernard didn't really come to Ender's side. He just saw how things were going and knew it wasn't wise to bullying Ender." There's the implication at one point that Ender might have been able to pull the same thing with Bonzo when several of Salamander Army express dissent at Bonzo punishing Ender for tieing the game. But since Ender was kicked out of Salamander short thereafter, he didn't get the chance to pull his support. As Graff puts it, he's "as close to the one as we're going to get."
For why this happens, I think one point of the book is that just because Ender understands his enemy doesn't mean he can convince them. As he puts it himself: "At the moment I kill my enemy, I also love them." We see this demonstrated just before he fights Bonzo when Dink tells them to stop because otherwise Earth's fleet won't have a commander, and Ender thinks to himself that all Dink's done is make Bonzo hate Ender more, because: "That's what he hates the most about me, that it means I'm important and he's not." This ties into Ender's campaign against the Formics, where he tries to learn all he can about them even though all this information will be used to destroy them. Until the war is over, neither side can understand each other and make peace. I think that's why Graff wanted the Bonzo-Ender fight to occur, because he wanted Ender to learn to use his empathy as a weapon and discourage him from seeking out a peaceful solution, since Graff is certain there is none to find.
- I may need to rescind the question as possibly not answerable in a way that's satisfying. As in-universe explanations go, I guess "Ender is a messiah-like genius at almost everything but not working out things by talking to people" is an acceptable explanation, though I do think it's problematic that it's never explicitly explained that way, especially considering that we're repeatedly told how vast his capacity for understanding people is. At it stands, it felt to me like Card was insisting that communication just plain doesn't work. That's fine when you're taking about a fictional war with an alien species you made up, because then as the author you pretty much get to decide whether peaceful communication will be an option. When you're talking about dealing with bullies in school, though, that absolutely flies in the face of real world logic, because school bullies are people and also children and frankly, the politics of middle school are not literally impossible. You might think so when you're a kid, but that's because you're a kid, not because no possible amount of social intelligence, maturity, or strategic thinking could ever make a loser into homecoming queen. The contradictions drove me up the wall while I was reading this book: Ender is brilliant, the Wiggin children are smarter than most college professors by age 10, Ender can just watch a kid playing a video game for a half hour to understand all the strategy involved so completely that he knows he doesn't need to play it, even when many of the other child-geniuses play every day... but at the same time, Ender apparently cannot be expected to have come up with some proactive strategy for dealing with Bonzo before the attack he was warned of, Ender is powerless to prevent the student body from hating him for being so awesome at everything, Ender had no way of knowing Stilson wasn't actually trying to kill him, etc. It's frustrating to hear the definition of words twisted around so assertions like "everyone hates him because he's great at everything" almost seem plausible.
- Ender's a "hard sciences" genius, not a social genius (unlike his siblings). Faced with a problem that's based on emotions rather than rationality, he can't really apply his talents. And by the time he got to the School, Peter already had him conditioned to either total passivity or total dominance. Believe me, nerds throughout history have set their brains to the problem of not getting beaten up, and so far they have yet to find a cure for bullies.
The End of the World Recreation
- The Formics recreated Enders version of the mind game in an attempt to communicate, and hide what was seemingly the last queen larvae. What were the chances that Ender would, from the Formics perspective, actually travel there? Was it a desperate attempt at survival, did they assume that particular planet was closest to Earth and the best candidate, or did the Formics create the End of the World on each of their planets, leaving potentially dozens of eerie human-like constructions for the colonists to find?