For Ender Wiggin, it's not a game anymore.
"The enemy's gate isEnder's Game
— Ender Wiggin
is the book that put Orson Scott Card
on the map, and it remains his most famous work ever
, with its sequel Speaker for the Dead
a close second.
In the not-too-distant future, mankind has barely survived two invasions by an insectoid alien race,
formally known as Formics, but called Buggers by most of the viewpoint characters. As the threat of a third invasion looms nigh, the world's most talented children are taken to an orbiting Battle School. There they study physics, mathematics, history, psychology, politics, and play a lot
of games. And the biggest, best game of all is the Battle Room, where they organize into "armies" and play 41-on-41 zero-G laser tag as the adults look on, searching for future commanders against the incoming menace.
Meet Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, six-year old and third child of his family, a stigma due to the population restriction laws. He is the only one of his family to be accepted to the school, and so, leaving behind his parents, his loving sister Valentine, and his sadistic brother Peter, he leaves for Battle School... and things won't be at all easy.
The novel acted as a springboard for not one but two
series and other associated works, dealing with different time periods in the same canon.
- The first, consisting of A War of Gifts: An Ender Story, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind follow Ender in the far future and focus on worldbuilding combined with a major dose of morality. By Card's admission, Ender's Game was expanded from its short story form just to set up Speaker for the Dead.
- The second begins with Ender's Shadow, a retelling of Ender's Game from the viewpoint of Bean, one of his friends. The Shadow series then follows Bean in the Twenty More Minutes Into The Future Earth, consisting of Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant. The Shadow series—whose novels might accurately be described as Thrillers—is a more direct continuation of the original novel and its themes of war and politics (with Hegemon being described by its author as "a giant game of Risk"), and many more characters from the original book appear in it. Shadows in Flight loses the politics and is more contemporary with the Ender Sequels, though still a Bean story.
In other works, there is also a short story collection called First Meetings
. Marvel Comics
has published Comic Book Adaptations
of Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, Speaker for the Dead,
and Ender in Exile,
as well as several one shots. Additionally, they launched the Formic Wars
series, which function as prequels to the books. A trilogy of novels, Earth Unaware, Earth Afire,
and Earth Awakens,
is being co-written by Aaron Johnston and Card, expanding upon the characters and events of the comics.The Film of the Book
of Enders Game
came out in 2013, after languishing in Development Hell
for around two decades. Card served as a co-producer, and it was written and directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins Wolverine
), starring Asa Butterfield as Ender
, Hailee Steinfeld
as Petra, Abigail Breslin
as Valentine, Harrison Ford
as Colonel Graff and Ben Kingsley
as Mazer Rackham.
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"...I can't help it. I like the kid. I think we're going to screw him up."
"Of course we are. It's our job. We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive."
- Achilles in His Tent: Ender is allowed to go on leave between Battle School and Command School. He spends it on Earth, and decides he'd rather stay there, build a raft and lie around on a lake. The teachers are afraid of forcing him to return against his will, so they eventually send Valentine to shame him into returning. She despises them for using her to manipulate Ender, but she does it anyway because she knows what's at stake.
- Adaptation Expansion: The novel is this to the original short story. It gives Ender a family and elaborates on his life before he was sent to Battle School, and it provides details about the enemy aliens and the background of the war. In the short story, Ender has no memories of life before Battle School, and the aliens are never named or described.
- Adults Are Useless: Justified as being part of Ender's Training from Hell. Alternatively, averted, as the adults are disturbingly good at what they do: making Ender's life suck.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Ender's combination of empathy and pragmatism leaves him constantly feeling this way. By extension, after Ender writes his book about the buggers, the whole of humanity experiences this toward them, to the extent that in the sequels, humanity considers Ender the villain for fighting them and his name is a taboo word.
- Alternate History
- The Alternet: Its Internet is called "the nets" and depicts it as several interconnecting but discrete networks, like in the old days of CompuServe and Prodigy (when the book was written). It also depicts participation in important political debates as by-invitation-only and closely moderated, rather than the free-for-all that politics on the modern Internet has become.
- And You Thought It Was a Game: In much of the later quarter of the novel, Ender and his friends believe they are playing simulations, when really they are actually in command of a full invasion force.
- Angst Coma: Ender enters one for a few days when he discovers that he unwittingly committed mass genocide/xenocide against the Buggers while believing he was only undergoing training for it. Justified in a number of ways: physical and mental exhaustion, the fact that he was trying to convince the military that he was ethically unfit for command, and possibly psychic backlash from being connected to the Buggers themselves at the moment he killed them all.
- Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The Buggers did not realize that the humans they killed were individual entities rather than "appendages" of a dominant mind. When they do finally realize this, they are horrified and recognize that they have given humans ample justification to kill them in retribution.
- Arc Words: "The enemy's gate is down."
- Artistic License – Biology: Apparently, 1920's era eugenic breeding works really well in the Enderverse.
- Asshole Victim: The time that we know Bonzo and the Stilson doesn't really make us feel sorry that they're gone. Ender, however, still feels guilt over their deaths.
- Badass Israeli: Invoked and subverted. There is a legend at Battle School that Jewish generals cannot lose, and Rat Army, led by the Jewish Rose "de nose", is second in the ranking when Ender joins; on the other hand, Rose "de Nose" is portrayed as not really being that great, and it is pointed out that despite an all-Jewish triumvirate (American Jewish Hegemon, Israeli Jewish Strategos, and Russian Jewish Polemarch), it was the half-Maori, entirely non-Jewish Mazer Rackham who drove off the Second Invasion.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Ender has his sister's compassion but his brother's ruthlessness (much to Ender's dismay).
- Boring Invincible Hero: A Deconstructed Character Archetype in Ender himself.
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Formics. They didn't realize humans were intelligent when they attacked, since they didn't meet their species' criteria for sentience (being a hive-mind). When they realized their mistake, they left their planet alone. Too bad the humans came looking for them...
- Bug War: Earth's forces are fighting against insect-appearing aliens
- Cain and Abel: The book does this in spades with the titular character and his older brother Peter. They don't reconcile until the Abel is half a galaxy away and the Cain is on his deathbed.
- Also notable because Cain/Peter united the Earth and the Human Race while Abel/Ender obliterated an entire race of sentient beings. Well, almost an entire race.
- Chekhov M.I.A.: Ender's surprise guest on Eros: Mazer Rackham.
- Chekhov's Gun: In his first battle, the other army is able to pass through the gate even though Ender isn't frozen. In his last battle, he wins by sending a boy through the gate, even though the other army hasn't been defeated yet.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Invoked. The military commanders are searching for child prodigies specifically due to their lack of awareness of the larger picture, so they won't be subject to fatal hesitation.
- Child Soldiers: Every Battle School participant joins under the age of 12, although they're (normally) not sent to fight until they're healthy adults, at which point they're have been through a regular adult boot camp. Battle School is, as the name suggests, a normal military school.
- Combat Pragmatist: There is NOTHING he won't do to win a fight and ensure it never happens again. He learned this lesson when he was five.
It was just him and me. He fought with honor. If it weren't for his honor, he and the others would have beaten me together. They might have killed me, then. His sense of honor saved my life. I didn't fight with honor... I fought to win. Bean
: And you did. Kicked him right out of orbit
- Mazer Rackham reinforces the same lesson. War is about doing whatever you can to win. There are no rules except what you can do to your enemy and what you can stop him from doing to you. (Apparently there's no Geneva Convention in a war against aliens).
- Complacent Gaming Syndrome: In-Universe example. The other commanders at Battle School rely on tried-and-true strategies that have been in place for years. Ender wins by exploiting the flaws in them.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- Pretty much any battle Ender walks into. Nicely justified, since Ender was born and conditioned his entire life to be the best military commander humans have ever had.
- Mazer Rackham had one of these as well: he hit one ship (the queen's) and his war was over. The fact that he was the only human on Earth to figure out how to do this is why he was kept around to be Ender's teacher.
- Of course, until Mazer made his move, it was the IF that was on the receiving end of this.
- Despair Event Horizon: It's revealed at the end that the Bugger queens crossed it the moment they lost the first battle of the Third Invasion. By then they had realized with utter horror and deep remorse that each human they had killed in the First and Second invasions was an independent, sapient being, as opposed to the Buggers' Hive Mind. Now they realized the humans were counterattacking in earnest. Summed up succinctly by the thought:
The humans have not forgiven us. We shall surely die.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Many examples, specifically the outcome of the Third Invasion and Ender's retaliation when ambushed.
- Dramatic Irony: Ender, one of the most compassionate people ever born, is a ruthless killer. Peter, a sociopath, gave the humans peace and unity. This is not lost on Ender. The scary part is that it makes sense, as Ender's empathy would allow him to understand and anticipate his enemies' plan and reactions and counteract them with brutal efficiency, while Peter's sociopathy would allow him to make rational judgments (once he gets over his homicidal tendencies) and ignore petty emotions that spark 90% of the human conflicts (such as nationalism, pride, or ambition).
- Drill Sergeant Nasty:
- In general, the teachers in Battle School are this. Ender is Genre Savvy with regard to this trope, except that his instructors take it much farther than the TV shows he's familiar with.
- Graff also subverts this. One purpose of the Drill Sergeant Nasty is to give the recruits a common adversary: they all hate him, and it draws them together into a team. He picks on someone so the rest will sympathize with him. Graff, on the other hand, tells the rest of the recruits that Ender is the greatest soldier ever, and none of them have a prayer of measuring up to him. This turns them against Ender and isolates him, forcing him to develop the leadership and command abilities they need from him.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The "Little Doctor" device, which is indeed capable of destroying a planet, and is used for that purpose near the end of the book. (though it disintegrates a target instead of blowing it up).
- Eating Lunch Alone: Ender at the beginning of his time at Battle School.
- Expanded Universe: Launched with Formic Wars - first Ender-related comics that is not an adaptation, but official prequel.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: All interstellar travel is slower than light at this point in the technology of Earth and its enemies, but the International Fleet has secretly developed FTL Radio (adapted from the Bugger's technology), called the "ansible"; this is the mechanism by which Ender commands his battles without ever knowing the truth.
- Flexible Tourney Rules: The teachers at Battle School start purposely stacking the deck against Ender as he racks up an unbroken string of wins, challenging him to adapt, and seeing how far he can bend without breaking.
- Foreshadowing: When Enders goes off his three-month leave on earth before Command School at Val's persuasion, he thinks that she convinced him to leave earth for another four, forty, maybe four thousand years.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Ender is attacked by Bonzo and many others while he's in the shower, so Ender is naturally naked, but Bonzo takes off his clothes after Ender goads him, telling him how cowardly it is to attack a kid naked in the shower who's smaller than you, with lots of reinforcements.
: Be proud, Bonito, pretty boy
. You can go home and tell your father, "Yes, I beat up Ender Wiggin, who was barely ten years old, and I was thirteen. And I had only six of my friends to help me, and somehow we managed to defeat him, even though he was naked and wet and alone - Ender Wiggin is so dangerous
it was all we could do not to bring two hundred."
- Gag Penis: When Ender first meets Rose de Nose, he's lying naked on his bed with the holographic notepad thing over his groin with an oversized pair of genitals projecting onto it that waggle whenever he moves.
- Genocide Dilemma: Forms a major part of the novel's theme, in a complicated and very brutal way. Lampshaded in the last book of the first series, Children of the Mind. "I'm more afraid that we're varelse. That humanity is the species that should be destroyed," for the sake of all other sentient life.
- Going Cosmic: While Ender's Game itself is tightly focused, the sequels get progressively more and more Cosmic.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The "Warsaw Pact" is still around and ready to threaten world peace after the Third Invasion is over. Retconned in the later books by calling it the New Warsaw Pact. (Apparently Warsaw is really unlucky when it comes to hosting conferences that involve conquest-minded Russian regimes.)
- Groin Attack:
- Ender does this while defending himself against bullies, on two separate occasions, and ends up killing two people - though this was during a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- Subverted when Ender is ambushed later, as he knows Bonzo will be expecting this and opts for a headbutt.
- Hive Mind/Hive Queen: The composition of the Bugger race.
- Honor Before Reason:
- After being goaded by Ender over ganging up on him in the shower, Bonzo Madrid decides to fight Ender one-on-one. It doesn't go well.
- Averted with most of the other characters. The series repeatedly plays on the fact that war isn't about honor, it's about defeating your enemy any way you can. The protagonists fight to win.
- Horde of Alien Locusts: Subverted and deconstructed. The Buggers are clearly modeled after the Xenomorphs, and used to be straight examples in their Back Story. But they're quite mortified and penitent about killing humans, even in the face of annihilation.
- Innocence Lost: A central theme in the original novel.
- Insectoid Aliens: There's a reason they call them Buggers.
- Insect Queen: The Hive Queen is both this and, well, a Hive Queen. She is both the telepathic center of her species' Hive Mind and its sole breeding female.
- Instant-Win Condition:
- Ender wins a match at Battle School by capturing the enemy gate without "killing" the entire enemy team, which up until that point was assumed to be necessary. This was set up earlier in the novel: Salamander Army loses a battle even though Ender is "wounded" but not fully disabled.
- Comes up when dealing with the Bugger queens, as killing her will result in the "death" of all her drones.
- Insult Backfire: While still in school, Ender gets taunted by other kids sending covert IMs over the net-enabled school desks. Ender, who figured out how to do this in the first place, sees every message as a tribute to his intelligence.
- Insult to Rocks: Shen and Ender on Bernard
Shen: He's a pig.
Ender: On the whole, pigs aren't so bad.
Shen: You're right. I wasn't being fair to the pigs.
- It's a Small Net After All: Averted, the "Net" in Ender's world is just about as accurate as someone in 1985 could predict. He even predicted Trolls, Sock Puppets and the blogosphere.
- Just Following Orders: Colonel Graff and most of the other military folks don't traumatize children because they enjoy it.
- Keystone Army: The Buggers — the queens are their keystone.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Ender does this to Stilson so the bullies will think he's too crazy/dirty-fighting to mess with again. He doesn't know it at the time, partly because he's shipped off to Battle School right afterwards, but he kills Stilson when he does it.
- Receives an Ironic Echo later on, when Ender's new tutor Mazer takes every opportunity to sucker-punch Ender.
- Kids Are Cruel: Very cruel at Battle School.
- Laser-Guided Tykebomb: The Battle School is a factory for producing them.
- Loners Are Freaks: Ender is intentionally isolated by his teachers so he'll be able to command other students.
- Loophole Abuse: Ender's entire modus operandi is to thoroughly master the rules of any game, then reinterpret or just plain screw them in new and imaginative ways. His teachers, counting on him to become the greatest living weapon in the history of humanity, are only too happy to let him do so, and have deliberately designed the school environment to favor such thinking.
- Meaningful Name: One of the Battle School leaders points out that "Ender," a mispronunciation of the name Andrew, can be taken to mean "Finisher," as they hope that he will finish the war between humans and the Formics.
- Most Writers Are Adults: Defended by the author and justified by the children in the school being full of geniuses. What's more it's even discussed in the book itself.
Dink: "You've been here a year, you think these people are normal. Well, they're not. We're not. I look in the library, I call up books on my desk; old ones because they won't let us have anything new, but I've got a pretty good idea of what children are. And we're not children."
- Moving the Goalposts: Once Ender's given his own army, the school starts screwing him over as hard as they can with this. His team are perpetually put through harder battles with more and more unfair rules to try and push his strategic abilities to the limit and win against vastly superior foes.
- Multi National Team: The International Fleet and the children at Battle School come from a wide array of nationalities.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The Buggers on realizing the fundamental mistake in how they had attempted first contact (that killing any human means killing a sentient person as opposed to a drone), Ender on finding out the Twist Ending.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Peter, in the spirit of Machiavelli. Ender and Bean are similarly ruthless in exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents in true Unfettered style.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ender seems to invoke this anytime someone tries to ambush him, specifically when dealing with Stilson and Bonzo, in order to discourage others from attacking.
- Not So Different: Ender struggles with the realization of how similar he is to his brother Peter. Likewise Valentine and Peter, which is how he coaxes her into becoming Demosthenes.
- Obvious Rule Patch: The immediate reaction to Dragon Army winning by exploiting an Instant-Win Condition in the Battle Room game. From then on, all enemy soldiers must be killed or disabled before the gate can be opened.
- One-Man Army: Subverted, each of the Battle School grads is dangerous precisely because of how they can work with groups.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: All over the place. Ender (childhood mispronunciation of Andrew), Rose de Nose, Bean (from another street kid saying he "wasn't worth a bean"), Hot Soup (romanization/bastardization of Han Tzu), Crazy Tom (self-explanatory), Dumper, Fly Molo...
- Performance Anxiety: Petra suffers from this, making her much less useful to Ender than she could've been, mostly because of the sheer weight of responsibility she carries.
- Poor Communication Kills: At the end we find that the buggers were not evil or xenocidal as originally thought by humans, they were simply trying to colonize the solar system and weren't aware humans were intelligent on an individual level, so in their eyes killing a few million people was just their way of formally declaring their intent and asserting their ability to do so. This was a big reason for Humanity's fear and hatred of the buggers; when they happened upon a human colony, they dismantled our technology to see how it worked - after they "dismantled" the colonists to see how they worked. They didn't understand how much that would piss us off any more than they could comprehend that we would kill a sentient queen, rather than the nonsentient workers. After their first two invasions, they realize this and stop, but by this point it's too late. Only at the very end does Ender learn this. He ends up being friends with the last queen who was created to both continue on her species and apologize.
- Population Control: Ender is a third child in a society where that's generally illegal.
- Positive Discrimination: Ender uses this with a select few of his commanders, but in Petra's case it has unintended consequences.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Dragon Army seems like this, as none of the members really stood out from the crowd in their previous armies. Ender's leadership and empathy draws them together into the finest unit the school has ever seen. Later played with in Ender's Shadow: It's revealed that the teachers had assigned Bean to handpick the best army possible, with the stipulation that they all had to be either launchies or on transfer lists. So, rookies and misfits, but specifically the best possible bunch of rookies and misfits.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people complain that the kids at the battle school are too smart, but Orson Scott Card has received letters from gifted children telling him that they found the children in the battle school to be realistic (Ender is over the top, but he's supposed to be, and he's also got some genetic engineering factoring into his intelligence).
- Ringworld Planet: Battle School is built as a ring, though it later turns out the Fleet acquired Artificial Gravity from the Formics.
- Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Lampshaded by Ender himself, when reviewing war footage and noting that real-life space battles are nothing like in popular media. The ships are so far apart that they navigate and aim their weapons entirely on instruments, and never see each other except for the flash of a direct-impact nuke.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Valentine is Yin, Peter is Yang, and Ender is Yin-Yang.
- The Smurfette Principle: Petra is the only girl ever mentioned at the Battle School; when Ender is first recruited, it is mentioned that girls rarely pass the tests to get in. However, Ender's sister Valentine proves to be an important character.
- More girls are present in the Shadow series, though. In particular, Virlomi is a key character who becomes the spiritual leader of her native India during the Chinese occupation.
- Sock Puppet: "Locke" and "Demosthenes."
- Space Cadet Academy: The Battle School. There are also mentions of the Tactical (for those who don't wash out but also don't make it quite as high as others) and Pre-Command (exactly what is sounds like) schools. The highest school is the Command School, but only the best of the best are sent there from the Pre-Command School.
- The Spartan Way: Although students at Battle School are not subject to physical abuse (at least, not by the instructors) they do undergo the psychological equivalent of Training from Hell.
- Spiritual Antithesis: To Starship Troopers.
- Straight for the Commander: Mazer Rackham reveals this is how the Formic Navy was defeated, by deducing which ship had their queen. Once he destroyed it, the entire fleet became inert. Unfortunately, the Formics learn from this and try to bait Ender in his first battle into trying the same strategy, by putting their ships in a sphere formation with an expendable decoy as the "leader" in the center. Ender doesn't fall for it. Then at the climax of the book, Ender orders his fleet to charge straight in and fire their mass disintegrator weapons at the Formic homeworld, causing an Earth-Shattering Kaboom that kills all the queens there, taking out all the species under their control.
- Subspace Ansible: Namechecking Ursula K. Le Guin, even.
- Super Soldier: Almost everyone in the Battle School, and the best of the best move on to Tactical and/or Command training to become super-generals. Ender, being the best of the best of the best, skips a few grades here and there, graduating to effectively become the supreme commander of all Earth's (space-bound) military forces by the time he's starting to enter puberty.
- Take a Third Option: Ender's modus operandi. One reason he's such an effective strategist is because he's a lateral thinker. Give him two options, he will find a third one. For a specific example: The game the title refers to (one of them, anyway) is a computer simulation that the teachers use to monitor the students' mental health. One scenario in the game is called the Giant's Drink, and it's Unwinnable by Design. A giant offers you a choice between two drinks, supposedly with one containing life and one containing death. But in reality, you will be killed in creatively horrible ways no matter which drink you choose. Ender plays the scenario repeatedly, to the point where the teachers worry about his obsession with it. Eventually he figures out that there's no way to win playing by the giant's rules, so he kicks over the drinks and kills the giant by digging into his eye with his bare hands.
- Tech Marches On: Locke and Demosthenes are awfully influential for a couple of bloggers, aren't they?
- Theme Park Version: In-verse. The entire world knows about Mazer Rackham, but the details of his victory over the Buggers/Formics is not revealed until Ender actually meets him years after he should have died. It turns out to have been a lot more subtle and a lot less grand than anything in the popular imagination could come up with.
- Time Dilation: Responsible for the Chekhov M.I.A.. Also becomes a significant factor in later books, explaining how Ender and Valentine manage to remain alive millenia after the events of the first book.
- Token Girl: Petra Arkanian, the only Battle School girl of any importance (until the sequels add Virlomi to the Battle School roster). Possibly justified in that, according to the novel, fewer girls have the necessary personality and levels of aggression to be chosen for Battle School.
- Tournament Arc: Battle School is run this way.
- Tranquil Fury: One of Ender's defining features is his emotional control - he gets angry, but he doesn't show it unless he needs to for dramatic effect. The fight with Bonzo highlights this:
"He could see Bonzo's anger growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender's anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo's was hot, and so it used him.”
- True Companions: Subverted. Ender wishes that he could be true companions with his friends, but he finds multiple times throughout the book that as he gains more power, he becomes less of a friend and more of boss to his companions. He even notes in the Command School segment of the book that he is growing more and more distant to his friends, who have become True Companions with each other. He is mostly just the authority figure to them. Not that they don't consider him a friend at all. He is just too much of an authority figure to them to see him as a true companion.
- Truth and Lies: Peter's campaign to manipulate the public via Sock Puppet bloggers.
- Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: If you think Ender is playing fair, it is either a coincidence or a set up. Either way, you're screwed.
- Tuckerization: Mazer Rackham is named after British illustrator Arthur Rackham and former Brigham Young University principal Karl G. Maeser, while Hyrum Graff is named after Mormon Church leader Hyrum Smith (the brother of Joseph Smith). Both names reference Orson Scott Card's Mormon faith.
- Twist Ending: Two of them:
- The later battles against the buggers were real, not simulations.
- The buggers weren't actually trying to kill humanity, they just couldn't communicate with humans and fundamentally did not understand them.
- 2-D Space: Completely subverted. In fact, Ender uses his understanding of 3-dimensional space to his early advantage at Battle School.
- Tykebomb: The entire school is set up so innocent kids can be manipulated into perfect commanders. This works a bit too well for them in the Ender's Shadow series, as the kids that return to Earth after Command School go on to vie for world domination before the still-literally psychopathic Peter Wiggin saves the whole world by semi-exiling all of them to interstellar colonies; one to each, so that they can each get to rule a world.
- The Unfettered: Ender may have mercy, but you sure as hell won't see it in the Battle Room. Or if you decide to ambush him.
- Unwinnable by Design: The fantasy game mentioned under Take a Third Option. When Ender reaches the Good Ending, his instructors go into shock, because the game doesn't have one programmed into it.
- The Verse: Orson Scott Card kind of, sort of, made up the term, maybe.
- Wave Motion Gun: the Little Doctor, a.k.a. MD Device, which operates on the principle of crossing two lasers to create a chain reaction of molecular disintegration. In the first novel it's described as a beam weapon; the P.O.V. Sequel houses the device in a bomb. The first novel also implies that the fleets are armed with only the Little Doctor, but without clustering, the ships are picked off one at a time. In Ender's Shadow, it's claimed that the Little Doctor is used only twice. The rest of the time, (presumably) nukes are used. This is probably why the weapon was retconned.
- Weaponized Offspring: The Formic queen gives birth to all her soldiers, since the Formics are an insect race.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: For once, the aliens are guilty of this. By the time they realized their mistake, they knew it was too late. While they resist their destruction, they harbor no malice toward humanity.
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide":
- The "third invasion" looks like the Buggers were the aggressors. The truth is something else: the humans were committing xenocide against the Buggers, and the Buggers had no intent of attacking Earth again, but we didn't know that at the time.
- When the Starways Congress decides to send an evacuation fleet to Lusitania (in reality, they have orders to destroy the planet), Valentine (under the name Demosthenes) publishes articles attacking the Congress and revealing the true mission of the fleet, to the point of calling it the Second Xenocide. The Congress immediately sends their State Sec to discover who is writing the articles to shut up Demosthenes, declaring whoever it is to be a traitor to the Hundred Worlds. Anyone using the term the Second Xenocide is likewise considered to be speaking treason. So much for free speech.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: During Ender's flight to the Battle School, he isn't intimidated by Colonel Graff's Drill Sergeant Nasty yells. He knows full well that it's just an act to get the soldiers to unite through the mutual anger towards their unkind commander. Unfortunately for him, Graff isn't doing the Drill Sergeant Nasty routine, he's doing a new routine where he praises Ender and tells the others how insignificant they are compared to him. Graff is uniting the soldiers through mutual anger towards Ender, forcing the poor kid to be isolated so that he has no choice but to rely on himself. Ender realizes too late that Graff has turned him into the Teacher's Pet, and therefore the team scapegoat.
- You Won't Feel a Thing: At one point, Ender is told "it won't hurt a bit" to have his monitor taken out, but Ender knows that adults say that when it is going to hurt.
- Zeerust: Peter gains control of the world by anonymously distributing political articles on the Internet. Nowadays we call that "blogging," which has become so common that the idea of a blogger gaining that much power seems unlikely. Parodied by XKCD here.
"You think anybody will ask me for military advice? Because I'm going to get into this war, even if I have to lie about my age and join the marines."
- Action Girl: any female Battle School grad would be this, but Petra and Virlomi are the only ones who have any major prominence in the story, so they get the awards.
- After the End: of the Formic War, that is.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Used for various stealth tactics.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: how Peter perceives his family.
- Ascended Extra: Bean and Petra, who become the main characters of this series after getting only a few lines in Ender's Game (despite being two of his best friends, thanks to Ender's isolation).
- Not to mention all the other Battle School graduates that warranted maybe one or two lines in the original book.
- Babies Ever After: Orson Scott Card's opinion that raising a family is the only true happiness is certainly in full force here. Leads to, among other things, Chickification.
- Slightly subverted in "Shadow Puppets", where John Paul is shown contemplating why and how much he loves his children.
- Gets impressively creepy by "Shadows In Flight" with Bean's plan to continue his genetic offshoots
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Bean wants to get bigger. He will. Too big.
- Becoming the Mask: Peter spends so long pretending to be a benevolent ruler that he eventually does legitimately become one.
- Beware the Superman: The Battle School graduates are treated as People Of Mass Destruction throughout the series, for increasingly justifiable reasons. And then there's the fear and loathing about Bean.
- Biblical Motifs: Anton's Key is explicitly likened to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Volescu is compared to the Snake. When first describing the Key, Anton points out that the Book of Genesis mentions a Tree of Life alongside the Tree of Knowledge, and that Adam and Eve's decision to eat from the latter required rejecting the former (choosing knowledge over eternal life); this is exactly the dilemma that children like Bean face when the Key is turned, as it gives them Super Intelligence at the cost of having a drastically reduced lifespan. Likewise, Sister Carlotta compares Bean's life on the streets—to which he was condemned after escaping from Volescu's lab as a baby—to Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden.
- Bilingual Bonus: This series introduces Battle School slang, which is appropriately polyglot since Battle School draws children from all over the world. All of them are variations or corruptions of extant non-English words and phrases, but we'll stick with the one you'll hear most: the slang term for a personal army, "jeesh," comes from the Arabic جيش ("jaysh"), literally meaning "army" or "corps".
- Blessed with Suck: Bean. His brain can keep growing and making new neurons... but only because his body grows too, until his heart gives out or his spine caves in, thanks to the Square/Cube Law.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Discussed in "Shadows in Flight" Bean planned for his children to reproduce with each other test-tubely and suggested they should raise their offspring separately so that the incest taboos wouldn't kick in and THEY could breed with each other naturally.
- A Child Shall Lead Them
- Confusion Fu: Achilles's M.O.
- Adopted by Bean when he Kills Achilles
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Hyper-competitive supergeniuses are throwing earth into nonstop war, so Graff gives each of them a planet to rule.
- Double Meaning Title: The title of Ender's Shadow refers to Bean's role as Ender's overlooked friend, adviser and primary foil, but also to the proverbial shadow cast by Ender's larger-than-life legacy; unlike the direct sequels to Ender's Game, the books in the Shadow Cycle deal with the direct consequences of Ender's actions, as they take place in the immediate aftermath of the Formic War.
- Evilutionary Biologist: Volescu.
- Fake Defector: Revealed with the Meaningful Echo below.
- False Flag Operation: Several in Shadow of the Hegemon. When the Chakri (Thailand's supreme commander) decides to get rid of Bean and Suriyawong, he blows up the barracks where they are staying and blames it on an Indian strike force in order to justify a military response. However, as the boys survive, the Chakri's deception is discovered, but the Prime Minister of Thailand decides to maintain the ruse for the same purpose.
- Also, when preparing to attack Thailand, China sends a truck with a hidden missile launcher across the border in order to shoot down a Chinese plane in Chinese airspace full of Thai passengers. Then China would claim that Thailand deliberately set up the attack on its own citizens in order to justify attacking China, thus allowing China to strike first.
- Fantastic Slur: "Bugger" is retconned into this (the aliens are officially called "Formics").
- Friendly Enemies: though the members of Ender's Jeesh end up opposing each other at various times, the lines of communication remain open. (Especially since they all have each other's email addresses.)
- Gambit Pileup: Hoo boy. The whole world is one big Gambit Pileup.
- Gambit Roulette: Petra's dragon. She sends a message to a single individual by creating an internet meme and hiding the actual message in one of the pixels, when there is no way Bean could have known that she was sending him a message at all before he saw it.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
- A God Am I: Virlomi
- Happily Married: The Wiggins and the Delphikis.
- The Hero Dies: Bean finally succumbs to his condition at the very end of Shadows in Flight.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: subverted, for laughs. (They don't actually kill him.)
- Insufferable Genius: Bean. (Dies down a little once he stops being an emossin' little showoff.)
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Bean is a loner for the most part.
- Its Pronounced Trop AY: Since Achilles is a French-speaking Walloon from the Netherlands, several characters have to be reminded that his chosen name is actually pronounced "Ah-SHEEL" rather than "Ah-KILL-ees".
- Kid Hero All Grown Up: Bean and Petra, as well as all of the other kids from Ender's Game/Shadow have grown up to be major player in the political field of post-war Earth. Grown Up is also taken somewhat more literally in Bean's case...
- Long Lost Sibling
- Manipulative Bastard: Achilles de Flandres.
- Meaningful Echo: "I expect you to solve your own problems."
- Memetic Mutation: invoked by Petra, who starts a meme to send a Message in a Bottle.
- Moe Greene Special: Achilles.
- My God, What Have I Done?: multiple Battle School grads, in a row, though most particularly Virlomi. (Deliberately set up by Graff so that he can manipulate them further.)
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job getting Bonso so pissed off he tries to kill/maim Ender, Bean.
- Not Blood Siblings: once again inverted. Bean becomes very close friends with Nikolai Delphiki and calls him as good as a brother, before discovering that his "creator" (Volescu) stole some of the Delphikis' IVF embryos for modification. One of those embryos became, of course, Bean.
- Not My Driver
- Number Two / Hypercompetent Sidekick: Julian "Bean" Delphiki, by definition: there's a reason the first two book titles are, "Shadow of [Someone Else]". (At least, until the final book, where it is him casting the shadow.)
- Obfuscating Stupidity: what John Paul and Theresa Wiggin have been displaying to let their kids run mad.
- The Plan: Even more so than the original novel, now that there are multiple Battle School grads and worthy contenders all trying to outthink, outmaneuver, and outpsych each other for their own ends.
- P.O.V. Sequel: Basically the whole point of Ender's Shadow.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Averted. Many people are shot in the head, and it's a messy affair. Specifically, when Achilles shoots Petra's protector in the head from point-blank range, Petra is covered in blood and brain matter. Later on, the blood spatter is used to analyze the size and rough shape of who was sitting in the back seat and walked out alive (i.e. the missing silhouette).
- However, Achilles gets a Moe Greene Special, and it strikes so perfectly that it'd said he looks like he just fell asleep.
- Prevent The War: Ender's siblings Valentine and Peter pick up evidence of the New Warsaw Pact gearing for war, as the current peace is based solely on fear of the alien Formics, who are about to be defeated. They adopt false identities as the demagogues "Locke" and "Desmothenes" to warn citizens over the nets about the broiling situation in Russia.
- Properly Paranoid: Bean. As soon as he starts feeling that he's currently too vulnerable, it probably means there's an airstrike headed in his direction.
- Ranked by I.Q.: A Battle School teacher creates resentment toward young Bean from his classmates by revealing that Bean scored highest among them not just on IQ, but on every aptitude measure but one — that of physical ability, since Bean is much younger and smaller.
- It is later revealed that he also scored extremely low in what is arguably one of the most important traits, ambition. Or specifically, the need to dominate and destroy others.
- Remember the New Guy: Shows up a fair bit once Shadow of the Hegemon starts, particularly with several of the Battle School graduates. A particular twist is the language: the word "jeesh" is used constantly, as it's the Battle School slang for an army or team, despite the fact that it was never once used in Ender's Game or Ender's Shadow.
- Bean's internal monologues from Ender's Game have been replaced with new ones in Ender's Shadow to better fit with his new backstory and characterization. For example, there's a brief scene from Bean's POV where he remembers his mother and father back on earth, whereas in the Shadow series he's been a street urchin since he was an infant. However, any other scenes shared in the two books remain the same.
- Also, the same lines of dialogue replace the word "Bugger" with "Formic", likely because of the other meaning of the first word. Though "Bugger" comes up in an early conversation between Bean and Sister Carlotta, it's retconned as a Fantastic Slur (Carlotta corrects Bean when he insists on referring to the aliens by it).
- The MD Device (The Little Doctor) is changed as well. In the original, it was described as a beam weapon. In Ender's Shadow, it's housed in a bomb.
- Shadows in Flight retcons away a lot of what we were told about the Formics in the Ender books. The Hive Queen that Ender carries assures him she's the last one and behaves like it, but Bean finds a Formic colony ship that not only had a Hive Queen until fairly recently, but was also in contact with Ender's Hive Queen. He's prevented from sending Ender any messages about it, though.
- Serial Killer: Achilles.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Shadows In Flight retroactively makes a lot of Ender's journey after Ender's Game rather pointless by pointing out the obvious. Namely, the Formics would have to be idiots to keep all the queens in one place for any reason, they'd have to be idiots to trust their last queen to the mercy of a human and they'd have to be idiots to tell him everything about themselves, such as the fact that workers are slaves, not just extensions of themselves. So there are probably a lot of queens still out there, even if the Hive Queen that Bean's group found was dead. This does involve some retcons, though, given that the Hive Queen thought of herself as the last queen in Children of the Mind and behaved as such even though she was in contact with the ship Bean's group found. And Ender did figure part of this out on his own, namely that workers aren't as mindless as they're stated to be, though he underestimates the extent of this.
- Suddenly Always Knew That: Bean gets a dose of it in order to fit in in Thailand.
- Take Over the World: Shadow of the Hegemon and Shadow Puppets are a reconstruction of this trope. They present a well thought-out political scenario where this could actually happen, and a super-genius villain who could probably pull it off.
- Unusual Euphemism: Battle School slang allows OSC to get away with swearing in foreign languages.
- We Have Reserves: At the time of Shadow of the Hegemon, India has the largest population in the world (over 1.5 billion), and an appropriately large army. So, naturally, their military leaders try to overwhelm their enemies with sheer numbers despite heavy attrition. All the Battle School kids can see how stupid this idea is, and indeed it's being fed to the Indians deliberately in order to make them vulnerable to the more sophisticated Chinese army.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Peter. With an added bonus that he has been Overshadowed by Awesome Younger Brother by the age of 16, even though he (Peter) had already proved himself at that point to be one of the greatest statesmen in history. This is basically Peter's Freudian Excuse and combines with his sociopathy in interesting ways.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Super genius Bean adds up the number of toon leaders and seconds in an army divided into five toons, adds one for himself (who was in command of a special "part-time" toon) and comes up with nine instead of eleven. Card was apparently still thinking of the four-toon system the armies used before Ender shook things up.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Peter's bid for permanent world peace and united govenment.
- Also Achilles playing the same game, except as a villain.
- You Fail History Forever: In-universe. Achilles seems to think that Vladimir Lenin made Joseph Stalin into his trusted Dragon, until Stalin turned against him and killed him. In Real Life, Lenin hated Stalin and tried to discourage him from gaining power, only for Stalin to do so after Vladimir's death.
- Arrested for Heroism: After Mazer Rackham and the MOPs manage to destroy a Formic lander in China, they are greeted by Chinese soldiers and promptly arrested. The officer in charge thanks them for their heroism but explains them the long list of laws they violated in the course of their heroism. He thanks them and tells them that they're likely to be released and deported soon. At their incredulous looks, he laughs and tells them that all heroes in China get arrested at first.
- They're only released after the rest of the MOPs spread the news that it was General Sima (the commander holding Mazer and Wit) who orchestrated the attack on the lander. Sima is reluctantly forced to accept credit for something he didn't do (not that it makes a difference, as he is killed in battle a few days later, cementing his status as the hero of China) and has the MOPs placed under his command.
- Artistic License – Physics: El Cavador has retro-rockets counteracting the pushing effect of the laser drill during mining operations. If a laser beam encounters a pocket of ice, it quickly cuts through it, and the ship "lurches" forward, as the forces acting on it are now out of balance. The problem is, lasers are not physical objects with which a ship touches the asteroid. The force pushing it back is from the laser firing, not from impacting the asteroid. therefore, it shouldn't matter how fast the laser is cutting through matter. Besides, such force would be negligible, the thrust of the retro-rockets would need to be minimal to compensate.
- Also "gamma plasma", gamma radiation is photons, not matter like plasma. Which actually would make it a lot easier to focus into lasers.
- Asteroid Miners: Many mining ships prowl the Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt of the Solar System in search of resource-rich asteroids. A good number of them belong to corporations, but some are owned and operated by families of free miners. El Cavador is one such ship, home to a Venezuelan clan.
- Despite being a decidedly one-sided battle, the free miners are the ones who put up the longest fight against the Formic ship, and Jukes mining ships were the ones who took down smaller fighters in Earth's orbit. In the Ender's Game audioplay, Graff mentions that the miners have since never let the fleet forget this, which is why the IF keeps all the coolest toys for itself.
- Attack Drone: The first successful attack on the Formic mothership is performed using automated Jukes, Ltd., Vanguard prospector drones refitted with gravity lasers. All but one of the drones are shot down by the mothership's turrets. The remaining drone takes out some of the turrets and damages the ship but is destroyed by "gamma plasma" emitters before the gravity field can become strong enough to rip the mothership apart.
- Each drone costs the company a fortune, and the glasers are even more expensive.
- Lem believes from the beginning that the drones will fail. Even worse, if even one glaser misses and hits Earth, there will be an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, as the entire planet will be turned to dust.
- Of course, as it turns out, Ukko Jukes set up the situation to be a win-win for him. If the drones succeed, he is the savior of Earth; if they fail, he is seen as someone who is willing to spend his entire fortune to save Earth. All to prepare for his rise as the first Hegemon.
- Bittersweet Ending: Earth Unaware ends with El Cavador destroyed in the battle with the Buggers with Victor and a group of women and children as the only survivors. However, Victor manages to transmit the evidence of the Buggers' arrival to the Net, although the rumors of an alien invasion have already started to spread.
- Conveniently Close Space Station: Why did the Formics destroy Weigh Station Four? It was on their trajectory to Earth.
- And they didnt even try to do it. It was simply a side effect of their periodic venting of gamma plasma.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ukko Jukes, the owner and CEO of Juke, Ltd. His son Lem shows traces of this as well, but Lem is more than willing to put his fortune and life on the line in order to save Earth from the Formics. Lem does make some questionable decisions, but he mostly acts like a good guy in the end (even giving Victor as parting gift in the form of top-of-the-line mining equipment for his clan, making sure that Victor couldn't say no).
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The attack on the Formic/Bugger starship by the Asteroid Miners (involving getting men on the surface of the ship and planting mines) is a spectacular failure. The Formic ship is only slightly damaged, while El Cavador is obliterated.
- An even better example is the so-called Battle of Cleopatra, where 64 corporate and free miner ships, hastily refitted with additional armor plates make a stand against the Formic ship. The Formic ship is barely damaged as it picks off the human ships one-by-one with its gamma laser turret.
- Followed up by a multinational assault spearheaded by the US weaponizing dozens of shuttles and trying to take out the mothership's turrets and shield generator. Even less effective, as the space miners, at least, know how to fight in space. The attack does, however, serve to show that the Formics target the fastest-moving objects first, even if the slower-moving objects are more of a threat.
- Deflector Shield: The Formic mothership and the landers are protected by shields impenetrable to conventional arms, although lasers and slow-moving objects are able to pass through it. The landers' shields don't extend underground.
- Drill Tank: The Chinese have self-propelled drill sledges that are able to move through solid rock at 25 kph. In fact, they actually move faster through solid rock than through clay or soft soil, as their rate of movement is dependent on the strength of the jet of molten rock that spews out the back. Their range is pretty limited, though, being only about 10 kilometers. Seeking to buy them, the New Zealand SAS sends the newly-promoted Captain Mazer Rackham, as well as his men, to China to teach the Chinese how to pilot Juke-manufactured hover-copters while learning how to pilot the drill sledges. During the Formic invasion of China, these sledges prove invaluable to getting close to the Formic landing craft that otherwise shoots down any aircraft or land force attempting to get near.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Wit O'Toole manages to get from the surface of the mothership to the helm, slowly being poisoned by the intense radiation coming from the gamma plasma pulsing through the ship. Then, when he's just about ready to give up, his MOP comrades start a Navy SEAL cadence to encourage him to continue on, and he succeeds using that. Victor finds him later, dead from the radiation.
- Future Badass: The novel introduces Lieutenant Mazer Rackham. Slightly subverted in that he's already a badass, considering he's in the New Zealand SAS.
- It's also a bit of a surprise that he fails the MOPs test by misinterpreting the requirements and sent back to his SAS unit.
- Hostile Terraforming: Victor hypothesizes that this is what the Buggers are doing when they defoliate the ground and scoop the dead biomass up, as well as dumping bacteria in the ocean.
- This conclusion is independently reached by Bingwen, a young Chinese boy with genius-level intelligence. Bonus points for never heard of such a concept before but deriving it based on his knowledge of farming. The officer escorting him to a school for children like him (and his future instructor) commends Bingwen not only for reaching this conclusion but also for even asking why the Formics are attacking (not a question that most people ask).
- Improvised Weapon: The gravity laser (AKA glaser) is a new mining drill developed by Juke, Ltd., to quickly and efficiently break apart asteroids for resources. The engineers claim that the bigger the asteroid, the larger the effect of the directed gravity field. When the Formics attack, none of the weapons in Earth's arsenal prove useful against the shielded Formic ships. Then Ukko Jukes suggests using the glaser, believing that the gravity field will pass right through the shields and break the enemy ships down into molecules. Hmm, maybe it's just what the doctor ordered.
- Lem Jukes devises an alternative to make the glaser safer to the firing ship, as the first test against a large asteroid created an expanding field that nearly consumed the ship itself. The alternative involves two glasers being launched bola-style towards the target, attaching themselves at the poles, and firing glasers, which keeps the destructive field limited to the target itself. While the engineer in charge of the project claims that this is not cost effective (both enormously-expensive glasers would be destroyed in the process), Lem reveals that he plans for this to be used as a weapon against the Formics.
- Inadequate Inheritor: No matter what Lem Jukes does, it's never good enough for his father Ukko Jukes. The only thing that Lem thinks will impress his old man is if Lem takes over Juke, Ltd., from within. However, even this turns out to be part of Ukko's plan, who wants to turn his son into a hero who personally led the attack on the Formics in the final battle (which is partly true), hand the company over to Lem, and become the first Hegemon.
- Kissing Cousins: Earth Unaware starts with Concepción calling Victor into her office and telling him that they're sending his second cousin and good friend Alejandra to live on an Italian miner ship, as all the adults can see that Victor and Alejandra are behaving more than just "good friends" or "good cousins". Victor is initially indignant of the notion that he would be "dogging" (i.e. marrying within the clan) but then realizes that he really did unconsciously love Alejandra. He accepts Concepción's decision for the good of the clan and refuses to see Alejandra off so as not to unintentionally reveal his affection to the Italians.
- Love Interest: Dr. Kim Arnsbrach for Mazer Rackham. They have an on-and-off relationship due to Kim's work and Mazer's military service. Mazer finally breaks it off for good, claiming that he doesn't want Kim to be a widow should he be killed in battle. After the First Invasion, though, he changes his mind and proposes to Kim, although he admits that he has just enlisted in the newly-created International Fleet. Kim briefly muses on the possibly advantages of changing her last name from "Arnsbrach" to "Rackham" before admitting that it's not much of an improvement. She still accepts.
- Imala Bootstamp for Victor Delgado, although Victor refuses to see it. In the end, when Victor decides to go back to his clan in the belt (as the only surviving adult male), Imala decides to join him over his objections (mostly having to do with her throwing away her career). Imala is perfectly willing to go to the middle of nowhere to "find happiness".
- Averted with Lem Jukes and Despoina. Lem initially seduces Des, who is one of his father's personal assistants, in order to get information that his father doesn't want him to know. He keeps planning to break it off, but usually ends up continuing the secret relationship. Despoina isn't stupid and tells him that she knows it's not going to last but asks him to let her down gently when he tires of her. Later, Lem finds an email from Despoina to his father, informing him of Lem's plans. He realizes that Des was his father's plant all along and has her arrested and deported from Luna under false charges. His father later admits that he faked the email to test Simona, his most trusted assistant, whom he fires after she shows Lem the email, proving that her (secret) love for Lem is greater than her loyalty to Ukko. Lem is angry with his father for playing with people's lives like that.
- Meaningful Name: The mining ship El Cavador stands for "the digger" in Spanish.
- Mega Corp.: Juke, Ltd., runs most of the mining operations in the Solar System. It's owner and CEO Ukko Jukes realizes that the best weapon against the Formics is his company's latest invention, the gravity laser, designed to quickly cut through asteroids, and seeks to weaponize it.
- Among its competitors is WU-HU, a Chinese corporation that also plays a part in the trilogy.
- The Mothership: The First Invasion involves a single huge ship arriving to the Solar System and heading straight for Earth. The ship is armed with a single turret but also has emitters all along its hull that violently expel "gamma plasma" collected with its Ramscoop. The mothership holds a number of landers and hundreds of smaller fighter craft.
- Averted at the end of the prequel trilogy with the Sequel Hook. Victor's cousin scans records from the Parallax satellites and discovers that the "mothership" was actually a scout ship sent ahead of the real mothership, which is many times bigger. The records also show that the Formics aboard the real mothership are cannibalizing it to turn it into an armada.
- Multinational Team: The Mobile Operations Police (or MOPs) is formed from the cream of the crop of various special forces branches all over the world. They get sent into hot zones where no one else will dare go. In Earth Unaware, Captain Wit O'Toole (the commander of the MOPs), orders them to prepare for any conceivable scenario, including a battle against a technologically-superior enemy (e.g. aliens), since their usual enemies are in Third World countries. Lieutenant Mazer Rackham of the New Zealand SAS is invited to try out for the MOPs (he fails the test).
- When the Internation Fleet is formed, it's modeled on the MOPs.
- Neck Snap: Mazer finds that they work on Formics.
- Nuke 'em: A massive nuclear strike fails to reach the Formic mothership, as its point-defense weapons easily pick off the missiles long before they get in range. Instead, dozens of satellites are wiped out, crippling Earth's communication network.
- Mazer and two MOPs get a briefcase nuke aboard a Formic lander and blow it up from the inside.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Endemic to the Lunar Trade Department, much to Victor's frustration. Fortunately his caseworker Imala Bootstamp is one of the exceptions.
- The STASA captain who declares that any ships that fires at the Formics will be committing an illegal act and prosecuted accordingly. Why? Because he wants to show the aliens that humans are a peaceful race. This is after he has just witnessed the Formic ship easily swatting aside a fleet of 64 corporate and free miner ships at Cleopatra.
- Point Defenseless: Averted. All mining ships are equipped with "pebble-killers", lasers designed to take out small rocks that pose a danger to the ship. The Formic mothership's "gamma plasma" laser turrets are very effective, picking off every nuke launched at it. They don't destroy the short-range missiles launched by the multinational assault force, but that's because the turrets are busy destroying the ships. The missiles never get past the shield anyway.
- Retcon: In Ender's Game, it's stated that the Formic presense was discovered when astronomers saw the asteroid Eros "blacking out" and sent a ship to investigate. The ship subsequently transmitted a video showing Formics boarding and slaughtering the crew but not touching communications equipment (as they don't understand radio-communication). In the Formic Wars comic and the prequel novels, Eros is not mentioned at all. Instead, the Formics send a mothership that heads straight for Earth, destroying several mining ships and several Space Stations on the way. The final battle between the Formics and the humans isn't even done by an organized military force but by a Mega Corp. using repurposed mining equipment. It's also claimed in Ender's Game that the First and Second Invasions were fought with nuclear missiles. In the prequels, nothing the Earth militaries are throwing at the Formic mothership and the landers has any effect due to Deflector Shields. Only gravity-based weapons developed by Juke, Ltd., have any effect. These are later repurposed for the newly-created International Fleet.
- Also, in Ender's Game, it's specifically mentioned that the Artificial Gravity was Imported Alien Phlebotinum, reverse-engineered from Formic/Bugger technology. However, in Earth Afire, it's stated that Juke Ltd. already has gravity-lensing technology, allowing aircraft to fly using projected gravity fields. It seems that they didn't need the aliens after all.
- All these inconsistencies are corrected in the Ender's Game Alive audioplay. Both the Free Miners and Juke, Ltd., are mentioned. In fact, in the audioplay, the Formics don't have Artificial Gravity, but humans do.
- Scary Black Man: Captain Arjuna of the Gagak, a Somali salvage ship. Unlike most Somali salvage ships, frequently called "vultures" for their pirate-like tactics, the crew of the Gagak call themselves "crows" and only go after ships that have no live crew remaining. Arjuna proves himself to be a man of honor and is far less sexist than most of his crew, although he frequently has to make decisions based on what his crew will accept (e.g. refuse partnership with Rena Delgado because women may not be full partners with men in Somali culture).
- Sequel Hook: While it's a Foregone Conclusion that the Second Invasion follows the First, it's still a little jarring when the ending of the trilogy reveals that the huge alien ship that took so much effort to defeat was little more than a scout ship sent ahead of the actual Formic mothership that is currently on the way. Worse, the truly enormous ship is being rapidly cannibalized by the Formics in order to create an armada. Then there's the creation of the International Fleet and Mazer enlisting in it.
- Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: The MOPs manage to destroy a Formic lander by getting a suitcase nuke aboard. Unfortunately, one of the MOPs is forced to stay behind to keep the Formics from disarming it.
- Space Navy: The International Fleet is formed right after the First Invasion. Nothing of the kind has existed before that. Humanity's only presence in the Solar System mostly consisted of Asteroid Miners, a few Space Stations, and a Moon base.
- Even before that, the US and several other countries weaponize 50 shuttles in order to take out the Formic mothership in a concentrated multinational assault. It's a spectacular failure.
- Juke, Ltd., receives the lucrative contract to build most of the fleet, shifting their focus away from mining and towards shipbuilding.
- Space Pirates: The so-called "vultures" are salvage ships (frequently of Somali origin) who "salvage" ships that still have people aboard. The people are usually Thrown Out the Airlock. The "crows" are the salvagers who only go after ships with all the crew already dead, so they don't really fit this trope (then again, most non-Somali tend not to differentiate between the two groups).
- Too Dumb to Live: The UN during the initial days of the Formic ship's arrival to Earth's orbit. Despite Ukko Juke's warning about the aliens' clearly hostile nature and the fact that they know about the aliens destroying dozens of mining ships and several space stations on its way to Earth, the UN still thinks that the aliens are probably peaceful and that the miners were the ones who provoked a violent response. Only a few nations urge the creation of a coalition that would start building defenses, but the proposals get shut down in the UN Security Council by the big boys. Essentially, everyone is too worried about politics in the face of an alien invasion. It takes the destruction of the Egyptian ambassador's shuttle to finally get the UN to see the truth.
- Weaponized Exhaust: The mothership focuses gamma radiation from its drive into lasers for point defense. It also periodically vents radiation in all directions, much to the hazard of everyone around it.
- For a non-space example, there are the Chinese drill sledges. Their propulsion involves the rock that's being crushed by the front-mounted drill being passed through the vehicle to the rear, being melted on the way and spewing out in a superheated jet of lava. Pointing the sledge away from the target seems like a good way to melt pretty much anything. This is used effectively by Mazer and two MOPs to melt a hole in a Formic lander's underside in order to get a nuke inside.
- We Have Reserves: The miners are shocked to see the Formics fight in this manner, sacrificing two or three of them to get rid of one miner, exiting their ship without spacesuits.
- The Chinese also fight like this when invaded by the Formics, who are using face-melting gas.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: See Inadequate Inheritor.