TV Tropes Org
site search
back to reviews
Comments
Met the guy once,he's a real LOTR nut,he'll definitely make you think about everything. Just don't tell him Peter Jackson is a genius,and that the films really got the material down,that is a Berserk Button. Definitely a better lecturer than author truth be told

Since pretty much every book of his I have read other than the two parallel Enderverse books,seem to have a huge Author Tract in them. That really takes away enjoyment most of the time,unless I agree,and even then it can get heavy-handed.
comment #13841 terlwyth 14th Apr 12
Oh yes, he's brought that one up quite a lot in his reviews. It also seems he almost never thinks a work was "okay", it's either good or bad, enriches or is garbage. Sometimes he can't make up his mind on which it is, like Titanic, which holds the honor of being on both his "Best Movies List" and "Worst Movies List". Truth be told, I like a lot his lecture points, and see the reasons for his arguments for things like why removing the Scouring of the Shire or making Arwen's fate bound to the One Ring weren't good decisions, but they don't ruin the movie and there's still a lot to like. At least he's always got an argument behind his opinions, but yes, even when I do agree with him, he can indeed be heavy-handed.
comment #13842 Tuckerscreator 14th Apr 12 (edited by: Tuckerscreator)
"How would a teacher force a prodigy to become the greatest admiral to ever live?"

By deliberately backing him into corners where he has to commit bloody murder, obviously.
comment #14071 tublecane 30th Apr 12
(Can't tell whether that means you agree or disagree, so here's my take): Isolating him, backing him indeed into a corner where he has only himself to make himself survive. Graff defines it as (paraphrasing) "He has to be isolated. Ender has to believe that no one will ever come to help him. Only when he decides to rely on just himself and develop his own solutions will he unlock his mind to think up the tactics none of us could ever think up." Graff (probably) wasn't intending for Bonzo's murder from that "backed into a corner" situation, he argues he was just trying to maintain Ender's isolation. But he did want a thorough killing of the Buggers in that "corner" of the "impossible test." And he could guarantee that thoroughness from the deaths of Bonzo, Stilson, and the Giant.
comment #14079 Tuckerscreator 30th Apr 12 (edited by: Tuckerscreator)
I was just being glib. Most of the trials Ender's put through make sense, certainly all of them tie together thematically with the final battle. I just think it may have been unecessary to force him into a situation where he had to murder fellow kids, especially for the kids he killed. Especially also since it didn't lead to any tactical revelation, or anything. He just smashed them bloody.

If that wasn't the intention, fine. But they should have expected it from Ender's past history. The point might have been to make the adults Jerkasses, which is okay I guess.

"Only when he decide to rely on just himself and develop his own solutions will he unlock his mind to think up the tactics none of us could ever think up"

This makes perfect sense, as they can't very well rely on a fluke like they did with their other big victory. However, it led to a bothersome motif recurring throughout an otherwise enjoyable read. His genius breakthroughs didn't seem all that genius to me.

Do you mean to tell me no one ever thought of winning the game by not bothering to shoot each and every opponent? I realize I'm considerably older than 5, but the first thing I thought when they explained the rules was "Oh, so all they have to do is get four [or however many it was] kids to the other side?" Then, after I saw how the kids actually played the game, I wondered "Why the hell aren't they going for the gate?"

Also, am I to believe no kid ever thought of gouging out the video game giant's eyes? Or was Ender the only one bothering? Him being a genius, always requiring something to occupy his mind, and the others being busy with mundane things like making games more difficult than they have to be by playing them roundaboutly.

Finally, the very fact that Ender's tactics in the Final Battle, consisting of using the Weapon of Mass Destruction to kamikaze the bug planet, were "against the rules" suggests that it wasn't so much an innovation. How would it be, if they knew enough to make rules against it? Did it really take running the uncorrupted mind of a genius child through a gauntlet of increasingly more maddening challenges in order to come up with a battle plan that they'd already figured out?

I suppose he did exactly what they wanted him to do, but then we have to drop the whole "force Ender to be innovative by backing him into a corner" theme. The point of his trials, then, was to push his mental endurance as far as possible without breaking it, so that he could be where he needed to be psychologically when he needed to do the thing they planned for him to do. Which was basically to say "screw it," tap into his inner psycho (part of his family heritage) and kill 'em all.
comment #14085 tublecane 1st May 12 (edited by: tublecane)
I just think it may have been unnecessary to force him into a situation where he had to murder fellow kids... Especially also since it didn't lead to any tactical revelation, or anything. No, but it's right after he defeats Bonzo that he starts thinking exactly like Graff wanted him to, that no one will ever help him out of a situation and it'll be just up to him to think of his own solution. I wish I had my copy to quote it, but it's almost an exact paraphrase of Graff's justification above. And as for leading to direct tactical revelation, wouldn't sound silly for Ender to kill Bonzo then think: "Holy moly, you could beat the game just by diving to the gate!"

His genius breakthroughs didn't seem all that genius to me. There's a part where Ender thinks about why none of his tactics seem to have been thought of before. He decides probably plenty of people did, but if they were a commander they were probably too scared to try it and risk losing versus sticking to an old formation they know works fine. As for anyone down lower in the scale, a toon leader would look rebellious trying to pull a new tactic and any tactic suggested from a soldier below them probably wouldn't reach the commander or he might not even care about it thanks to the rank difference. Trying to pull the "just five kids to the gate without fighting" would have looked cowardly, especially since the soldiers valued their "kill" ratios so much, which diving to the gate wouldn't let them do. You decide whether Ender's reasoning seems to hold up. But in essence, the school's competitive atmosphere was poisoning their ability to experiment. Ender was just enough of a genius to try out new tactics and win at the same time.

no kid ever thought of gouging out the video game giant's eyes? There's an explanation floating about, which may or may not be fanon, that the Giant usually is unattackable but by then the Formics had already planted that AI that becomes Jane in the Battle School network to analyze Ender, allowing it to change the programming like it did to create those new worlds in the game. On the other hand, the teacher's comments definitely sound as Ender was the first to try, so that may be wrong. Being just the first to succeed wouldn't be proof of remarkable ability anyway. I think the book wants us to believe Ender was the first to try killing the Giant, and everyone else was just stuck in the box of "pick the two drinks", giving up when that didn't go anywhere. Shen never tries killing the giant when he tries the Giant's Drink again in Ender's Shadow, having heard from Ender that it was possible to pass it, only to eventually give up again.

Oh, the battle plan for the Formic homeworld was incredibly simple. All the previous battles, plus the skill in the final battle to get through the ginormous fleet to get in range to fire on the homeworld wasn't. That's where most of his thinking ability would come into play, since those didn't have a planet you could kamikaze on. His ruthlessness Graff cultivated came into play there, but his intelligence was largely needed earlier.

but then we have to drop the whole "force Ender to be innovative by backing him into a corner" theme. The point of his trials, then, was to push his mental endurance as far as possible without breaking it From what I've read, I think the "backing into a corner" was for both cultivating his intelligence and his ruthlessness. When Ender was isolated by being forced to not fight in Bonzo's army, it allowed him to observe the fight and thus come up ideas like with treating the enemy's gate as "down" or using his legs as shields. When he was isolated from the other launchies thanks to being set up as the favorite, it allowed him to come up with ideas to get back at them like hacking their accounts or befriending the enemy's friends like Alai. Anybody was already accepted wouldn't have to worry about getting back at people, or have time to observe a battle. And I can speak from experience that I really got forced to think creatively more during periods of my life when I was socially alone. Because I had no one to chat to, it caused to think about, say, ideas for writing and drawing to pass the time, ways to connect with people to get out of my isolation, thoughts about planning my future, stuff that would have been pushed of my mind had I been more social. Even after that period's passed, it definitely left me with the sense to pursue my own solutions. I can attest that isolation really does force out creativity. You decide whether that creativity was sufficiently demonstrated with Ender's ideas.
comment #14097 Tuckerscreator 1st May 12 (edited by: Tuckerscreator)
"the skill in the final battle to get through the ginormous fleet to get in range to fire on the homeworld wasn't. That's where most of his thinking ability would come into play, since those didn't have a planet you could kamikaze on."

This is absolutely true, and if I don't dwell on it it's because the skills he developed along the way were not what interested me about the book, and I think clearly were meant to be in the background. The main focus was on his psychological struggle, which superficially the book made seem was about his genius for war games and his spirit of innovation. That's how it seemed, anyway, but the more I read the more I realized it's about developing his ruthlessness. I've collected some of yuor quotes for demonstration:

"it's right after he defeats Bonzo that he starts thinking exactly like Graff wanted him to, that no one will ever help him out of a situation and it'll be just up to him to think of his own solution"

"he decides probably plenty of people did, but if they were a commander they were probably too scared to try it ...Ender was just enough of a genius to try out new tactics and win at the same time."

"His ruthlessness Graff cultivated came into play there"

"the 'backing into a corner' was for both cultivating his intelligence and his ruthlessness"

, most of the book is about developing his ruthlessness. This is so because, as you demonstrate, none of the tricks he comes up with are all that impressive. What was impressive was that he had the guts to try them. Which makes it so that throughout the book his genius is sorta just taken for granted, and the drama gets pushed over to the psychological trauma inflicted upon him by his overseers.

Perhaps that's the best way to write a book where the protagonist is a perfect genius who accomplishes everything set out for him to do because he's better than everyone else. Certainly I don't have a problem in general with drama being internal. It's just that I don't think it takes a psycho to be a great military leader. Ruthlessness is not as important as Ender's Game makes it out to be. Or if it is, it is in the sense that you have to be willing to sacrifice your men when necessary and kill the enemy with limited or no mercy. Not in the sense that you have to be able to beat people to death with your bare hands

It's also not true that great military leaders have to rely on themselves alone, as if they were little kids facing down their murderous older brothers. Ender had plenty of people to help him. His handler deliberately, it seems to me, put him in situations resembling the one he was in with his brother in the beginning so that at some point he'd be able to face it down and beat the odds against him. But to do that, like I said, he needed to commit actual bloody murder. Which means that he had to become like his brother to kill his brother/buggers. But his brother was a psycho, which means they wanted their boy genius admiral to be a psycho.

This is why so many people—though they form a minority of readers—think Ender is a standin for Hitler. I don't go that far, but I think it was inappropriate for them to have made a psycho out of him. He didn't need to want to commit suicide and xenocide to win the battle; he didn't even know it was a battle.

Couldn't he have come to the same conclusion if they had told him the WMD option was available and he figured out on his own that loss the was worth it? But no, then they wouldn't have been toying with his emotions. The adults weren't just Jerkasses, they were sadists.
comment #14114 tublecane 2nd May 12
By the way, none of this is to say I didn't like the book. It's one of the very few I've read straight through with almost no breaks. I highly recommended it.
comment #14115 tublecane 2nd May 12
Don't worry, I know you like the book plenty even with criticisms. And willingness to analyze the book and even pointing out possible flaws is certainly a way of showing appreciation for it.

Ruthlessness is not as important as Ender's Game makes it out to be. Or if it is, it is in the sense that you have to be willing to sacrifice your men when necessary and kill the enemy with limited or no mercy. Not in the sense that you have to be able to beat people to death with your bare hands. Indeed true. But I don't think Graff meant to turn Ender's into a ruthless leader (which is where the Hitler complaints come in.) What he intended was to exploit Ender's ruthlessness that was already there (which he could already guarantee from Stilson) to get him to face off against Bonzo, intending the encounter to make Ender self-reliant, so that when the grueling "tests" came to "simulate" the attacks on the Bugger fleets, Ender wouldn't just retreat when it got hard and ask a teacher for a solution, since they wouldn't be smart enough to give it. He would go in with the sense that he had to complete this himself. That's what Graff wanted, not an ability to kill. More on this below.

Also, touching briefly on the point of "not in the sense that you have to be able to beat people to death with your bare hands", Ender didn't want to kill Bonzo and didn't think he did. It wasn't until after the war that he found out he did, though some passages imply he knew subconsciously. But he wasn't intending to kill Bonzo and had planned to incapacitate him like he (thought he) did with Stilson. All he expected to do was to rob him of his morale to fight Ender again. Unfortunately, he didn't know his own strength and sent Bonzo's nose up his skull.

Continuing on that point and the point of he needed to commit actual bloody murder, the teachers also didn't want or expect Bonzo to die. When Graff meets with Anderson and the Strategos about the situation forming with Bonzo and Ender, their greater worry is that Ender will be the one to be killed, not Bonzo. They never bring up the possibility of Bonzo being killed, and saw the best case outcome as Ender just defeating Bonzo, not killing him. Graff and they too also underestimated Ender's physical strength. They also keep Bonzo's death secret from Ender, not congratulate him or themselves for it. When Ender asks Mazer if he killed Bonzo, Mazer just tells him no rather than saying anything like "Yes, you did, kid. Congratulations! You've taken the next step to ruthlessness!". So from that, I don't think they meant to cultivate him into a killer. If they wanted killing from him they only had to look at the example of Stilson. What they was to instill that sense of "i have to rely on myself" in Ender, which is where the ruthlessness would come into play. Graff confirms this when he meets with Ender's parents. (paraphrasing) "It's not because he beat up Stilson, it's why", the "why" being "because I wanted to demoralize Stilson from wanting to fight me ever again."

It's also not true that great military leaders have to rely on themselves alone, as if they were little kids facing down their murderous older brothers. Ender had plenty of people to help him. Like Graff tells Anderson at one point, "[Ender] can have friends. It's parents he can't have." Part of what made Dragon Army and then Ender's jeesh so good was that Ender was working with many brilliant subordinates. His army succeeded because he held a loose reign of command and had his toon leaders react to situations independently while Ender gave the overall strategy, and that same philosophy was carried over to Ender and his friends commanding the fleet. So he could work with as many people as he wanted, the teachers certainly wanted that. But they didn't want him taking one of them as a mentor or "parent", which would risk him turning to them to save him when a critical situation came, which that friend would be unable to do, since they're not as smart as him.

Which means that he had to become like his brother to kill his brother/buggers. But his brother was a psycho, which means they wanted their boy genius admiral to be a psycho. Again, they didn't expect or want Ender to be a killer. They did want Peter's ruthlessness, but not his cruelty, and tell Ender that someone as vicious as him wouldn't be able to lead people. What they wanted from Ender was the balance of Peter's ruthlessness and Valentine's compassion, which would let her lead people well but be able to do so in war.

Couldn't he have come to the same conclusion if they had told him the WMD option was available and he figured out on his own that loss the was worth it? But no, then they wouldn't have been toying with his emotions. The adults weren't just Jerkasses, they were sadists. This part of "coming to the same conclusion" is vaguer, I admit. We know that Mazer Rackham was unable to command the invasion fleet because he was too emotionally compromised from the previous war to command the sacrifices of men again. But we never see Ender worrying about this consequence. However, we did see him worry about the consequence of killing all the Buggers. And Graff and Mazer tell Ender after the final battle end that they chose to lie and tell him this was a simulation rather than the real invasion fleet because they were worried that he would have thought so closely to the Formics that he would have respected, valued, and loved them and thus been unable to order their extermination. Ender even tells Valentine at the lake that something like this is happening to him, that he's been dedicatedly studying the Buggers to defeat them, but now is starting to admire them because humanity knows nothing about their society and because they're where he's learning real tactics from. It's also telling that his first thought after he learns the battles were real is not "I commanded real men to their deaths", but "I ordered the death of an entire species", and that's the thought sends him into a coma. So that tell us that he wouldn't have been able to order the Formic's deaths if he knew it was real, so I don't think Ender emerged from the fight with Bonzo a ruthless killer. He merely emerged from it deciding to only rely on himself to save himself, but never made a decision to become a killer. Likewise Graff and Mazer could predict this counterproductive love response that could keep Ender from killing the Buggers, as well as the possible trauma about ordering sacrifices, which is why they kept it secret, not because they were sadists who wanted to toy with his emotions.

A rather minor point now: none of the tricks he comes up with are all that impressive. Some of them of them like the "just go straight for the gate" seem pretty unimpressive in theory, but he does demonstrate indeed some smart ones, like sending paired soldiers in one battle with Salamander so that one can be used as a human shield while another "rides" him like a vehicle of sorts, or freezing your own legs to use them as shields and cover the light from your suit, learning to push off a wall with your legs frozen, or a five toon organization instead of four, with an occasional sixth toon. The "go for the gate" battle also required the huge distraction from most of Dragon army forming into screens, using them first to confuse the two armies with a formation then to "burst" the screens and scatter all over the battle room, making the enemy further take a long time to hunt everyone down. So like the final battle at the Formic homeworld, the overarching strategy rarely is brilliant, but the tactics in between to make one win and execute that strategy are.
comment #14145 Tuckerscreator 4th May 12 (edited by: Tuckerscreator)
"But in essence, the school's competitive atmosphere was poisoning their ability to experiment. Ender was just enough of a genius to try out new tactics and win at the same time."

This is an important point, and it is a sort of flaw in the writing but moreso is larger than Ender's Game and just something that needs be said. I've heard several times before, in response to my point about the "going for the gate" strategy being obvious, that the battle school was rigid, experimentation is frowned upon, etc. But this isn't really about breaking tradition. It's not like meritocracy in the French revolutionary army, or the German staff system. It's not about Sherman's "total war" or the Nazis' bl;itzkreig. Those are all different routes to the same goal: i.e. winning the war. My problem with Ender's Game is that it's as if none of them know what the goal is.

I find it highly implausible that freezing every last opponent ever solidified into the de facto rules of the game. When I learn a new game, the first thing I want to know is how to win. If it's chess, for instance, I consider the fact that the point is to capture the king to be fundamentally important. Knowing that, I do not waste my time capturing every single one of my opponent's pieces. When I play Monopoly I do not seek to put as many hotels on as many pieces of property as possible, nor do I seek to own every piece of property on the board. Not that I ever get to the end, since in the meantime someone is sure to flip the board in a huff. But if it were possible, I know the point is to bankrupt the other players.

Now, there may evolve impractical tactics and needlessly roundabout traditions for winning Ender's game. But I don't see how there would evolve another game that isn't the game but is somewhat related to the real game. I believe no one but Ender could come up with as ingenious a plan for getting his men to the gates. I don't believe no one else would ever try to go through the gate before the other team was incapable of fighting back.

Warfare, after all, is not about killing every enemy whatever the cost. It is about gaining the most possible with the least effort possible. Everyone knows that, even ones who are bad at warfare. They know what they want, just not how to get it.
comment #14642 tublecane 5th Jun 12
Certainly. I'd actually agree with you there. The only point I could offer to soften it would be a section from Enders Shadow, where Graff admits that the system to promote new commanders is flawed, because it's based off finding the 'best' generals of the 2nd Invasion. Because the war was both a Curb Stomp Battle and too short to "weed out the deadwood", much of the generals who made an impression after the war included guys who just looked good in uniform, while the real tacticians had ended up either being put under them or being sent to a battle where tactics couldn't save them and they were overwhelmed. "It gives us little pricks like Bonzo Madrid. You've known officers like him, haven't you? So why should we be surprised that our tests give him command of an army even though he has no idea what to do with it. All the vanity and all the stupidity of Custer or Hooker or hell, pick your own vain incompetent, it's the most common kind of general officer." Even so, not everyone was incompetent, like Dink or Petra, though Dink refused to command an army for a long time and Petra was left out of gaining her own for a while because she lacked charisma. No one ever trying for just the gate certainly is iffy, and I too buy it less than the other parts, but at least here Card's trying to describe an environment that might have allowed it.
comment #14645 Tuckerscreator 5th Jun 12
Aaaaand I meant to link to Modern Major General there.
comment #14646 Tuckerscreator 5th Jun 12
Correction: he was a thinker, he was a philosopher.

Now he's a man who rewrites Shakespeare plays with gay demons in them.
comment #19777 Peryton 9th Jun 13
In order to post comments, you need to Get Known
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy