I have an acceptance test:
Given a review is written about a book
When I read the review
I know if I want to read the book.
To set up the given, I need a book and a review. I’ve picked Ender’s Game by Orson Scott-Card as this was the last book I read.
I need some sort of introduction where I tell you what the book is. There’s going to be something about the plot of the book. Something about the characters. Probably more in the middle, but definitely some sort of conclusion. I treated each of these things as a unit and test drove each one.
Test: should place the book in context of time and place.
Initially a short story, Ender’s Game was first published as a book in 1985 by the American author Orson Scott Card. It was updated in 1991 to reflect current events, specifically the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Test: should contain a short description of what the book is about.
The book is set in a future world where Earth is at war with an alien race called the Buggers. The plot follows the story of Ender, a young boy who has been selected as the future military commander who will fight the war over the Buggers.
Test: should contain some facts about the plot.
Ender is sent to military school where he quickly becomes a leader due to his skills in the mock battles the child soldiers have in zero gravity. However his skills isolate him from the other children and he comes up against many who are jealous of him. The few adults in his life add to his isolation by putting him under tremendous pressure, and he constantly worries that he will turn into his brother Peter. Meanwhile Peter and their sister Valentine, both exceptional in different ways are using their brilliance to become powerful back on earth.
Test: should contain my opinion of the plot.
The mock battles at military school became repetitive. There is an interesting concept that online power can lead to real power. In the context of when the book was written this is an idea way ahead of its time. However the idea that some children are behind this is hard to fathom.
Test: should mention the ending but not give it away.
Often I feel let down by the ending of a book, but Ender’s Game did not disappoint. It built up to a nice crescendo, then picked up some loose ends after the inevitable explosion. Perhaps a bit predictable in some places, but there were enough twists to keep me interested until the end.
Test: should contain some facts about the main characters.
The story focuses on 3 children: Ender, his brother Peter, and sister Valentine. All three have been born as part of a government program to get military masterminds. Ender is the youngest, born specifically because both Peter and Valentine failed the test to get into military school. Peter, the oldest, is cruel and sadistic, and Ender is driven by a fear of his brother and a deeper fear of becoming him. Valentine is judged too soft for military school, and is the one person Ender cares about. She does all she can to protect him from Peter, although she too has an underlying suspicion that she is more like Peter than she would admit.
Test: should contain my opinion of the main characters.
It can be difficult to take child characters seriously, and this is a problem here. Card uses the childrens’ games as a vehicle for depicting extreme violence. This is an uncomfortable idea in itself and more so as the children are pawns as part of a bigger game being played by the adults. However they do have some awareness of this, and in fact they are more important than mere pawns; as the adults frequently argue, it is the future of the children versus the future of the human race. Ender is a sympathetic but not a likeable main character. By setting him up as constantly persecuted by both the adults who use him and the other children who are jealous of his skills you can empathise with him despite not agreeing with all that he does.
Test: should summarise my opinion of the book.
It’s not science fiction at its best in terms of new worlds and strange creatures, although there are elements of this, and I suspect the next books in the series may do this. It took a while to get into but I was hooked by the end. I was a little sad to find out there was a whole series to follow this, as Ender’s Game works as a self-contained novel. I suspect I will end up reading the next books, but I’m not in a rush to do so.
Test: should recommend the book.
Ender’s Game is on the recommended reading list for the US Marine Corps. Certainly the strong military focus in the book may appeal to people with such an interest. More controversially Card has been criticised for his treatment of genocide and Ender has been compared to Hitler. I wonder if the military aspects may turn people off, but then I am someone who skips over battle scenes in LOTR. Despite the tender age of the primary characters, this is certainly not a children’s book as the casual dealing with extreme violence is fairly disturbing.
Next: Some Conclusions about TDD