- No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
- How to Read Like A Writer by Francine Prose
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I had hoped to write more about Card’s Ender’s Game, about science fiction, in general. I’d never read any of Card’s work before, and it’s been quite some time since I’ve read any science fiction, though I’ve loved the genre since early adolescence at least. A friend of mine recommended Card’s novel and I was curious about Card and how he incorporated his Mormonism into science fiction. A quick summary: The novel has a standard sci-fi plot: What do we do about defeating the pesky alien race that keeps invading us? Card solves the problem by having the military recruit children, to train them until they are expert killers, willing to destroy a whole race.
The plot, by the way, is successful–or at least to the extent that the alien’s (the buggers) home planet is obliverated. But, the novel’s protagonist, Ender Wiggin, realizes the military’s game and learns that the wargames he thinks he’s playing as part of his training are actually the real thing. He also, to some extent, subverts the somewhat totalitarian system that rules not only the military of the future, but the Earth itself.
I’m not sure how the quasi-totalitarianism fits into the scheme of Card’s personal beliefs, but it seems to me that, in varying forms and degrees, throughout much of the science fiction that I’ve read, from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers to Lem’s Solaris to Orwell’s 1984, totalitarianism seems to have won out–individualism and the individual seem to get sacrificed readily for the whole, for the state or the federation, even in science fiction laced with liberalism, such as Star Trek (remember Spock’s sacrifice of the one, for the good of the many?). And yet often it’s the individual, acting outside the box (to use a cliche from that other form of totalitarianism, the corporation) who is able to triumph–sometimes. Winston Smith certainly suffers in 1984. Why, in varying degrees, does science fiction offer such a dim view of individuality? Is our future, which doesn’t seem so far away, one in which the individual is sacrificed to the state?
OK, actually it does seem I had a lot to say about Ender’s Game and science fiction.
Now on to Prose. I hope to write more about Prose’s book, too, in future posts. I will say this much: Her method of close reading is thorough. I’d recommend the book not only to writers but to graduate students in literature, if anything to see beyond some of the Orwellian lit crit you’re subjected to in graduate schools, that attempt to stuff literature into politically correct orifices of theory.
Anyhow children, remember: "War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength."