The enemy's gate is down.
Rating: 5/5 – One of the all-time greats.
This is likely my favorite book. It’s definitely in my pantheon of all time great works of fiction. I’ve probably read it at least 10 times, but it’s been close to a decade since I last opened it.
The plot of Ender’s Game is straightforward military science fiction (though unusually focused on very young children), defending the human race from invading aliens. What the book is about though, it much more complex and subtle.
You could write a myriad of essays about the different themes touched on in Ender’s Game, but that two that always stand out to me are Perspective and Love.
The book’s approach to Perspective is captured with the its most enduring line: “the enemy’s gate is down”. Used by Ender to describe his army’s mindset during their frequent war games, it summarizes the importance of reorienting yourself to look at a situation from multiple perspectives, forcing your mind to see things differently in order to gain new insight and advantage.
One of the perspectives that Ender is uniquely able to orient to is that of the enemy. His great gift is the ability to see his opponent’s point of view so clearly and perfectly that he attains a perfect empathy for them. This is the book’s thesis on Love, that its essence is rooted in knowing another completely and totally.
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.
This idea of love is carried forward and expanded in the sequel, Speaker for the Dead (which may be a better book!).
I often find myself returning to the book’s approach to these two themes. I cannot think of a life situation where considering it from multiple perspectives and trying to understand others well enough to love them is the wrong approach. These lasting and powerful ideals are what make Ender’s Game a timeless classic.