Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been reading Orson Scott Card’s Ender books. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say I’ve been absorbed by them. So far, I’ve finished Ender’s Game, the three sequels, and four of the Shadow books (Shadows in Flight is waiting for me on the bookshelf). After finishing these books, I feel like I know the characters better than many people I’ve been friends with for years.
I’d been meaning to read more Orson Scott Card for some time, since I stumbled upon one of his short stories in a sci-fi collection. Ender’s Game moved to the top of my reading list after I found out it’s going to be a film. I wanted to read the book before Hollywood ruins it (don’t get me wrong — I’m going to see the movie and it might be good, but there’s no way it can be as good as the book).
It’s not just the amazing characters that make these books so compelling. The ideas that Card presents in his stories are some of the most fascinating I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Ender’s key to defeating an enemy is just a sample of these compelling ideas (quote is from Ender’s Game, the idea shows up in all the books).
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.
Don’t you just want to give him a hug? Anyway, this is the idea I’ve pondered the most since starting this series: when you fully understand someone and see through their eyes, you can’t help but love them. This is underscored (for me at least) by my reaction to the characters. By the end of Ender’s Game, I knew him and felt for him. I had similar connections with Bean in Ender’s Shadow and Peter in the other Shadow books, especially Shadow of the Giant. Orson Scott Card wrote the characters so well that readers can understand them well enough to love them (to the point that I finished three of these eight books in tears not necessary because I was sad, but because I was overwhelmed by how much I sympathized with the characters).
A Spiritual Question
One of the thoughts this idea — the connection between understanding someone and loving them — has sparked in my mind is a possible answer to a spiritual question. Just reading though the Bible, I can accept “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). But when I start to think about this a little more deeply it’s mind-blowing. Christ didn’t come to die only for the good “lovable” people in the world. He died for and loved everyone, even the people we would classify as the most unlovable. How is such love possible?
Since reading books from the Enderverse, I’ve been wondering if God’s love for everyone might have something to do with the fact that He is all-knowing. He understands everything and sees into our hearts, and even when He does not approve of our actions or is angry with us, He loves perfectly. It’s an interesting “something to think about.”
If you’d like to try reading these novels, here’s a list of books in the series. It shows both publication order and a (rough) chronological order in the Enderverse.