DecENDER: Chapters 6-8 Roundup (Week Two)

Originally posted here.

These last three chapters have been all about Battle School and, specifically, the Battleroom. What a concept—a gravityless room where an especially advanced (and competitive) game of laser tag goes on. I can’t think of an activity that 7-12 year old kids would enjoy more. Honestly, I would love to play that game, but I’m getting older and I know how much I would hurt the evening after a game like that.

In the Battleroom, Ender delivers further on his strategic brilliance, but also excels at diplomacy (forming his alliance with Alai and thus Bernard), and spatial thinking. His ability to immediately reorient himself is key and I think it’s going to make a difference going forward.

These three chapters also show life in three very different Armies. He finally comes into his own with his launch party, making a true friend (possibly his first besides his sister) in Alai and bringing the group together. In Salamander unit, he’s treated as the lowest of the low. He learns to gain the upper hand in that situation too—gaining another ally in Petra and an enemy in Bonzo. In Salamander army he studies the game while maintaining friendships with his launch and teaching them what he has learned.

Finally he is deposited into some sort of secret tactical strike force in an otherwise disorganized army: Rat. His new leader seems to have big plans but is unwilling to let the teachers control him. Dink’s awareness of his entire situation (rather than just the game or just the army or just the battle school) is the first time we’ve been given any reason to really think critically about what is happening to Ender. How reliable is the information we’ve been given about the Bugger Wars? What’s the ulterior motive of Battle School? (As an aside: what do you think is the nature of Petra’s relationship to Dink? Is romance something that’s even allowed at Battle School?)

And what is the purpose of the Giant’s Game? This group of chapters is bookended with discussion of that bizarre video game. It seems pretty psychedelic and the visuals remind me a lot of some of the Moebius drawings coming through this blog [occasionally NSFW]. Interesting to think that, in 1977 (when this book’s first excerpt was published), there was no technology that could produce the visuals as described in this book. Now it just sounds like a particularly surreal RPG.

A lot of the technology in this book (besides things like an implanted monitor and, you know, space travel) was likely fantastical at the time but seems almost commonplace nowadays. Ender’s computing Desk sounds similar to iPad with maybe some 3D capabilities. Being able to migrate Desks with no loss of data is pretty reminiscent of so-called “cloud computing.” I mentioned earlier that the Battleroom guns are essentially laser tag with some special suits. What else exists in our world and Ender’s world but didn’t exist in Card’s when he wrote the book?

As usual, use #decENDERwk2 for this week’s discussions on Twitter, and#decENDER for general thoughts. Please comment below—post your thoughts, answer some questions, ask your own!