OK, better late than never.
As you can see from my last post, I need to catch up on my book blogging. Well, I was planning to write about this anyway. Waaaaaaay back in May, I read Doctor Bean's impressions of Ender's Game, which freaked me out because I had just read the original short story myself, and it seemed to be more evidence that Beanie and I are connected in some weird metaphysical ectoplasmic way. (OK I just like to type "ectoplasmic" now after reading it on Wickwire's Blog).
Anyway, it took me this long to get through the book, because, as I've said before, I have a lot of distractions. And when I'm not being distracted, I'm usually snoring. Where was I? Oh yes, Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.
I'm a big science fiction fan, so it's surprising that I have never had the urge to read this before. Possibly because I associated Ender's Game with a stupid Japanese video game, Zone of Enders, or assumed that it was some moronic play on "End Game", or "End Zone" or whatever, and usually that sort of thing just makes me go "Next." But after my daughter, the consummate judge of quirky fiction, handed me the short story to read, I knew I had to read the full version.
So, no spoilers here, don't worry. The book is basically about a futuristic war against that ever-popular scifi nemesis, the Bugger (See Starship Troopers). The war is the least interesting aspect of the book. The book is really about gifted children, and what we are willing to do to ourselves and our kids to ensure our own survival. In the book he also explores the concepts of leadership and loyalty and blah blah blah it's worth a read.
Bean commented (in his comments) about the uncanny way in which Card predicted the future of information technology. The original short story was published in 1977, and the full version in 1985. In those days, we were all trying to figure out how to record the messages on our answering machines, some of us had call-waiting, and there was no internet. A few geeks at universities had access to networks and bulletin boards (raise your hands, I know you're reading this), but most of us didn't have computers (certainly not in 77) and the ones that we had were very primitive.
There are two other predictions that I found very on-target. The first is his description of video games. The games in the book are not simple escapist mind diversions. They are being used as psychological training tools. (You could argue that the same is true for modern video games.) Yes, we had video games in 85. They were either arcade games like Pac Man or simple two-demensional side-scrollers. His description of a 3rd person 3D avatar which interacts with an ever-changing environment is probably 10 years ahead of its time. He also describes the game's ability to customize itself based on characteristics of the player. Both in terms of the choices the player makes in the game, and by downloading personal demographic information about the player. We do see some of the former in video games now, but not so much of the latter. But I predict we will see more of this in the future as technology evolves, so someday you may be exploring a virtual world that looks like your neighborhood and that is populated by people you recognize. Interesting but scary.
The other prediction, and the one that has more relevance here, is related to blogs. Yes, Orson Scott Card not only predicted the existence of blogs twenty years ago, but describes them so accurately that it makes you wonder if he had access to some kind of time machine. He describes accurately the manner in which people interact today on the internet, through the use of on-screen personas which give little clue as to the true identity of the writer. He describes how the most inflammatory writing gets the most attention. He describes the interaction of bloggers in the comments sections, and how ongoing flame wars draw in more readers and boost popularity of the various sites. He describes the hypocrisy of writers espousing extreme points of view which they personally don't hold in order to capture readers and put themselves in the limelight.
I suppose none of this is necessarily new in the media. But you would think that the open nature of the internet would allow all points of view to be expressed, and yet we find that only the extremes really catch our attention. Card was on to that.
The book itself is a very well-written page turner and worth a look even if you don't care for science fiction.