[ Book Review ] There’s Christmas in Battle School Too

A War of Gifts, an Ender Story by Orson Scott Card

I received A War of Gifts in the mail a couple days ago, just in time for the Holidays, and finished it in under an hour last night. Though this book is sometimes called the tenth novel in the Ender universe (I’m looking at you, wikipedia), it’s best viewed as a short novella.

In 126  small, wide-margin pages, it tells the story of Zeck, an abused minister’s son, Dink, later one of the eleven children who command the counteroffensive against the aliens, and Flip, a Dutch boy who is homesick for something familiar. When Dink makes an impulsive gift to Flip for Sinterklaas Day, that small act sets off a chain reaction of rebellion, kindness, resentment, and religious tension through the school.

The story will be a treat for long-time Card readers. The book is filled with Easter eggs, and fans will be making connections left and right–here is the Rat Army, there is Dink remembering an off-hand commend he made to Ender, and here are the seeds being sown for the Muslim Caliphate from the Shadow series. We see Colonel Graff as he deals with the children and get a glimpse of a pre-Christmas crisis in the Wiggins household on Earth.

While the religious and moral Message (capital M here, please) part of the novella jarred me, the story wraps up with a lovely bit of bittersweet feel-goodness. It also puts the Shadow series books solidly back on my to-read list.

I have questions now: Were Peter’s parents truly aware of how much of a psychopath their older son was? Was the harsh treatment of Peter by his mother really part of the family dynamic? Does Orson Scott Card deal less superficially with religious issues when he has the elbow room of a novel-length piece?

I want to read more Card now, and that is the perfect Christmas present.

Complementary copy received
courtesy of GoodReads and TOR.


Related Reads:

[ Small Chirp ] Ender Wiggin Finally Cast

When they first announced they were going to adapt Ender’s Game into a movie, I was in high school and just finishing the book for the first time. Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece of science fiction* was the first book to truly blow my mind—and as such, I was not at all excited to see it transferred to the big screen.

That’s right. Not excited. And for one simple reason: who the hell could star as Ender Wiggin?

Ender is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. He is deeply introspective, wicked smart, and has such vast character growth throughout the novel that it is impossible not to become irreversibly connected with him.

Oh, and he’s only 8 years old.

Eight years old! What the hell kind of child star could ever pull off such gravitas—especially for the twist to end all twists at the end of the novel? At the time when the film was first announced in 2003, I remember Haley Joel Osment’s name being bandied about to star. But absolutely none of my high school friends (read: super duper nerds and Card elitists) thought that Osment—or any kid—could ever actually play Ender.

Seven years later, I assumed that the movie idea was totally dead in the water. Imagine my surprise when I got a text from one of my friends saying that Ender has finally been cast. But the surprise was quickly followed by dread. If there wasn’t a child star in 2003 that I could name who could play Ender, then there certainly wasn’t one in 2011 that I could think of…except… Continue reading