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E19 | Books | Ender's Game, Book Breakdown

The Ender's Game books occupy a spot within both of our top 2 books, so we are thoroughly excited to cover this topic! With several passes through the novel under each of our belts we hope you enjoyed preparing for this episode as much as we did! We are looking forward to sharing our drinks and minds with you on this Book Breakdown.


What's on our Flight (01:47)

  • Dalton’s drinking: Templeton Rye. A 95% rye mash whiskey. This whiskey was featured in our whiskey episode and is known for being an excellent first rye. Pretty much the exact taste and spice you expect, and at a great price! There is always a bottle of Templeton Rye on my shelf, so this one gets 4 Cheers!

  • Nelson's drinking: Abby's Amber Ale from Double Barrel Brewing in Smithfield, NC. This medium body amber ale chose a hop profile that plays down the malt of many ambers for a crisper, hoppy style, reminiscent of an IPA. Refreshing at 6% ABV and 17 SRM, this came in at 2 Cheers for Nelson, mostly for being out of his style.


What's On Our Minds (06:33)

We managed to get in quite a bit of reading these last weeks, despite our preparation for the topic!


  • The Unwanteds Series by Lisa McMann, books 1 through 4. This series came from a recommendation from Eric Lang and is advertised as "Hunger Games meets Harry Potter" right on the cover. Imagine a soft-magic school filled with children rejected from a dystopian, totalitarian society. 7-10 hours in length, it felt similar to the Pendragon series as a young protagonist is forced to take on responsibilities far beyond his years. Despite some critical/literary errors from an inexperienced author, this series is very enjoyable as a "popcorn" novel.

  • Sword of Destiny (Witcher Series book 2) by Andrzej Sapkowski. This set of short stories acts as another prequel to the rest of the Witcher novels, continuing to develop the character of Geralt of Rivea and introducing Ciri as a main character. I am now ready to step in to the main storylines of the series and excited to see what it holds!


  • Finished Raven Rise and Soldiers of Hala from the Pendragon series by D. J. MacHale. These last two novels blend together seamlessly as the conclusion of this 10 book series. The resolution of the series is extremely well thought-through and satisfying, a truly worthy ending to the saga.

  • On top of reviewing Ender's Game in preparation for the episode, Nelson also finished Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card (he's a real book nerd). We mention this book throughout the episode and highly recommend checking it out if you enjoyed reading Ender's Game!

  • Brisingr from The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. The third book of the 4 part series, Nelson loves the exploration of the magic system developed in this novel. The limitations set by the author create a sort of "magical chess game" as the wielders of power seek to destroy each other without draining their own life force.


The icebreaker question for this episode was submitted by Kim! (18:11)

What story do you want to see told from the perspective of another character (similar to Bean in Ender's Game)?

  • Nelson: Voldemort from Harry Potter. It would be so interesting to hear the perspective from the villain, especially on a story we all know so well.

  • Dalton: Sevro from Red Rising. A series we have not talked about recently, this character would offer such a twisted and interesting perspective on the story, especially since only the perspective of the main character, Darro, is told in the books.

Kim, thank you so much for the question! If you are looking for us to answer a question, submit your question here.


Discussion starts at 33:09 in the episode

This series appears within the top 2 books on each of our favorites! With this episode we are again allowing ourselves one "Rabbit Hole" each, so you will hear us take advantage of that in the episode. Listen for the key terms and topics discussed in our previous book episodes!

Magic System

We often think of magic in the fantasy sense, as some supernatural force employed by the characters of the story to influence the world around them. Sci-Fi novels create the same effect in the story using technology. Ender's Game is an excellent example of a hard technology system (for a refresher on magic systems, see our show notes from episode 4). Technology functions as an extended physics system in the novels, using a couple of rules changes to power the story. There are two key logic leaps employed in Ender's Game:

  1. Humans and Buggers have technology to control and manipulate gravity

  2. Instantaneous communication is possible

Nelson focused his Rabbit Hole (Discussion at 47:33) on the function and use of the Ansible, the machine which powers instantaneous communication for humans. This device was created during after the First Formic War once humanity realized it was possible. It utilizes a made-up subatomic particle, the "Philote."A philote is the most basic building block of matter, having only location, duration, and connection. Using a concept similar to quantum entanglement, philotes create a web of connections that the Ansible takes advantage of to transmute data.

If you feel like you need a degree in quantum physics to understand these concepts, do not worry! First off, so did we. Second, it is all made up and not actually important to the main story. These concepts are explored more in the further works in the Enderverse. So long as you accept that humans can communicate instantaneously, you can understand how important it is to the novel as it creates the opportunity for Ender to command humanity's last fleet in the Third Formic War.

Narration Style

Ender's Game is told from the third person limited, mostly from Ender's perspective (his name is in the book title, after all). Valentine and Bean also have sections dedicated to them, plus Card switches to a strict dialog to capture the perspectives of instructors that cannot be told from Ender's point of view. The connection between the reader and Ender is critical to the success of the story. The reader identifies with Ender's struggles between empathy and cruelty and is powerfully connected to the emotions and experiences Ender goes through.

Heroes and Villains

Heroes in Ender's Game are namely those who exhibit empathy. Besides Ender as the obvious hero, Valentine is meant to portray the extreme extend of empathy. She is rejected from Battle School for this very reason and is personifies empathy itself in Ender's mind. Bean, along with the other members of Ender's "Jeesh" (a term coined in Ender's Shadow), play small heroic roles but are primarily portrayed as protagonists, not necessarily heroes, within the context of this first book. Ender himself is only allowed to fully practice the empathy he desires once his role as commander is set aside and he begins making decisions for himself in the falling action

Villains within the story are primarily those that exhibit ruthlessness. Ender's brother Peter personifies this trait just as Valentine personifies empathy. His extreme ruthlessness crushes those who oppose him, no matter the cost to them. No one matters so long as Peter's power grows and throughout the novel Ender struggles with the idea that this same trait is present within him. The adults in the novel play an interesting antagonist, often willing to make sacrifices of others (a key trait in ruthlessness) for the preservation of humanity. Similarly, the Buggers are a cruel, monstrous sort of villain for the majority of the novel, only revealing the depth of their empathy in the final chapters. I focused my Rabbit Hole on the Buggers (Discussion at 1:08:31) who are further explored in the later books.

Most of what we know about the Buggers comes from the Ender Series as he caries the hive queen he met on Shakespeare to a planet where a third alien species lives. The hive queen shares a telepathic connection with Ender, giving us insight to her mood and personality. The Buggers are impatient, nosey, and invasive. There is no privacy in Bugger culture with all hive queens sharing philotic connections. Their culture is built on the collective cooperation of the hive queens. They are masters of bioengineering, creating bugs specialized for manual tasks such as mining and construction. However the depth of their empathy is shown in their sorrow and regret over the deaths of the humans in the First and Second Formic Wars. They have always assumed that life without philotic connection (therefore, a life form they are incapable of communicating with) is unintelligent and can be eliminated for their own growth.

Story Arc

Ender's Game establishes key relationships with Peter and Valentine in the exposition. The themes of empathy and ruthlessness are established immediately and the connection with Ender begins to grow as we see him outcast from the groups in his life. The rising action is packed with information, each chapter moving quickly to grow the characters and move through points of tension. The climax is surprising, coming relatively early in the book to support the illusion to the reader that the battle at Command School is not the final battle in the book. The falling action compensates by being relatively long, while still remaining satisfying. Ender gets to fulfill his desired role as an empathetic leader, developing the concept of Speaker for the Dead and growing to know the hive queen intimately. He even reaches reconciliation with Peter, a metaphor for the resolution and self-actualization he is experiencing in himself.

If you find you are wanting to read further in the Enderverse, the absolute must read of the 18 books to-date is Ender's Shadow. The book is a parallel storyline told from Bean's perspective, a character you will grow to love as his story is told. We cannot recommend this sequel highly enough! After that, there are three main stories told in the stories following Ender's Game:

  1. The Ender Series, first book Speaker for the Dead, which follows Ender as he travels with the hive queen of Shakespeare to a planet containing a new alien species. This series contains the softest technology of the series, pushing the boundary of established physics. If you enjoy philosophical Sci-Fi, this is a series worth checking out but we do not recommend it if that would be a stretch for you.

  2. The Shadow Saga, first book (after Ender's Shadow) Shadow of the Hegemon, which follows Bean and the other students of Ender's Jeesh after leaving Battle School, along with Ender's brother Peter, as they fight to bring peace to the nations of Earth. This book contains much of the military and political strategy that was enjoyable in Ender's Game, but still falls short of the quality of Ender's Game and Shadow.

  3. The Formic Wars, first book Earth Unaware is a set of two trilogies following the First and Second Formic Wars, one trilogy for each. These trilogies will feel familiar to Ender's Game due to several "Ender-Like" characters which saturate the novel. Mazer Rackham plays a major role in these novels, which is very fun to explore and experience. The books are still comparatively weak to our favorite two, however, not really worth checking out unless you have nothing else to read and it is free.

Thank you for listening through this analysis of one of our favorite books! We thoroughly enjoyed the preparation and execution of this episode, we hope you enjoyed listening to it!


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