‘Ender’s Game’ latest pick on library’s list

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Mary Stein knew this year’s reading choice for “One Book One Community” might disappoint some people. But “Ender’s Game,” she insists, isn’t just brain candy.

“For those who say, ‘Oh, I don’t read science fiction, I don’t like shoot-’em-ups in space,’ this is not a book about shooting them up in space,” says Stein, assistant director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. “It’s really a book about society and how … governing society makes very hard choices.

“You can read this book as deeply as you wish.”

“Ender’s Game,” written in 1985 by Orson Scott Card, is only the second sci-fi novel chosen since “One Book One Community” — a request that everyone in the area read the same book — began in 2007. The first book was “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s beloved 1960 work about prejudice set in Depression-era Alabama. The next year, the choice was “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel about a future society that bans all books. That is the only science fiction work among the first 10 books chosen for the program, which included spring and summer selections in 2010 through 2012 and may again this year.

“Ender’s Game” is part of a series of books by Card, and is about a future world in which Earth faces a series of wars with insect-like aliens. In preparation for a third such battle, Earth’s governments recruit children with tactical ability for training in space combat. Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is a particularly quick study.

It’s not that far-fetched a concept, Stein notes. Child warriors are commonplace in many Third World conflicts, and the computer games — including sophisticated war games — played by children in the affluent world gives them skills that translate into high-tech combat.

“The pilots they are training, whether to fly the robot drones or real planes, they’re coming from this kind of technology,” she says. “They’ve been playing these games since they were kids. We like to say they’re hardwired for that, but in ‘Ender’s Game,’ the government is just taking advantage of that.

“It’s a very powerful book. … What will we sacrifice to save the world, because we sacrifice our childhood? It’s a really good book.”