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Being special and different is the mainstay of many classic science fiction stories, from More Than Human to The Chrysalids and Flowers For Algernon. They all revolve around a compelling situation; a special person or small group of people that have an ability or physical attribute that makes them feel alone, separated from the rest of humanity. Their ‘specialness’ makes them a subject of ridicule or fear or plain incomprehension. These protagonists are often children, wishing to belong and to be understood but, instead, are abandoned or even hunted down. In some of the stories, there is a further twist. What if the special ability, the freakishness that these youngsters possess was needed by humanity? Would they help the ordinary masses that treat them so badly?
This is the core issue of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. It is about a young boy called Ender, a brilliant but lonely child. His elder brother is a ruthless manipulator and it is only with his sister that Ender can share love, understanding and support. Even this comfort is taken away when he is asked by the military to attend an elite academy out in space. Humanity is threatened by a hostile alien race and Ender is needed to fight those aliens. He travels to the academy and enters a harsh environment where his abilities only create more resentment, envy and hostility. Tested by the authorities and his fellow cadets to the point of destruction, Ender must not only stay alive, but dig deep within himself to unlock the secret of defeating the aliens and thereby, save humanity. Will he make himself a monster, a ruthless warrior for the sake of the people that excluded and feared him?
To find that out, you’ll have to read the book. :)