Ender’s Game Alive: A new way to experience Ender’s Game

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsEnder’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card science fiction audiobook reviewsEnder’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card

This review assumes you have read Ender’s Game, or are familiar with it, so it may contain some spoilers for Ender’s Game.

Before becoming one of the of most accomplished science fiction authors of his generation, Orson Scott Card worked as a writer of full-length plays for BYU, where he studied. He also wrote audioplays on LDS Church history. It follows from his experience then, that when Orson Scott Card set his sights on adapting his hit novel Ender’s Game into Ender’s Game Alive, a full-cast audioplay, the result could be nothing less than that classic novel deserves.

If you’ve read the novel you know how it goes. Ender is the third child in a time where a couple is only allowed to have two children. Supposed to have the same geniality his brother and sister have, but lacking Peter’s brutal ruthlessness or Valentine’s debilitating empathy, Ender is the International Fleet’s last bet to defeat the Formics in the coming interstellar war that will decide once and for all which species will continue to exist. If you’ve read the novel, you know which does.

Ender’s Game Alive‘s strength lies in that it isn’t a direct translation of the novel, where the words written decades ago are now read by taciturn actors. Instead, the audioplay is a full adaptation that takes advantage of the strengths of the medium, making good use of a full cast of thirty trained voice actors capable of setting the emotional tone in each scene.

Away goes the narrator, whose expository function isn’t well suited in this context, and instead new scenes are added where Coronel Graff and Jayadi, a Battle School psychologist, provide a previously unseen insight into what those inside the International Fleet were thinking as Ender progressed through his training.

Ender’s Game Alive is able to make use of the expanded universe that Card has been building around Ender’s Game ever since the novel was first released in 1985. We get to see the moment when Coronel Graff tells Joan Paul and Theresa Wiggin that they have been granted a special leave by the International Fleet to have a third son, provided that they agree that the International Fleet may take him away to Battle School if they deem him worthy.

Light is also shed into Bean’s origins, and what the International Fleet’s plans for him were during the events of the novel, something that is explored in Ender’s Shadow, the first book of THE SHADOW SAGA, a series featuring Bean. It is also mentioned how the mining crews of the Kuiper belt were the first to make contact with the Formic ship responsible for the First Formic War, and the origins of the Molecular Disintegration Device, or Little Doctor, in the labs of Jukes Limited — events which are told in the newest series Card has co-authored with Aaron Johnston, starting with Earth Unaware.

Missing from the audioplay is the development of the subplot featuring Peter and Valentine as Locke and Demosthenes; few of the scenes feature the interactions between the two Earth-stranded siblings as they influence the world’s discourse.

Also worthy of praise are the production values that permeate the entire play. Not only are all the voice actors great, but there are also a good amount of sound effects that create the ambiance that makes us believe that yes, the Battle School is real, and Ender and Coronel Graff are real people trying to save mankind from extinction. When Ender and Shen mesh their bodies together in the Battle Room to change positions in mid air, the sound of Shen’s voice floating away and of Ender’s spinning around is so well done that is as if you are right there with them, a part of Ender’s Jeesh.

All in all, Ender’s Game Alive will obviously satisfy those who have gone on to read the other novels Orson Scott Card wrote in the same universe; the added scenes guarantee that. More importantly however, it will satisfy those looking for a new book to listen to, even if they have only passing knowledge of the novel they read when they were young.

Perhaps those who have yet to the read Ender’s Game should stay away from Ender’s Game Alive, as part of the enjoyment of listening to the audioplay is in seeing what was happening on the other side of the window. Just as in movies, it is near impossible to convey the state of mind of a character in a play, and much of what makes Ender’s Game the lasting novel that it has become is being able to have a look inside Ender’s thinking processes as he learns the ins and outs of Battle School, and beyond. To those who have read the novel however, it’s a worthwhile experience.

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JOÃO EIRA, one of our guests, is a student at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, one of the oldest universities in the world, where he studies Physics and Economics. Having spent his formative years living in the lush vistas of Middle Earth and the barren nothingness in a galaxy far far away, he has grown to love filling his decreasing empty bookshelf space with fantasy and science fiction books. For him a book’s utmost priority should be the story it is trying to tell, though he can forgive some mistakes if its characters are purposeful and the worldbuilding imaginative. A book with no story can have no redeeming quality though. João probably spends more time fantasizing about books than doing productive things.

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