In the book, humanity has survived two invasions by aliens, the "buggers*." Mankind survived the last time through the genius of a mysterious admiral named Mazer Rackham. But Earth might not be so lucky this time. The International Fleet has been trying to find the next Mazer Rackham to stave off extinction before the Third (and probably final) Invasion takes place.
*How did that name go over with British audiences?
Ender is the newest boy in a line of many who have been chosen from a young age to become commander of the fleet. If he can survive sibling rivalry, the rigors of training, his dangerous peers, and the intense demands of his officers, Ender will be put in command of the International Fleet.
Then he'll have to survive the battle against the buggers. Because if he falls, all of humanity falls with him.
This book is a perfect example of how genre fiction can be serious literature. Ender's Game reminded me of 1984 (George Orwell) in its depiction of totalitarian minds and world domination. It also ranks alongside Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein) as superior science fiction.
The humans vs. bugs storyline, and the examination of the military mind, further remind me of Starship Troopers. Both books focus on humanity's need to expand and conquer - and what happens when mankind comes into contact with rival species.
Like 1984, I occasionally had to put Ender's Game down because the insights into human nature were so incisive and condemnatory.
The characterization in Ender's Game is the strongest part of the book. The characterization really drives the narrative, which would be far less interesting without empathetic characters (because most of the book is spent in training). Ender is a deep and involved character, and setting him in a believable science fiction world creates a compelling story.
If I read the book again, it will be for the characterization, and for Card's insight into the human condition.
Blog Post Easter Egg: Another Look at NPR's List
I've read the following books from the list:
#1 The Lord of the Rings
#2 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
#3 Ender's Game
#7 Fahrenheit 451
#11 The Princes Bride
#13 Animal Farm
#31 Starship Troopers
#32 Watership Down
#40 The Amber Chronicles (only the first book)
#46 The Silmarillion
#60 Going Postal
#67 The Sword of Shannara Series (The Sword of Shannara and First King of Shannara)
#70 The Time Traveler's Wife
Noticeably lacking from that list is The Chronicles of Narnia.