Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two Books on the Games of Life





Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are two books that I read last.  While the first was sent by a friend who wanted me to read it for reasons that have not been revealed to me yet, the second came as a complimentary copy from the parents of a student.  Coincidentally both are about a world that’s quite different from the one we are used to seeing in regular literature. Both the novels have children as characters.  Both are about the game of war, so to say.

Ender’s Game tells the story of a battle school where children as young as six are enlisted and trained to fight an ominous war with an ingenious and dreadful alien force.  Ender (a corruption of Andrew) is one such six year-old boy who is seen by his trainers as the saviour of our planet.  Ender wins games by circumventing rules.  His determination to win at any cost and the brilliance of his intelligence are what will lead mankind to success in the war against the aliens.

Science fiction has never fascinated me.  The plot of Ender’s Game did not fascinate me either.  Nor the characters.  In fact, science fiction is not meant to study characters; it is meant to give us a thriller of the star wars kind.  Yet I must confess that I enjoyed the wisdom that underlies many dialogues in the novel.  For example, “Human beings are free except when humanity needs them,” “... power will always end up with the sort of people who crave it...” or “... commanders have just as much authority as you let them have.  The more you obey them, the more power they have over you.”

As a teacher, I particularly enjoyed the following: “There are two or three thousand people in the world as smart as us.... Most of them are making a living somewhere.  Teaching, the poor bastards, or doing research.  Precious few of them are actually in positions of power.”

I liked Ender’s Game for such enlightening insights into life.
 
The Hunger Games is nothing more than a thriller.  It kept me delightfully busy during my two day-train journey from Ernakulam to Delhi.  It tells the story of a future world that comes up where the present day America is.  In that country, Panem, there are 12 districts.  One boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 will be chosen by lots from each district to fight one another until only one winner remains alive.  The fight provides live entertainment (reality show) to the country.  In the capital (called the Capitol) the powerful people live in luxury while the poor people in the districts struggle for survival.  The novel can be read as a parable on the globalised world in which the poor are mere fodder for the rich.

The Hunger Games remains a parable, however.  There is no depth in it anywhere – neither in the plot nor in the characterisation.  The story takes place in a world that’s not quite ours.  We can’t identify ourselves with any of the characters.  The novel has already witnessed two sequels.  But I’m not going to read them unless another train journey sends me scouring for thrillers. 

14 comments:

  1. Nice review....

    http://debnature.blogspot.in

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  2. love the hunger games series.

    khanvibes.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Nice to see that you like the Hunger Games series. The novel failed to fascinate me that way.

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  3. Good review. I will definitely have a glance!(The hunger games)

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    Replies
    1. Best wishes with The Hunger Games. If you are fond of thrillers, you will enjoy it.

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  4. loved it!loved it!

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  5. I remember watching Hunger Games movie sometime back, but I don't think I will read these two books! :)

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    Replies
    1. A student of mine told me that the movie wasn't good at all. Perhaps, the novel is better, he said.

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  6. Mateikal,

    The reason I sent Ender's Game was to disabuse of the notion that science fiction is fiction. Take Jules Verne; in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Nautilus setting is no fiction, but power games under the sea and above it too. Take any book of H G Wells, it is all about politics; for example, "The Invisble Man". Take Issac Asimov's Gods Themselves, his Foundation series, or Arthur C Clarke's 2001: A Space Odysee; Stanley Kubric's opening scene of the movie is enough for a dozen (an underestimate) Ph. D theses! Douglas Adams's stories. In each one of them, quotes or scenes of the calibre you have menioned are galore. For example, in the "Restaurant at the End of Universe" Doug Adams has a bull waiting as a server in the restaurant asks the protagonist what cut of himself (the bull's) meat he wants. This is almost exactly what sea food restaurant goers do when they point to a lobster in the tank and say, "I want him!" I am not making these up. Science fiction is NOT fiction. It is a commentary, as you yourself attest by quoting some statements from Ender's Game. By the way, I did not see Ender as a corruption of Andrew. Also, the basis of the story, written in the mid 1980s, is a criticism of family size control as is the case in China. The story reiterates the Universaity of life. The buggers are life too, fter all and Ender realizes it after killing them all.

    RE

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    1. Raghuram,

      I don't enjoy reading science fiction. My explanation is as simple as that. I live in a world where my survival is at stake at every moment because of silly "surds" (the meaning of which may become clear if you read my most recent post). These surds and their likes are not found in any science fiction I have read including the ones you've mentioned. I like plain literature for the simple reason that it helps me deal with my life which is always a struggle, a struggle with idiots.

      I was reading Ender's Game in school and a colleague of mine was amazed to see the underlining made in the book. I must admire (like my colleague) the patience with which you read books.

      The corruption of Andrew in to Ender is given in the novel - it's not my invention. Ender's sister called him that name because she couldn't pronounce Andrew...!

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  7. There was no need for an explanation. As you reach a big audience through your posts, I used the comment space to give my take on what science fiction is not. It is neither science nor fiction.

    I obviously missed that Andrew-Ender corruption. Maybe Ender, signifying the last child of the parents, took hold of my mind to the exclusion of everything else.

    RE

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