Although the novel is set in the future and filled with spaceships, aliens, and war games, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game cannot be mistaken for any ordinary science fiction novel. Ender's Game is the story of Ender Wiggin, a child genius chosen to save the world. The military needs a brilliant commander to fight buggers, alien enemies who have previously come close to wiping out humanity. Before he can face the enemy, however, Ender must make it through Battle School, where he learns that hatred is not reserved for the buggers alone. Battle School is where the best and brightest are trained to be military commanders through participation in intricate war games. Card's writing allows the frenzied feel of the games to permeate the book, and Ender's trials accelerate as time begins to run out for humanity. Because Ender is the most brilliant military mind that Battle School has ever seen, his success earns him the resentment of most of his peers. He has only himself to rely on, although his small core of loyal friends is there for him in more ways than Ender knows.
By placing the fate of the world in the hands of a child, Card challenges traditional assumptions both about children and war. Ender may be small, but he thinks, feels, and acts like an adult, and an exceptional one at that. Ender's Game suggests that both compassion and ruthlessness are necessary features in a leader, and much of the story is the interaction between these two features of Ender's personality. A child, convinced that he is alone in the universe, holds the fate of a planet in his hands. There are adults actively involved in every step of Ender's training, and they view their manipulation of him (and the other children) as an unavoidable evil. Ironically, sometimes the children are the manipulators and sometimes they are manipulated. Card never lets us forget the keen insight and understanding of human nature that children have, nor does he miss their inherent fragility. Ender, although sometimes superhuman in ability, does not cease to be a child. Card's characters, regardless of their age or intelligence, are human in their needs and desires. Jealousy, pride, hatred, loyalty, and friendship are integral parts of the human condition, but in Ender's Game the stakes are at once both the humanity of the individual and the survival of the species.