Ender’s Game

Here’s an interesting review that I found on Amazon from the author of Ender’s Game.

770 of 807 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars The Author Says a Few Words About Style, September 7, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Ender’s Game (Paperback)

First, I’m embarrassed, as the author, that I have to give a rating in “stars” in order to comment here. But since I do have to do so, I’m not about to bring down the average by rating my own book any less than five <grin>.

For those who didn’t believe the storyline, I can’t offer much help. It IS fiction, but people have different levels of tolerance for extravagant variations from their experience in everyday life. As Johnny Carson used to say, “Buy the premise, buy the bit.”

For those who have commented that the reason the book is awful is because I don’t describe, or my language is so very direct and plain, I must point out that there are several stylistic traditions available to a writer. I, for one, have little patience with writers who show off and try to dazzle readers with their language. The style I choose to use has been called “The American Plain Style,” in which the author tries to become as invisible as possible, bringing the reader to see things as if experiencing them along with the character, instead of having a writer constantly commenting and interrupting the flow of the story. Moreover, ever since my days as a playwright I have preferred the bare stage to a realistic set: I found that the less I put on the stage, the more the audience would imagine a much more compelling set than I could ever build. Likewise, in my fiction I describe only as much as is asbsolutely necessary in order to understand what is going on; the rest, the readers create in their own imagination, if they’re willing to use it. I try never to describe anything that the point-of-view character would not notice, because such extraneous descriptions take you out of the story. However, when I find it necessary I do describe, and when it is useful (especially at moments of denouement or release) I use more evocative language; some of my story endings (though not Ender’s Game) are written as blank verse, though of course I run the lines together so as not to distract the reader. I am also constantly aware of the sound and rhythm of the language, so that it flows and remains pronounceable, since at an unconscious level readers all “read aloud” even if their lips don’t move – the written word is inexorably tied to the spoken.

In short, there are many aspects to style, and while those who complain about the style of Ender’s Game are entitled to their preferences, it’s rather parochial to condemn a book because the author is following a stylistic tradition with which they are unfamiliar. Of course, they are hardly to be blamed for this, since so many literature teachers in American colleges and universities teach as if there were only one way to write well, and one kind of story worth telling.

Of course, those who approached Ender’s Game skeptically or because they were “forced” to read it can hardly imagine their response is valid for those who read it as volunteers or with belief: No book, however good, can survive a hostile reading.

In the end, a storyteller tells the tale that he believes in and cares about, and the natural audience consists of those readers who are also willing to believe in and care about that tale. Naturally, I would like to engage as many readers as possible with each story I write; just as naturally, every story ever written pleases some and offends others. I do think, though, that it is possible to detest a book without attacking people who loved it, and I do wish that those who disliked Ender’s Game would not personally disparage the readers for whom the story had some particular importance. Such judgments as “best I ever read” or “complete waste of time” are so utterly subjective that in my opinion, at least, one should only report one’s own response, not condemn others for having a different one.

I thank those of you who have given your hearts to my story of Ender Wiggin; I also thank those who, while you did not like the book, wrote your negative views with dignity and with reasonable respect for others – including, I might add, the author, who, while he might have written a bad book, did not thereby commit a crime or unnatural act. <grin> If America can forgive Bill Clinton, surely there’s room for a bit of forgiveness for the imperfections of a few bad writers now and then.

– Orson Scott Card

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