Orson Scott Card
An award winning book (both Hugo and Nebula awards) Ender’s Game recounts the story of the early life of Ender in a science fictionalized world where we (the humans) are continually preparing for a repeat of two previous wars fought against “the buggers”. Not your typical sci-fi prep for battle saga, Ender’s Game has a big twist-- Ender has been inducted into the military training process at the appropriate age for the book’s society- when he was six years old.
All the students at the battle academy are children. Society has changed. Population is limited to two children. Families that find themselves expecting a third have an option; terminate or sign a contract that in essence gives the military first right of refusal. These children are referred to derisively as “thirds”, and Ender is a third.
But it isn’t just the thirds that get shuttled off to the battle academy, both Ender’s older brother and sister were “tested” (via implants) but found lacking. Put down as a third, even within his own family (his sister being his only true confidant), Ender has both little to lose, and yet everything to a six year old, by saying yes to the offer when it arrives.
Ender arrives and shines. You don’t feel sorry for this little guy, I found myself grinning and cheering his creativity and pluck without being an over the top psycho. But Ender (and this strange world where children are inducted and prepped for war) isn’t the whole story. The characters surrounding him are also written in a rich and engaging fashion. Even after literally leaving Earth, Ender’s sister and brother remain in the book, building a parallel storyline almost worthy of its own book.
This is a great story that is both fast paced and yet with depth, a tough balance to find. Ender survives and thrives on his wits alone with lessons applicable even to those of us who don’t live in a science fictional universe.