Friday, August 27, 2010

Phillip Pullman: The Amber Spyglass

Where is Lyra? Having escaped the long arm of the Magisterium in "The Golden Compass" and met with the boy Will in "The Subtle Knife," Lyra is suddenly missing. She had been snatched from the cave where she hid, kidnapped by her own mother Mrs. Coulter. Yet Mrs. Coulter no longer acts as a servant of the Magisterium, nor as head of the General Oblation Board. She acts alone, having killed her Magisterial companions. Thus begins "The Amber Spyglass," the third entry of Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

Through the first section of the novel, Lyra fades in and out of consciousness, drugged by her mother and dreaming of her best friend who had been killed by her father at the end of the first novel. A fine Hamlet-esque drama, this! We soon learn that Mrs. Coulter is merely trying to keep her daughter in hiding, away from the epicenter of a war prophesied to define her. Fortunately for the story, they are soon discovered. After all, hiding in a cave doesn’t make for a compelling plot.

Lyra awakes, and informs Will that she has lighted upon a quest: to travel to the underworld and cut a hole through it, to let the dead souls escape to a peaceful eternal union with the Dust. (The atheist Pullman sounds suspiciously like a Buddhist here….) But the Magisterium has a secret weapon: a bomb that they can target Lyra even while she's in another world. Fortunately, Lyra is warned by a rather obvious deus ex machina immediately before the explosion, and she manages to escape the blast... but not before it tears a hole in the fabric of space, a pit beneath the foundations of hell.

Will and Lyra escape to join Lord Asriel's forces on the eve of the battle. God's regent Metatron has directed the "Clouded Mountain" (the city of Zion, re-imagined as a cosmic tank) towards their location, and the battle between the forces of good and evil is joined. Lyra and Will sneak onto the Mountain, bent on killing the Authority with Will's subtle knife. They are surprised to find their quarry is but a feeble spirit, kept alive within a crystal prison. Will takes his blade and cuts off the shackles, a mercy killing for a senile God. Meanwhile, Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter find common cause in their hatred for Metatron, and join together to drag him down into that great abyss beneath the worlds. God is dead, his Voice is damned, and the Church is powerless. Whee.

Inexplicably, the saga continues, as though Pullman were remiss to let his novel end of its own accord. Having mined for inspiration from other fantasy works, Pullman borrows from the Lord of the Rings films: this saga refuses to bow out gracefully, and nearly collapses under the weight of its marathon-like ending.

So Lyra and Will run off to meet Mary, whose promised role as “the Tempter” has been a severe letdown. For the entirety of the novel, she has been stranded in the world of the Mulefa, strange elephantine creatures who ride herbaceous bicycles. Thus far, Mary had picked up the language and -- perhaps out of sheer boredom -- built the eponymous 'amber spyglass,' which enabled her to see the Dust and track its movements. When Lyra and Will finally show up, she tells them the story of how she met her first love and lost her faith in God (atheism is so romantic). Mary’s story sets Lyra’s heart aflutter, while a shared piece of marzipan sets Lyra's eyelashes aflutter, mostly in the direction of Will. Thus the children fall in love in this paradise, share their first kiss, and change the fabric of the universe. Yeah, that sounds about right. The kiss (signifying Lyra's entry into adulthood) is Pullman’s idea of “original sin,” a deed which alters their interaction with the Dust.

Alas, Pullman isn’t content merely to turn this fantasy epic into a romance; no, he must make it a tragic romance. Mary’s amber spyglass lets her see that the Dust is dying, escaping through the windows between worlds that the subtle knife had created. Will must close all these windows, and each must return to their own universe. Many tears are shed, but such is fate. The novel closes with a single image: Lyra sitting on a bench in her Oxford at a prearranged time each day, knowing that her true love Will sits in another universe on the same bench beside her.

This novel drove me nuts. It’s loud, it’s long, and it has no sense of its own genre. More broadly, Pullman obviously has the imagination for a fantasy epic, but lacks the narrative prowess to put his gift to good use. After the grotesque imaginative failure of the second book, he creates a spectacularly original world of the Mulefa, a paradise in which he places his Tempter, Mary Malone. Is there a more promising set-up for Mary’s story? But if the wind-up was inspired, the pitch is wild. He does nothing with the world until after the primary story is over. The secondary story that ends the novel is almost unutterably lame, both from a theological perspective but more decidedly from a literary perspective. A traditional tragic romance places the “falling in love” at the beginning, prefiguring the final tragic separation. If it were a romantic comedy, Pullman could be forgiven for placing their first kiss at the end, but it isn’t a comedy. Pullman is trying to compress a story like Tristan und Isolde into these few final chapters, and it simply does not work. The final image is perhaps the only thing about the novel (certainly about the ending) that actually works. It is a powerful image, of lovers separated by entire dimensions yet still finding consolation in each other’s presence. It rises to the level of the great tragic romances, and if Wagner had depicted it, it should not have been out of place.

There isn’t much else to say that hasn’t been said in previous reviews or implied in the summary above. The tone is at times almost unbearably preachy, as though Pullman cannot help himself but criticize Christianity every other page. His beef isn’t with God; it’s with those who act in His name. Pullman’s vision of God is a cripple, a withered face with hollow eyes, for whom assisted suicide is a more appropriate response than veneration. The villain is Metatron (the traditional name for God’s chief spokesman, the “voice of God”) and the Magisterium that represents the Church. Pullman sees Christian faith as something antithetical to goodness, grounded in hatred for the reality of the world (signified by the Magisterium's loathing for Dust), for childlike innocence (signified by their attempts to cut children away from their daemons), and even for love itself (signified by their attempts to prevent Lyra's “original sin”).

And yet, try as he might, Pullman cannot hide the fact that he is wordsmith, a mechanic and artist whose canvas is language. There are beautiful images, stunning for their simplicity and innocence, buried beneath the sediments of his philosophy. The fundamental image of the story – the interaction of creatures and their souls – reverberates throughout the tale, and there is great virtue in this image, particularly in reflecting that divine word: “It is not good for man to be alone.” The redeeming image of the story – the final glimpse of Lyra sitting alone yet near her love all the same – makes its presence felt long after the novel is closed; it is a worthy end for an epic romance. These remain despite the flaws, and for that reason alone I would recommend this series to others.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rick Riordan: The Lightning Thief

I first learned about Rick Riordan's series "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" thanks to the movie adaptation that was billed as the next big fantasy franchise when it was released earlier this year. I would review the movie first, but the movie sucked. Or rather, to take a quote attributed to Samuel Johnson, the film "was both good and original; but what was good was not original, and what was original was not good." The film had moments of clarity and wit that truly astonished me, but those moments were clearly derived from the novel.

"The Lightning Thief" is one of the more remarkable books (and the beginning of one of the more remarkable series) that I've encountered for a while. In my review of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" I made mention of that film's inventiveness, the unrelenting wave of images and impressions brought together. That trait is also present in the book, and even if it is not so overpowering, there is a fluidity and wit to the writing that makes this a truly compelling read.

This novel introduces us to Percy Jackson, a troubled teen with learning disabilities and daddy issues, who discovers that he is in fact a demigod, the son of Poseidon himself. His best friend Grover (a satyr) and his history teacher (the centaur Chiron) bring Percy to Camp Half-Blood, where he meets a legion of other demigods, including that lovely yet unattainable Annabeth, daughter of Athena. But with the prospect looming of a war among Olympians, Percy is sent on a quest to the Underworld to retrieve his mother and find the location of the bolt from Hades. Along the way, he battles Furies and Gorgons and gods (oh my!) and discovers a secret that could threaten the halls of Olympus itself.

Melodramatics aside, this was one of the most enjoyable reads I've had all summer. Since I was young I devoured ancient and classical mythologies -- Greek was always my favorite, though Norse came in a close second. The author clearly came from a similar background, since the number of references and inside jokes in this novel could stun the Erymanthian Boar in its tracks.

That isn't to say that this book doesn't have its weaknesses. There are occasions when the author tries too hard to be clever, to impress his young adult audience, and comes out sounding rather juvenile himself. I am quite familiar with the danger, having written a novel myself when I was 13, so I was able to forgive him for the occasional display of narrative immaturity.

Moreover, I think the audience and form were well suited for the story that needed telling. If this had been fiction written for adults, there would necessarily be several changes: an increased attention to the atmosphere, a greater development of the characters, and significantly less emphasis on clever juxtapositions. By writing it for a younger audience, Riordan forced himself to write with more brevity, continually move the plot forward, and let the imagination of the audience fill in whatever gaps that remain. Riordan is a master of this form as he also maintains a remarkably diverse vocabulary throughout the work, and is able to establish definite moods for each location with minimal fuss.

The central image, the great conceit of this story is the transposition of Mount Olympus to the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. But with that image comes an entire history, as Chiron explains to Percy: "The gods move with the heart of the West.... [Western Civilization] is a living force, a collective consciousness that has burned bright for thousands of years.... [When Rome fell,] the gods moved, to Germany, to France, to Spain, for a while. Wherever the flame was brightest, the gods were there. They spent several centuries in England. All you need to do is look at the architecture. People do not forget the gods." This statement does more than merely explain the narrative conceit. It presents, it personifies, it recasts this abstraction called "tradition" as a living thing, a hearth moving through the nations of history. It is a powerful image, and one that will last far longer in my mind than other, far more "adult" works of literature.

"The Lightning Thief" is an excellent novel, made all the more impressive for its brevity. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the gods, or with a taste in good literature.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Shutter Island" (2010)

“Is it better to live a monster, or to die a good man?” With these words, Leonardo Dicaprio ends “Shutter Island” on a profoundly ambiguous note. Like one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from our childhood, several scripts have been written, but we as the audience are given the choice between them. Since revealing details of the film seems to me the only way to effectively explore that ambiguity, I am issuing a severe spoiler alert for the states of Kansas, Nebraska, and parts of Missouri. You have been warned.

Leonardo Dicaprio is introduced as Teddy, a federal Marshal traveling by ferry to Shutter Island, an asylum for the most dangerous of the criminally insane. He is investigating a recent escape by one of the female inmates. We soon learn that Teddy had requested this assignment, and that he believes the medical staff at Shutter Island are conducting secret experiments on the inmates with psychotropic drugs and brain surgery. He later meets the escaped inmate, who reveals that she had been a nurse before she learned of the experiments, and had been forcibly committed to discredit her accusations against the institution.

Before finishing the plot summary, I want to review the film up to this point. My first impression of this film was not a favorable one, mostly due to the soundtrack. The film itself starts off with Teddy meeting his new partner Chuck on the ferry ride over to Shutter Island, and their entry through progressive rings of the institution’s security. These are beautiful, almost serene images, and a credit to the direction of Scorsese. The music, on the other hand, starts off as though it were already the climax: it is loud, dissonant, and unrelentingly cacophonous. It's hard to imagine anything more brazenly manipulative than those first five minutes of film -- yes, that includes the finale episodes for any season of "American Idol." Fortunately, things improved: the music was toned down and interspersed with more classical oeuvre, while the cinematography was amped up and given actual dramatic heft. The movie itself begins to live up to those dissonant notes from its opening, though, when Teddy begins to experience migraines and wrestles with his memories from the liberation of Dachau. The interspersed images contribute greatly to the sense of tension later in the film.

After bidding farewell to the escapee, Teddy realizes that his partner Chuck is missing, and suspects that he has been abducted for psychiatric experimentation. While investigating an abandoned lighthouse, he meets the head of the medical staff, who tells him that Teddy has been a patient at Shutter Island for the last two years. His partner Chuck was in fact his primary-care psychiatrist. Teddy had concocted a fantasy of being a U.S. Marshal to avoid dealing with his traumatic past: his wife had killed their three children, and had died at his hands in the aftermath. Teddy is in fact scheduled for a lobotomy, unless he comes to terms with his own past. For a few brief minutes in the film, he does remember, but the next day he appears to have re-emerged into this fantasy. But before he can be carted off to the lobotomy, he looks at his "partner" and asks him: “Is it better to live a monster or to die a good man?” He then picks himself up and walks away with the medical staff.

There are three possible interpretations of this ending, as I see it. The first ending is the most evident one: Teddy is an inmate, who relapsed into his fantasy. The second ending, which is more plausible and more intriguing, is that Teddy did not relapse. He realized he had killed his wife, and had doomed his children by ignoring her mental condition, and could not live with the knowledge of what he had done. He had already been told that if he relapsed he would be lobotomized, so an easy escape offered itself naturally to his mind. Deceive the staff, erase the memory.

The third ending is less plausible, but much more intriguing, simply because it disregards the final twist as a ploy by the Shutter Island staff. We know that they had been feeding him drugs throughout the film, and that they’d fed him a story about an inmate who killed her three children, so how hard is it to imagine that the “memories” of his dead wife and children were themselves hallucinations spurred by the power of suggestion? In this reading, Chuck was a plant by the Shutter Island staff to play on Teddy’s sympathies and create a more dissonant denouement, a tension that forced Teddy to reconcile through those imagined memories. This might also explain why one of the female inmates wrote “RUN” in Teddy’s notebook when Chuck had left to get some water – she knew the island was a trap set for him, and that Chuck was in on it.

It can readily be seen why this movie would be compared to “Inception,” Leonardo Dicaprio’s other thriller of the year. Both movies play with the ideas of mind and memory, and toy with their audience’s understanding of reality. The final shot of the spinning top –the momentary wobble, or is it just a visual trick? – truly underscores the ambiguity at play in both films. Was it all a dream, or all a hallucination? Or, if there was some reality presented in this film, where do we look for it? However we interpret the film, it performed admirably in provoking thought and question about the psychiatric profession. Most films are content to foist an imaginative vision upon its audience, but these films leave off those final pieces to the puzzle, and expect its audience to participate in the creative act. While I doubt I would watch this movie over again, it is a pleasure to puzzle over the mysteries it presented.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Music and Lyrics" (2007)

There are two ways to watch the movie Music and Lyrics. The first is to treat as crass commercialization of romance. This is made particularly easy, as neither the screenwriters nor the actors wander anywhere beyond the strictly comfortable for this venture. The second way, as I prefer, is to view it as a labor of love. Despite the stock characters and hackneyed plot, there is a simple underlying principles that defines this movie: those who made it have a deep and abiding affection for music. This is what makes this film bearable and indeed enjoyable.

Let’s first speak of the plot and the characters. Neither will take long. Hugh Grant plays his stock “perpetually droll man-child,” in the form of a fading star from the early 90’s band, who spends his life singing at high school reunions. He is paired with Drew Barrymore’s stock “slightly neurotic yet empowered lady,” in the form of a disaffected English major who is found to be a natural lyricist. As can be readily predicted, they are forced together for an arbitrary yet urgent reason, quickly grow to love each other, fall apart for some equally superficial reason, and inevitably get back together when he makes a spectacle of himself. If we’re lucky, we might even get a Profession of Love in a Stadium cliché, which is always fun to laugh at (that’s assuming, of course, that you’re not the type to wipe away tears on such occasions, in which case you really ought to see a doctor about that).

Anyone who goes to this movie expecting high art and social drama deserves to be certified. This is not even a movie for those expecting high-quality cinema: there is one scene, set in a coffee shop, where the editing is so abysmal that our family started counting how many errors there were between shots. Yet I enjoyed this film, and I would even recommend it to others.

Music and Lyrics begins on an absolutely delightful note: a parody of all those awful music videos of the pop bands of our childhood. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. It is an affectionate parody, gently mocking the sheer ridiculousness of the sets and costumes and acting, but doing its best to replicate the infectious joy and sincerity of it. Likewise, the depictions of the music industry are just biting enough to constitute satire, while treating the music itself with respect. The scenes involving the pop star Cora Corman (a sexualized teen singer who advertises her karmic bona fides) are particularly delightful, and Hugh Grant is perfectly suited for the passing remarks about her “Buddhism in a thong” approach to performance. Yet even in these scenes there is an undercurrent of affection for the music on display.

The screenwriters may not have spared the time, but the musicians seemed to spare no expense. The main theme (“A Way Back Into Love”) is presented on many occasions, starting as a single melody line plucked out on a piano, then with the incremental addition of instruments and vocals, with the lyrics revealed in bits and pieces throughout the movie, then finally in the chorus at the end. Even the “Pop!” parody songs appear as the genuine article: they may not be worthy of the Beatles, but they are certainly what we might have expected from the Backstreet Boys or (Heaven help us) the Jonas Brothers. The music is not great, but it doesn’t have to be: it is well-suited for the movie's purposes.

The characters are developed only to the extent that the actors have been developing them for their entire careers, and the plot is especially perfunctory towards the end. Yet this is a film that will make you smile and laugh. It conveys a profound sense of joy, and an abiding affection towards the phenomenon of pop music – music that all of us at one point enjoyed and of which we all later repented. It is a universal human experience, to wince at one’s own insipidity, but this movie defangs that experience by turning it to a source of laughter. As John Adams once said (and this from a notoriously staid, almost Puritanical figure), “I cannot contemplate human affairs without either laughing or crying. I choose to laugh.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" (2010)

Edgar Wright is better known as the director of parodies, namely the indie hit Shaun of the Dead (taking on the apocalyptic zombie genre) and the acclaimed Hot Fuzz (a buddy-cop film set in a quaint English countryside). Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is better known as one of most exclusive of all inside jokes: a comic book riffing on memes and cliches from comic books, video games, and the world of geekdom. When brought together, the product is shown to be one of the best movies of the year and certainly one of the most inventive movies of the decade.

The plot is hardly worth mentioning. Michael Cera recaps his stock character -- the charmingly awkward adolescent, this time stuck in the body and life of a young adult -- who is jolted out of his banal existence by the discovery of his One True Love, namely Ramona. This love motivates him out of his stupor, and he discovers his own self-worth while overcoming the obstacles to win her hand and her heart. This is, in short, Every Romantic Comedy Ever Made.

It is the setting that defines this movie. Scott Pilgrim lives in a very much otherworldly version of Toronto, Ontario. It is a city in which telephones project their "RIIIIIIIIIIIIING"s across the room, in which hitting your head on a lamp-pole causes the word "Thunk" to appear in the twilight mist, and in which a twitterpated (look it up) teenage girl coming to terms with her emotions breaths the word "LOVE" as a lavender mist around the object of her affection. It is also a city in which 20-plus jobless yet still endearing losers in a failing rock band can suddenly develop superpowers and best in mortal combat Indian mystics (dancing with demons in Bollywood style), lesbian ninjas with metallic whips, and cocky actor-jocks on skateboards.

If this description makes the movie sound like something that could have easily been a trainwreck... you have no idea. This movie could have been so bad, it could have made the script of Battlefield Earth look like Holy Writ. Anthropologists from future millennia would have looked upon the ruins of America, and analyzed this movie in scholarly papers as a disaster comparable to the eruption of Vesuvius. It could have been the nuclear weapon of theatrical bombs.

Yet, miraculously, it was not. It doesn't always stay on the straight and narrow, but it is consistently brilliant enough that even those occasional missteps don't seem so bad. It is the sheer quantity and frequency of invention that preserves this movie. On the rare occasion that an image is repeated (the "RIIIIIIING" of the telephones comes to mind), it is almost grimace-worthy. But repeated images are rare. By limiting every image, every hilarious reference to another source of geek revelry, to a single laugh-out-loud use, it preserves the magic of the city and the cinema.

From the first moment -- a MIDI rendition of the Universal theme -- to the climactic battle between Scott Pilgrim and his Bizarro twin, this movie never ceases to dazzle and surprise. In the rare moments when I felt I had some idea of what was around the corner, my expectations were consistently upended. This is not a movie I could spoil, nor a movie where spoilers are necessary.

The quantity of imagination on display, the sheer number of images paraded across the screen, the outlandish pace that makes hours feel brief... these are enough to confirm Scott Pilgrim, to my mind, as one of the most inventive movies I have ever seen. There really isn't much more to say beyond that. I was familiar enough with the references -- from the name of Scott's band, to the tendency of defeated villains to burst into coins-- to find virtually everything about this movie funny. Perhaps the humor is limited to my generation, but even so this is a movie that knows its audience very, very well.

Most stories are built and sustained on one or perhaps a handful of images -- a girl carrying her soul in her hands, or a faun carrying packages beneath a lamppost in a snowy wood, to use two examples I recently cited. This movie doubles, trebles, quadruples that expected yield, harvesting images like grain then tossing them away like chaff. It was an experience I wish more people could enjoy, and an experience I would hope to repeat many times.

To purchase, check out
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Orson Scott Card: Ender's Game

The winner of a 1985 Nebula Award and 1986 Hugo Award, Ender's Game is widely regarded as one of the seminal works of science fiction, and personally regarded as one of my favorite works of fiction. I recently found a near-pristine copy at a used-books store, and was surprised on re-reading it how differently it impressed it compared to my first reading. After an interval of several years, I still found the book dazzling but saw its flaws a bit more clearly. I was somehow left cold by the realization that it had come so close to (but failed to attain) true literary excellence.

For those who have not read the book, this will be one of the few spoiler-free (or limited-spoiler) reviews I write. There is a delightful twist at the end that I would not care to ruin for anyone. That said, here is a brief summary of the plot.

Many years ago, aliens tried to colonize the solar system, then attempted to invade Earth when they discovered it was occupied. This Second Invasion was beaten back by a then-unknown pilot named Mazer Rackham. Since then, the three great powers of Earth -- the Hegemon, the Strategos, and the Polemarch -- have been united in preparing for the Third Invasion. They select Ender Wiggin from a young age to train at Battle School, and realize that he is their best prospect for a super-intelligent military commander to lead their combined armies against the Formic alien race (alias "Buggers"). The majority of the novel is spent in Battle School as Ender trains in null-gravity "battle rooms" and navigates the more personal battlegrounds in his dealings with the other children. A significant subplot deals with his brother and sister, Peter and Valentine, as they try to apply their own native super-intelligence and gain influence among the powers on Earth.

The single greatest issue with this book revolves around its tone. It is a novel of bifurcated moods and personalities, and they do not sync well in the grand scheme of the story. On the one hand, we are treated to a portrait of military and political genius, both with Ender in Battle School and with Peter in his maneuverings on Earth. On the other hand, a considerable amount of time is spent describing Ender's slow descent into exhaustion and near madness, as he is driven to the breaking point by his teachers desperately preparing him for the impending war. These twin impulses are demonstrated much more clearly in the sequels to the book: one set of sequels follows Peter in his attempt at world domination, while the other set of sequels follows Ender as he seeks redemption for his crimes against the alien race.

I felt quite a bit of whiplash, being driven between these two very distinct styles of writing. The first is hyper-rational, as if the book were a drawing by M.C. Escher; the second is directionless and ethereal, as though the book were a world imagined by M.C. Escher. The scenes in the battle room itself are instantly recognizable and awe-inspiring in scope; the sections in which Peter and Valentine move towards influence and power are a delight to read. It is these scenes which defined the novel for me, which cemented my impression of its excellence and (in my mind) made it the classic it has become. The scenes depicting Ender's growing morbidity, of him playing the computer game Fairyland (especially after he passes the Giant's Corpse), visiting briefly with his sister Valentine on Earth-vacation, and recovering from the catatonic state in which his Command School experiences had left him -- these are the decidedly weaker entries in the plot of Ender's Game.

Perhaps it is a merely personal preference, to appreciate the one side but not the other, but the flaw remains: it is, after all, possible to appreciate the one without the other, and that is only because the two moods are so thoroughly disconnected from each other. Perhaps it was a deliberate artistic choice, to give readers the same bifurcated experience that Ender himself was enduring, but that would still not qualify it as good literature. We want to be immersed in the story, not immersed in a character within the story; we want to feel the atmosphere (yes, including the internal atmosphere of each character), but with enough distance to keep our wits about us. I do not agree that the best stories as always the most immersive. We must ask, what is the point of immersion, and how can it be achieved.

Sometimes the best method for telling a story is in cookie-cutter shapes, relying on broad archetypes (Jungian psychology might come into play here). Sometimes the best way for a story to be told is with simple vocabulary and straightforward narrative. When C.S. Lewis first imagined a faun with an umbrella, he realized that the best way to convey that image (and the story that followed) in the form of a fairy tale, a fantasy for children. He was a respected Oxford don and a master of Medieval and Renaissance English, a writer who could speak definitively of Milton and Chaucer, and he chose deliberately the simplest and most child-like of literary forms in his endeavor to create the world of Narnia. The form must reflect the purpose of the story.

To return to Ender's Game properly, there is little else to be said. It is a delightful read, full of detail and meaning, and overflowing with imagination. The story is well-told, and we are given enough information throughout the book to appreciate the final twist, and to make re-reading this work worthwhile. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who has even a cursory interest in science fiction. It is certainly worth the effort.

To purchase this book, check out
Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1)

For other reviews of the Ender's Saga and Shadow series, check out these links:

Ender's Game (13 Aug. 2010)
Ender in Exile (23 Sept. 2010)
Speaker for the Dead (8 Apr. 2011)
Xenocide (9 Apr. 2011)
Children of the Mind (11 Apr. 2011)
Ender's Shadow (15 Apr. 2011)
Shadow of the Hegemon (19 Apr. 2011)
Shadow Puppets (25 Apr. 2011)
Shadow of the Giant (29 Apr. 2011)