Over the past year as I would research books to read and add to my Kindle Wish List, I kept coming across Ender’s Game and the thousands of five star reviews it had garnered. It was obvious that this 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card had become a cult classic. Still, I was hesitant to read it because like The Hunger Games, it was classified as both YA (Young Adult) and science fiction, two areas that don’t terribly interest me (The Hunger Games Trilogy excluded).
About two weeks ago, I finally pulled the trigger and added it to my books on my phone.As it turns out, I enjoyed Ender’s Game. It was creative, unique and it held my attention. It requires that you sort of suspend belief but that’s OK, too.
Ender Wiggin is a six year old tactical genius recruited by the government to go through an intense multi-year training program in the hope of developing leaders who will be able to destroy the “buggers” and save the Earth. There had been two previous massive wars with these alien ant-like creatures and everyone agrees that the earth was victorious only through some dumb luck. It’s a tough life for young Ender as he is separated from his family and secluded for the most part even from his fellow recruits. Ender distinguishes himself at the Battle Camp and is clearly the one recruit who is head and shoulders above the other.
Do we in the war or is the Earth destroyed by these invaders? You will just have to read Ender’s game for yourself to find out. I will tell you it is worth reading. Ender’s Game will be released as a full length feature film in November of 2013. It will be interesting to see if it has the same strong following as The Hunger Games. Meanwhile, I gave this book four stars.
The full title of this book by Katherine Boo, a staff writer on New York magazine, is Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a MumbaiUndercity. If you enjoy uplifting stories that bring joy and hope to the human spirit, then grab anything OTHER than this book. This one is 300 pages of what I felt was total despair. It is the story of several families who strive mightily to get through each day in the God-forsaken slums of Annawadi, a cardboard and tin hovel sliced between the modern MumbaiInternationalAirport and the luxurious four-star hotels of what the world perceives as a new economically powerful India.
Reading this book, for me, was not unlike observing a train wreck. You know what’s coming but you just can’t look away. Katherine Boo, who is married to an Indian man, spent three years living with the people of Annawadi. We get to meet several of them and come to understand what real poverty is like. The corruption, hopelessness, lack of education and paucity of value for human life is heartbreaking. Young children spending their waking hours scouring the area for whatever piece of trash and garbage might have any value and then having to sneak home past police who demand extortion to older boys who steal their day’s findings and beat them unmercifully. It is little wonder suicide becomes an everyday thought process.
I would love to tell you that I can’t reveal the ending because good things happen to improve the lives of the people we have come to know in Annawadi. It ends as it began, the garbage, rat bites, head lice, sickness and death that make up each sunrise and sunset continue. There have been few days since I finished the book that I have not thought about it. It’s a powerful portrait of a world I knew nothing about. I gave this book four stars because it makes you “feel” and any book that can do that deserves reading. I would feel better though, if this had been a novel.
Once again, I feel bad that I am disparaging a book that has received lofty praise from so many others. Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel, Winter’s Tale tells the story of PeterLake, abandoned at birth, raised by a tribe on the shores of North Jersey then set free in Manhatten to ply his trade as a thief. While robbing the rich mid-town apartment of an absent owner he discovers the sickly young daughter home alone and a May-December romance blossoms. I am not going to tell you what happens from there, not because I fear ruining the story for you but rather because at about that point, maybe page 257 or so, I gave up on this book. I just couldn’t go any further.
Winter’s Tale is a big book, 768 pages. It begins slowly and, in my opinion, loses momentum from there. I kept waiting for it to get better and it never did. Mark Helprin has a great command of the language and paints pictures with his words, but the story was told as sort of an epic myth in a setting of old New York that was either imaginary or semi-science fiction and it lost me early in despite my best efforts to hang on.
The reviews on Amazon range from “Sheer Insanity and Gorgeous Magic” to “too much non-sensical gibberish”. Guess which camp I am in? One lonesome * for this one.