I first read Ender's Game in college in the late 80's. The story stuck with me ever since. Primarily due to the combination of Ender's powerlessness and his power.
Ender is made to attend Battle School against his will. Colonel Hyrum Graff, Ender's handler from the International Fleet (IF) constantly manipulates Ender to shape him into the killer the fleet needs him to be. Starting by withholding the outcome of Ender's first fight with a bully from Ender. Even Ender's brother Peter and sister Valentine are covertly used by the fleet to steer Ender.
At the academy, Ender develops his strategic skills inside and outside of the classroom. He excels at the zero gravity battle simulations and stands up to bullies at the school. In the simulations Ender is training to fight the "buggers", an insectoid alien species Earth is at war with and humans stand to lose.
His victories are exciting and his strategic prowess impressive. Yet, his use of violence disturbing. I kept wondering to what extent this was the result of Ender's nurturing (by the fleet and Peter's sadistic bullying in Ender's early childhood) and to what extent this was Orson Scott Card's glorification and justification of domination through violence.
Ender wins the war against the "buggers" in his final test where he finds his fleet far outnumbered by the buggers surrounding their queens' homeworld. He wins by deploying a Molecular Detachment Device, thus destroying his fleet and committing bugger genocide.
After his win, Ender learns that the simulations were real battles all along. Does that absolve him from responsibility for his actions? Can Ender claim to remain morally clean?
Last year, I revisited Ender's Game with my son Casper by listening to the audiobook version. Casper, who is into role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, enjoyed the book.
After we finished the book, we watched the movie adaptation. Which we also enjoyed.