Posts Tagged ‘Martin Caidin’

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION: CYBORG by MARTIN CAIDIN

June 4, 2008

It’s finally here! Herein is contained the Book of the Month review of Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, much delayed, and sent out with the heartfelt apologies of the two tardy losers who post this blog, EG and OG.  As always, beware! There are SPOILERS within! If you haven’t read the book and want to and don’t want to know anything about it yet, now is the time to bale! 

 

If you’ve read the book and want to participate, we’d love it if you left a comment or 12 at the bottom of the post. Now, if we are all set, please settle down, sit a spell, kick your shoes off, and let’s take a look at Cyborg! 

 

SYNOPSIS:

 

“Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive.  Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.  We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” 

 

And, so goes the original opening of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the TV series based on this month’s book, Cyborg by Martin CaidinCyborg is indeed the tale of Steve Austin, but a different one than most of us who watched the series are used to. Not completely different… but different enough. 

 

Air Force Colonel Steve Austin is a former astronaut who had become a test pilot. During a test flight, there is a catastrophic accident, leaving Steve Austin barely alive. As a result of the accident, he loses his left arm, both legs, and his left eye.  But he survives. 

 

Dr. Rudy Wells, Austin’s physician and friend, is approached by Oscar Goldman of the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO), with a proposition. Using the cybernetic breakthroughs of leading researcher Dr. Killian, Steve Austin could return to a relatively normal existence, not a crippled shell of the former man.  Wells, knowing that Austin would rather die than live in his condition, decides to allow the procedures.  We follow as Austin is implanted with his cybernetics and given a great amount of detail about how they work, their advantages, and their limitations, as Steve Austin becomes the first true Cybernetic Organism (or Cyborg). 

 

As Austin recovers from the procedures, we also follow his mental state, from his feelings of less than a man, to freak, moving toward acceptance of his state, and even to a place of gratitude for the advantages he has.  The reader is treated to the testing of the cybernetics of Austin, as he learns his abilities and limitations.  Before long, the OSO decides that it is time for Austin and his new cybernetics to serve their country, and begin sending him out on missions. This first is simply a recon mission, but an amazingly dangerous one, infiltrating a secret Russian base near the southeastern perimeter of the United States. 

 

Shortly after a successful completion of that mission, Austin is sent into the Middle East to steal a Russian MiG-27. 

 

On with the discussion! 

  

DISCUSSION:

 

EG: This is the first book we’ve taken a look at that has some “hard” science fiction elements to it. That is, it has really in-depth scientific description and explanation, focusing on theoretically accurate possibilities for the future of real science. Not simply, “Yeah, we gave him robot legs!” OG, I’m really interested in your reaction to this book, since you’ve admitted to having less experience with science fiction in book form. 

 

OG: You’re right, I have.  And I’ve really been looking forward to bringing some hard sci-fi into my diet. I love reading about new developments in technology and other futurist type writing, so I think I’d enjoy that stuff within the context of a greater work of fiction. That said, in a novel, I think I can only truly enjoy it if it’s been woven seamlessly into the narrative. My problem with Cyborg was that it didn’t handle that balance properly. My understanding is that before writing fiction Martin Caidin was an aviator or aeronautics engineer of some sort. That doesn’t surprise me in the least because many of his science-based passages were so dry that they chapped my lips.

 

That difficult reading (and, as short as this book is, I really did have a hard time slogging through it) only had a real payoff in terms of narrative as Steve began to deal with the psychological implications of what he’s become and his upgraded body. And, while that character stuff was much darker than I expected from the source material for “The Six Million Dollar Man,” (at least I don’t recall any scenes where Lee Majors attempts suicide!!!) it made the earlier stuff worthwhile because Caidin really forces you as the reader to understand how the “bionics” would work in conjunction with the body and therefore puts you squarely inside Austin’s head. 

 

EG:  That is true.  As for the character, no, in the TV show, Steve Austin never attempted suicide.  I’ve read some articles that refer to the Steve Austin in the book as “bloodthirsty,” but I don’t think of the character in that way.  To me, he is what I would call more “militaristic.”  He has a job to do, he has been trained and prepared to do that job, and he does that job.  In that frame of mind, in those situations, moral debate is left for a later time, perhaps by other people entirely.  And, the description of the cybernetics, to me, actually helps fill out Steve Austin as a character a bit.  Instead of seeing the cybernetics as an arm and legs, they very much became more “tools” in my head.  For example, when they talked about the limitations of the legs in side to side movement, or when they described the arm as a piston-like sort of battering ram, I saw them more clearly as tools of the man, rather than a part of the man himself.  Steve Austin was being equipped.  Modifications are even made from mission to mission.  The science-based passages helped cement that in my mind. 

 

OG:  Well, I can see that.  I did like all of that stuff, but it could have been done so much more fluidly by another writer. Caidin, to me, seems like the prototype for Michael Crichton, someone I feel does a better job of mixing the sciency exposition with the story and character. Well, from what little I’ve read from him, that is. 

 

EG:  I can’t argue with that.  It was infinitely easier to read through, for example, Jurassic Park (you did know that was a book before it was a movie, right OG?) than it was to get through Cyborg.  I gotta warn you though, my friend – a lot of hard science fiction suffers from this same problem. 

 

OG:  Well, yes, Mr. Smarty Pants, Jurassic Park and The Lost World happen to be two of the Crichton books that I have read. 

 

Anyway, what might have worked better from a storytelling point of view would be to start the novel in first person following the surgery as Steve begins to deal with what has happened and then, through third person flashbacks (better) or through conversations with one of the three exposition-mad characters in this book (worse), we could slowly learn about the accident and the technology that was integrated into his body. That way you dole out the science in bite-sized chunks that also serve the greater story. Instead of what you have now, which is kind of like drinking a gallon of NyQuil prior to eating a delicious piece of cake. 

 

EG:  Yeah, I went in expecting something closer to the TV show, but instead I got a hard science fiction book that turned into a spy thriller.  And, being totally honest, I’ll admit – I was very happy once we moved beyond the hard science fiction and into the spy stuff. I didn’t dislike the hard SF, it is just that, as you mentioned, long sections of pseudo-science technical explanation and testing can become…tedious. Getting to the application of Steve Austin’s cybernetic enhancements was much more interesting.  Perhaps Caidin could have focused on each of the cybernetics as they were about to be used, giving the explanation, and then immediately going into an application. 

 

OG: I think so.  And, I too welcomed the fact that this wasn’t just a big hunk of American cheese with dubious “science” on top.  I mean, the TV show is cool for what it was, but had that been all the book was, it might have been easier for me to get through, but wouldn’t have been as interesting. That said, I wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if Caidin had dropped the dusty realism just long enough to give our boy that cool telescoping eye from the show. A camera is fine and all and perhaps more plausible. But, come on! We’d all gladly suspend some disbelief in favor of a telescoping eye!  By the way, do you recall Steve Austin having a dart-shooting finger in the show? 

 

EG: No, Steve didn’t have the dart-shooting finger.  I also found the science-based book version of Steve Austin more interesting than the Steve Austin of TV.  I liked that  he couldn’t run at super speed or bend steel girders.  I was even fascinated by the explanation of his endurance abilities – that the heart and lungs that supported him when he was all man actually supplied much more for him after his accident, since they didn’t have to “feed” one arm and two legs.  I honestly didn’t miss the telescopic eye at all. 

 

OG: You didn’t miss the telescopic eye!?!?  Oh man, I don’t think there’s a single book I’ve read in my life that wouldn’t benefit from a telescopic eye or two.  I mean, imagine if Atticus Finch had had one.  Well, I don’t know what he would have done with it, but it probably would’ve come in handy when he had to shoot the rabid dog.  Of course, he did all right in that regard without it.  But still.

 

Okay, so I majorly digressed. 

 

Anyway, yeah, I also started to turn the pages at a faster clip once it became the spy thriller that it became. Again, it reminds me of another writer and, based on the characterization of Steve Austin that Caidin gives us, it’s a writer I wouldn’t be surprised to find he was an avid reader of. That would be Ian Fleming. And, this is not just because of the obvious comparisons to James Bond in terms of secret missions, cool gadgets, etc. Fleming also began as a technician in the field he later wrote fiction about and also wrote about a dark, manly man character that dispenses with human life without passion and views his employer with more than a smidgen of cynicism; a character who seems to hate himself while being simultaneously confident in his ability to do the job at hand. I will risk beating the proverbial dead horse here to point out that the primary difference between Fleming and Caidin is that Fleming made the transition from practitioner of spy-craft to fiction writer much more smoothly and entertainingly than Caidin did from aviator to sci-fi novelist. 

 

My hunch is that Caidin’s following three Steve Austin novels improve without having to do all the heavy lifting that’s taken care of in this one. Do you have any interest in reading any of those? 

 

EG:  I think we can plan on putting those on a list for a future date. 

 

OG:  Shonuff!

 

EG:  Maybe we’ll get through one in less than two and half months! 

 

OG:  ‘Nuff said.

 

EG:  For this book, though, despite the dry portions of theoretical science, I enjoyed it.  And, though it seems somehow a sacrilege to give the inspiration of this little club a less than 5 Running Steves rating, I’m gonna have to go with 3 1/2 out of 5 Running Steves

 

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OG: Yes, it does seem like a sin, but I’m gonna go just a bit lower and give it 3 Running Steves

 

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Hey, I don’t know if you caught any of NBC’s “Bionic Woman” re-tread debacle, but I kind of wonder if the makers of that show read Cyborg prior to putting it together. Now, they were hampered by some bad writing and not great casting. Also, they went a little too “Battlestar” on the thing and basically drained any fun out of what should be a little fun on principle alone. That said, they did try their hand at injecting some of the melancholy and moral quandary of becoming a cyborg (against your will) that you only really get from this book and not from the previous TV incarnations of these characters. And, while they failed completely, I can see better what they might have been attempting and it makes me wonder if it couldn’t have worked, or if a “Six Million Dollar Man” remake would be worth a thought. NBC certainly won’t be trying that any time soon. But, it makes me wonder.  Maybe some day. 

 

EG:  I did see the first four episodes of that series.  I don’t know if the book inspired it at all; I would say it was just the writing staff infusing a common “angst” into the show for the purposes of conflict.  (Get ready, because I’m about to go all geeky trivia here!)  I would say that the issue of melancholy and moral quandary was actually handled pretty well in the TV film “The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman,” in which Steve Austin’s estranged son was in a similar crash to his father, and his father asks OSO to implant bionics in him. 

 

Afterwards, he deals with the issues of not wanting the bionics, particularly because of his feelings toward his father.  He even has to be counseled about it.  I remember liking the movie… but it has been 20 years since I saw it.  To further my geeky cred, though, there was another reunion movie a couple of years later called “Bionic Showdown,” and it starred a bionic Sandra Bullock.  I remember it stunk though, a lot, in spite of my crush on Sandra Bullock.  And, I don’t think the near 20 years since my last viewing will change THAT opinion at all. 

 

OG:  Wow.  “Return of…” sounds like a Netflix candidate for me.  Awesome. 

 

In that vein, I must say I’m excited at the forthcoming “$40,000 Man” about an astronaut involved in a terrible accident and is then rebuilt by the government on a shoe-string budget. Could be some comedy gold in there and maybe distract Jack Black away from any Green Lantern project he may have been thinking of in the past. 

 

EG: Uh… yeah.  You know, I have not been thrilled at the thought of any of these comedies that have been proposed over the years, be it the Jim Carrey “Six Million Dollar Man” or this one.  Then again, there haven’t been all that many comedies that have looked good to me in recent years.  But, if it keeps Jack Black away from Green Lantern, well, I’m all for it. 

 

OG:  Well, I think that just about does it.  Onward and upward.  And, dear readers, you should know that we here at the SABC are working feverishly to make sure we get “Dune” read and discussed in time for the end of June, beginning of July. 

 

We look forward to that and hope to see you in the comments section on this one or the next!

  

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Events and a Free Gift from The Steve Austin Book Club

April 29, 2008

It has begun.

Almost like clockwork, Marvel and DC roll out their annual “events.”  This year, Marvel has Secret Invasion and DC has Final Crisis.

I’m not really going to talk about the events.  Not really.

See, I figure they don’t really need a publicity push from me.  By this point, you are either going to buy them or not.

Me?  I’m buying the main series of each, a total of 16 comics (if you include DC Universe 0 with Final Crisis – which I do), eight from each company.

But, if I wanted, I could go broke buying all of the various tie-ins for the two main events.

As of my most recent count, start to end, Final Crisis, if one were to purchase every one of the tie-in books along with the main series, the total jumps from eight up to a shocking (or, maybe not so much anymore) 26 issues.  And, that does not include what Dan Didio refers to as “Sightings” issues – which are signposts, marking important storybeats and moments throughout the DC Universe.  These will relate to Final Crisis, but not directly tie-in.  Even if all of the books were only $2.99 (which they won’t all be – I’m reasonably sure the main issues are $3.99 each), that is over a $75.00 investment!

But, if you wanna really talk about breaking the bank, then hats off to Marvel.  If you were to gather all of the tie-in issues along with the main series for Secret Invasion (NOT including issues referred to as “Infiltration” issues, which lead into the series), you are gonna pick up a jaw-dropping 58 issues before it is all done.  Again, even if all the issues were only $2.99 each (and, again, they aren’t), you are looking at over $170.00!!!

Yeah, I’m buying the main book, but if the story isn’t complete in those issues, too bad.  I’m not handing any more of my disposable income over for these events.  I just won’t do it.

In that spirit, we here at The Steve Austin Book Club would like to offer this:

 
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(Ah, signature banners.  Gotta love them.  For those of you unfamiliar with them, they are images that appear at the bottom of an individuals postings on various message boards.) 

That signature banner pretty much sums up my feelings about events designed to empty your wallet with superfluous issues light on content and heavy in price.  Feel free to click on it and save the full size version and use it at your leisure on the various message boards you enjoy!

And, just a quick note that the Book of the Month review for April, Cyborg by Martin Caidin, is going to be delayed.  OG and EG sincerely apologize for this delay (and, well, the lack of content in general).  With any luck, we’ll have it up by mid-May, so keep an eye out for it.  In the meantime, we will (hopefully) be putting out some more consistent postings. 

Thank you for your patience!

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION: ENDER’S GAME

April 3, 2008

Folks, it’s that time once again.  So, sit a spell, kick your shoes off, and get to reading!  Oh, and as always, our review/conversation is filled with SPOILERS.  If you haven’t read the book and want to, don’t read this.  If you have read the book, jump in to the discussion via our all too seldom used comments section!  Without further ado… 

THE SYNOPSIS:

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card is the story of a young child on whom the fate of humanity rests.  In this futuristic tale, the Earth has come under attack twice by the devastating “buggers.”  United by the shared threat, the world government of Earth tasks itself with finding the one person that can lead humanity to victory in the next battle.  That government looks to its children to find that leader.  Andrew Wiggin, aka Ender, is the third and youngest child in his family.  Most families are only allowed to have two children, but the government found both of Ender’s siblings (ruthless Peter and compassionate Valentine) to be so close to the type of leader that they were looking for that they allowed a third child hoping that one would be a cross between the two.  (There is a subplot in the book of how Ender’s siblings rise to political prominence on Earth, and it is pretty good, but a lot to go into right here). 

After monitoring young Ender from the age of three to the age of six, the International Fleet decides that it is time to begin training Ender for his life’s mission.  Ender is removed from his family and sent to Battle School.  At Battle School, children are trained for war using games, both computer and physical scenarios, that only get progressively harder.  Ender is surrounded by other elite children but, in an effort to make him into the leader he needs to be by his instructors, Ender is systematically isolated socially from his fellow students in obviously cruel yet (to the instructors, at any rate) necessary ways. 

Despite these measures and the pressure and stress of the environment, Ender excels, advancing quickly, moving from shunned child to awe-inspiring leader.  It is a path that makes enemies and repeatedly Ender finds himself having to defend himself from violent attacks.   Throughout the novel, Ender and the situations he is placed in are manipulated by his instructors.  Despite realizing this, Ender continues his training for a greater purpose.  The manipulation comes to a dramatic conclusion when Ender discovers that the latest series of “games” he has been training with are actual remote battles near the Buggers’ home world, and he is responsible for the genocide of that race of beings.  The book ends with Ender coming to learn about his enemies and, in fact, becoming their hope for a future existence.  But, that is another book altogether.   

THE DISCUSSION: 

OG:  As referenced in on of my recent blog postings of shame, “Ender’s Game” is on that list of revered sci-fi books that I’ve regretted never having read.  And, to be honest, until the idea of the book club came about it was one that I think I never would have gotten around to.  Something about seeing the letters YA on the spine of it at the library made me think that the time for this book in my life had passed.  I assumed (very, very wrongly) that it must be geared towards kids only, wouldn’t resonate with me anymore, and would perhaps be too simplistic due to its designated audience. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong on all counts.  This is a challenging, complex, and heady novel in all the right ways.  In fact, I’m gonna drop this little hyperbole bomb early in my reaction here so as to make it clear what direction I’m going to go:  “Ender’s Game” is a masterpiece. 

There, I said it.  And, before I go any deeper into that sentiment, I suppose I should give you the equal opportunity to make any similar or contrary declarations at the outset here… 

EG:  Ender’s Game blew chunks!!!  It was horrible!  It was…actually, all that is a lie.  I just wanted to find some way to disagree with you about this, but I can’t.  I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite the unconscionable acts of the adults within, the obvious child abuse, and the systematic destruction of a kid’s psyche.  The book is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve ever read.  My copy didn’t have the “juvenile fiction” stigma emblazoned on its spine, so I went in without any thoughts that this could be a book for the younger set.  Of course, now having read it, I can see the definite youth appeal of the book. 

OG:  I agree that it totally works for guys our advanced age, but I will say, my biggest regret having not read this until now is that I sure could have used this book back in middles school or high school.  Granted, the character of Ender Wiggin is a remarkable child, one far smarter than I was then or am even now, but the alienation and distress he experiences in the battle school is drawn so effectively by Card that I can’t imagine many children who wouldn’t respond to it in some deeply personal way.  But, not only that, I would wager that over the past two decades this book has probably given a lot of kids the insight into the bullies and thugs in their lives which helped them to cope with and endure the special kind of cruelty that kids can visit upon one and other. 

EG:  Exactly.  I mean, when I was a kid I was stuck in some advanced programs (not bragging her – those things only breed social retardation – nothing to be proud of there), so I immediately related to the main character.  But, as you said, virtually any early teen could relate to the alienation factor.  Which, actually, while I’m thinking about it, is my one gripe about the book.  There was one aspect of the whole novel that I simply couldn’t suspend disbelief on – the ages.  A six year old going through all of this?  Even granting it being the future and the advanced intelligence of the characters, I could not resolve that in my mind.  What I ended up doing a lot of the time was moving the age up by about four years in my head.  Somehow that was enough to overcome my disbelief…until the text mentioned the ages again, and I was momentarily taken out of the story by those speed bumps.  But, if that is my only gripe about a book, I’m thankful.  

OG:  I’m really glad you brought the age issue up.  Much as I loved this book, I had the same trouble you did.  It was really off-putting at first.  Somehow I was eventually able to suspend disbelief sufficiently enough, but I still can’t imagine why Card chose to make the kids in the story this young.  After reading this I even looked up a lot of interviews with Card and commentary on the novel trying to find this out and never found anything where this was addressed.  I think I only ultimately made peace with it while reading because I kept assuming that the story would leap ahead a few years at some point and make my concerns moot.  Even though it never did, I think that that false assumption coupled with the strong distraction of a really well-told story got me to a point where I wasn’t even thinking about Ender’s age anymore.  Like you, it only flooded back into my thoughts and became a distraction whenever the author made a point to bring it up. 

Actually, if anything, the character’s ages had me thinking a lot of another book along the way.  And, again, it’s a book that I didn’t get around to reading until quite recently – “The Lord of the Flies.”  In many ways, “Ender’s Game” seems very much like the complete inverse of that premise, but I could only focus on the obvious similarities.  The biggest difference between the two is that of the presence and influence of adults.  While authority figures are completely absent in “Lord of the Flies,” they are critically influential on the events and overall plot of “Ender’s Game.”  But, despite that, the adults at the Battle School are hardly seen and never intervene overtly.  So, ultimately, both books end up being about boys left to their own devices and what happens in that situation.  And, if Card is to be believed, it doesn’t matter if there is chaos (as on the island of “Flies”) or order (as in the Battle School) boys will be boys and that can be a very bad, very devastating thing.   

EG:  Actually, I think the difference is that the behavior of the boys in Battle School were not the simple result of their own tribal de-civilization, but rather the organized and reasoned manipulation by the adults.  In that way, I see it really much more along the lines of “Anna to the Infinite Power” or “The Boys from Brazil.” 

OG:  Curse you EG!  Always reminding me of more things that I haven’t read.  Go on. 

EG:  Mind you, both of those dealt with cloning, but they also dealt with manipulating the cloned children so that they would grow up a certain way.  And, since I brought up “The Boys from Brazil,” which deals with the cloning of Hitler, I’ll throw in my Nazi reference here as well.  The manipulation of Ender by Graff seems very Mengele-esque to me…he fully realizes that what he is doing is destroying Ender, yet continues to do it for the greater ideal.  And, there is no real guarantee any of it will work – it is all an experiment, one which we are given indications has not worked on other children, causing them to commit suicide.  In the case of Ender, there are camps that would say that the greater good is served, but there are also camps that would say that losing one’s soul in the process negates the greater good. 

OG:  Well, I definitely want to delve into the Nazi comparison because I have some thoughts on that.  But first, regarding “Lord of the Flies,” I would say you’re absolutely correct about the difference between the two, but I think there is still something in both books that wants to explore the inherent cruelty of children and how they deal with it in social groups.  The biggest difference between the two really is how the different heroes of the books deal with it.  Ralph in “Flies” is unable to keep control or keep the chaos and cruelty at bay.  Ender, in contrast, fulfills his role as leader and overcomes all obstacles, bringing many of the boys with him as he does so. 

But, that comparison isn’t as interesting a conversation as the Nazi thing.  As I said, I read a lot of reviews and articles after finishing the book and came across one that was apparently a big deal right after Ender first came out.  It’s an essay by Elaine Radford entitled “Ender and Hitler: Sympathy for the Superman” and can be found here: 

http://peachfront.diaryland.com/enderhitlte.html 

To boil it down, her argument is that “Ender’s Game” is a defense for Hitler and other perpetrators of genocide because it makes the argument that Hitler, like Ender, can be excused for his actions because of a rough upbringing and because he thought what he was doing was right.  I think her argument completely misses the point of the book.  You can’t even argue that Ender is engaging in the faulty “I was just following orders” Nuremburg defense because he was completely in the dark the whole time.  He was hoodwinked and the real comparison to the Nazis, if one is to be made, is the one you made to Graff.  He’s the one making the “genocide for the greater good” excuses.  And, while Card tries to portray Graff’s struggle in human terms I don’t think he ultimately lets him off the hook or gives him an easy excuse. 

EG:  Yeah, I’m going to have to call that comparison faulty.  There is a big difference between having a rough upbringing and being purposefully manipulated.  (A quick aside – The Boys from Brazil focuses on the idea of trying to place clones in similar situations to the original person to get them to develop in the same way – and raises the same sorts of questions about whether a person is condemned by circumstance or able to rise above.)  I would even argue that Hitler could’ve risen above his circumstances, but that Ender, as long as he was seen as the “great hope,” never had that chance because they were not going to stop manipulating him into their ideal military commander until he succeeded or lost his mind or died.  We are talking about a teenager who has been tricked into committing genocide, something he might have figured out on his own if their measures had not deprived him of sleep and rest for such an extended period of time.  And to finally reach the completion of your “training,” only to be told it was all real?  That your orders and actions and plans had resulted in not only the death of your own forces, but the obliteration of an entire alien race?  If Ender is to be considered a monster, then how much more so are those that “created” him? 

I suppose, if I had a second gripe with the book, it would related to how quickly Ender recovers (or, at least, manages to cope) with discovering he has committed genocide.  And, then the kicker – discovering that the first two attacks from the Buggers was a mistake, that they had no clue humans were intelligent life?  Top that with the fact that the Buggers realized they were going to be destroyed and left their legacy to the architect of their destruction?  I don’t know.  I mean, I think I wanted something more from Ender.  I guess I could be wrong here, now that I think about it.  I was thinking I wanted a more fiery and fierce righteous indignation against the people that manipulated him, maybe more grief over what he had done to the Buggers…but by that point in the story, his head had been played with so much that maybe all that was left was what we were given. 

OG:  True.  And, I see where you’re coming from in your wanting more from him in the way of rage at that moment.  It’s certainly what we feel as the reader.  But, since we know how incredibly intuitive Ender is in his understanding of his opponents every stop along the way, I think we can infer that he immediately realized that righteous indignation or any outburst would be fruitless.  At the moment the truth is revealed to him, he can see right away that the whole system is rigged so completely and he knows that there is no benefit to striking out at that point.  Instead, he bides his time, gets to the bottom of things, and once he has the egg-sac he plots to renew the Bugger race to try and counterbalance what has been done and redeem it in some way. 

Of course, there’s no way to truly make it right, but it’s all he can do at that point.  And, that’s why I think the criticism I pointed to above is so off the mark.  It’s as if the writer of that essay just didn’t read the last part of the book.  Clearly, Ender is deeply troubled by the part he played in the Bugger genocide, knows how he was manipulated, understands that it was morally wrong, and seeks to make it right.  In that way, the message of this book is extremely moral. 

EG:  But that does give me a thought.  What if the story had not included the “redemption” of Ender?  Suppose, we get to the end, after the Buggers have been destroyed, and we merely see Ender leave Earth with Valentine?  I mean, yeah, it is a moot point since the Bugger legacy is left with Ender and obviously future books deal with that, but I have to admit, I would still have sympathy for the tragic figure of Ender even without him coming to discover the truth about the Buggers and taking on the role of “Speaker For the Dead” for them.   

OG:  I hadn’t considered that but it’s true that as I was reading it I was completely sympathetic to him before I even had read the concluding portions detailing Ender’s discoveries.  That’s a very good point. 

So, one final thing I wanted to address concerning the major reveal of the book (that the battle simulator is not really that at all and that Ender is in fact really killing Buggers) is how it works narratively.  I believe I effectively demonstrated in our “American Gods” discussion that I am quite dense.  Not getting the obvious Low-Key/Loki clues and the like.  But, I have to say that I remarkably knew exactly what was up once Ender and his compatriots were in the simulator.  And, not because I’m especially smart (I have to believe that you weren’t fooled by this at all EG), but because I read the back cover of the book prior to reading it.  The blurb on the back begins… “Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games at the Battle School; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate.”  Just the words “thinks he is playing” was enough to reveal it all to me. 

How obvious is that!?!?!  I’d see that blurb every time I picked up the book to read and the phrasing never left my head.  And, once we got into the simulator room, the words were banging me in the forehead saying “SEE!  SEE! He only THINKS he’s playing a game!” Stupid blurb.  It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book really, but just really irritated me.  Of course, you’re probably about to tell me that this should have been obvious to anyone just reading the words from left to right.  Go ahead. 

EG:  Okay…well, I wasn’t going to mention it.  I mean, seriously, I made doubly sure not to say, “You know, I figured out that the ‘simulations’ were actual battles relatively soon after the introduction of Mazer Rackham,” but since you brought it up…yeah, I figured it out  But, to make you feel better, I think you would’ve figured it out as well just from straight reading.   Since you talked about reading the back of the book and receiving a bit of a spoiler, let me just say I’ve stopped reading the backs of books, the prefaces, the introductions…even most reviews.  I was spoiled pretty badly in the intro of a book about a year ago, which blatantly revealed the “twist” of the book, and it completely ruined the book for me.  So, I now wait until I’ve already read the book before I read any of those things.   

OG:  I think I’ll be adopting that practice myself from here on out. 

EG:  But, that is really neither here nor there.  Back to the topic at hand! 

OG:  You know, the best thing I can say about how good this book was is that I’m dying to read “Speaker for the Dead” now.  I want more of this world and want to see what Ender does next.  Knowing that “Speaker” was actually conceived of first and is considered by many to be the superior of the two only amps up my excitement.  How about you?  Any concluding thoughts? 

EG:  Actually, while I was aware of the sequels to this book, I hadn’t heard that “Speaker” was supposed to be superior.  Hmm.  We’ll have to keep that in mind for the future.  Oh, and one more thing:  Knowing you are the third born in your household, I feel compelled to refer to you as Third from now on. 

OG:  I shall wear the title with pride!  (And, while neither of my older brother’s skinned any squirrels alive, I did witness them shooting frogs with BB guns, so that probably counts.)  Oh, by the way, I’m busting out the full 5 Running Steves for this one.  Easily. 

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EG:  Well, Third, I’m going to give this one 4.5 Running Steves.  I might’ve gone up to a 4.75, but I don’t want to fool with making a new graphic for that, so this book will have to settle for next best thing from me. 

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OG:  Cool.  You know, I heard there’s a movie in development for this one.  You think they’re really gonna keep the characters the ages they are?  I can’t imagine.  I mean, he does a good enough job making it work in the book, but there’s no way a modern movie audience will be able to get on board with that. 

EG:  Honestly?  Even advancing the kids by four or five years wouldn’t work.  I don’t think a screen adaptation of this book would remotely work.  I mean, if people wanted to sit in a darkened theater watching kids playing video games for a couple of hours, the long-form commercial known as The Wizard (starring TV’s Fred Savage) would have been a blockbuster. 


OG:  HA!  Well, I won’t argue with that.  Instead, I’ll let this clip from The Wizard do the arguing for me…
 
 OG:  And, I guess that’s as great a place to stop as anywhere.  We’ll meet up again in a month for a conversation about Martin Caidin’s “Cyborg.”  Until then, I’ll hopefully be posting a little more regularly and EG will soon be regaling us with his promised, but much-delayed review of 1998’s “Lost in Space.”

ENDER DISCUSSION – DELAYED

April 1, 2008

Hey kids,

 Obviously, we’re a day late for the “Ender’s Game” book club discussion.  And, we’ll probably be another day or two more. 

 If you need someone to hold accountable, please send all your blame to me, OG.  It’s all my fault.

In the meantime, now’s a good time to announce that we’re moving the reading of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” to the month of May.  For April, we’ll be reading Steve Austin’s origin story…

 CYBORG by Martin Caidin

This book was adapted into the TV series “Six Million Dollar Man” and we thought it’d be fun and fitting to have a discussion on this one since neither of us have  actually read it. 

Unfortunately, it’s currently out of print, but is still available at many libraries and second hand book outlets. 

Again, my apologies for the delay on March’s discussion.  If you are a regular reader of this blog (which is technically not possible since there would have to be regular posts in order for it to be regularly read) than you’re already well aware of how lame I am.

 Now you have one more thing to add to that list.

 Love you,

OG