Saturday, 1 May 2010

Science fiction strategy

Ender's Game isnt much like the other books I've reviewed up to this point, its a science fiction book written by Orson Scott Card.

The premise of the book is simple, Earth has been attacked by an alien race called 'Buggers'. The Buggers have been fought off and Earth has decided to go on the offensive. Enter the book's protagonist, Ender.

Ender i
s recruited into a military programme which takes children at around 5 years old and trains them to be the soldiers who will fight the Buggers on their own terms. All this training takes place through games, and there is a sinister undertone to the book as the young Ender is manipulated through childish devices into becoming what the people who run the programme want him to become.

One of the features of the book which I like the most is the way in which real military thinking is woven into the book. All of the characters have a believable element to them and it is clear the author has done his research.

The most valued part of Ender's ability to his superiors is his flexible mind, able to take established problems and turn them on their head, coming up with a new solution which is both unexpected and agile. In one part of the book Ender is introduced to "The Battleroom", an area where the young children are trained in zero gravity combat.

The purpose of the game is for one side to eliminate enough of their opponents to get from their point of entry, to the enemies and shut it down.
Ender quickly realises that in this environment, perpection of up, down, left and right is entirely optional (due to the zero gravity), and he can enforce his own perspective on it. And thus comes up with realisation that
The enemy gate is down
Personally, that is one of the most powerful parts of the book. Using a flexible mind and thinking beyond established wisdom can redefine any activity. In this case, Ender has changed from having to fly across a room into falling. Simple, but effective.

We should all try to think in these terms, what is the route of least resistance to our goals. Is it the obvious route? Or are we missing some subtle new way of looking at the world which would make it easier. Can we fall towards victory. Another way of interpreting this is to ask, what is the route of lowest friction, that will abrade the least of our strength for the minimum effort?

I really recommend Ender's Game to anyone, its a fantastic book, and is probably one of the only books of fiction I've read so far which firmly deserves a place in the reading list on this site.

Take a look, its short, sweet and you won't regret it.

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