One Chapter Left: Ender's Game

post number twenty two

Note 1: This is a new series — “One Chapter Left” — where I write a post immediately after making it to the final chapter of the book I’m reading.

Note 2: I am a slow reader so this could also be the final installment of “One Chapter Left.”

I spent 20 years avoiding Ender’s Game because I thought it was about math.

Seriously. It was on a shelf — a bookshelf from my past, that is — next to Gödel, Escher, Bach. They both had futuristic covers, so I assumed that Ender’s GAME (of choice) was THEORY.

A silly boy, I was. That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Tell a friend, to tell a friendEnder’s Game is not, in any way, about game theory.

[Applause]

[Goes on Incognito mode]

[Googles “ender’s game” and “game theory.”]

Dammit.

Now would be a decent time to acknowledge that I don’t know what game theory is. But that’s not important, right now (I should brush up soon) — what matters is that I have made it through 14 of Orson Scott Card’s 15 chapters.

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IF YOU EVER WANT TO READ THIS BOOK STOP READING NOW IF YOU EVER WANT TO READ THIS BOOK STOP READING NOW IF YOU EVER WANT TO READ THIS BOOK STOP READING NOW IF YOU EVER WANT TO READ THIS BOOK STOP READING NOW IF YOU EVER WANT TO READ THIS BOOK STOP READING NOW IF YOU EVER WANT TO READ THIS BOOK

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Ender’s Game is a perfect quarantine read the same way Groundhog Day is the perfect quarantine watch. Case in point: if I read this in November 2019, I’m like “that was a sentence I just read.”

Read that in May 2020, though, and it’s like:

“damn.”

I am so mad, and sad, that this book is about to be over. I’m not surprised by the feelings, though — this tracks with my odd relationship with art. When I know something is about to change my life, I’ll often wait to hit play, to open my eyes, to take that trip. To some degree, that’s because I want to summon that ideal headspace, one that will eventually rear its head, unannounced. But there’s also that reality that some art will stick so permanently, everything else (even once-high priorities) will fall by the wayside. You know, that real no turning back energy.

It’s scary. It’s thrilling.

And it’s not what happened with Ender’s Game. [ICYMI, I didn’t read Ender’s Game because I’m scared of math.]

What is happening, however, is my second art distancing tactic. When I almost get to the end of a project that shocks me, and kind of rocks me, I’ll call it quits before watching the final episode, hypothetical example below.

There’s something about leaving that season (or series) finale on the table that is equal parts maddening and comforting. If I never read that chapter, I can always live in my imagination about how it ends.

Sure, there is some comfort in knowing that the book is the first in a series. And I know that in 30 minutes, I’ll probably be done with the book. But this final decision — a moment that can range from brief to never-ending — is a precious one.