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review 2016-11-05 14:14
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

So I finally got round to reading this. I think it's been around for a while (1985?) and some of the concepts aren't really the kind of thing you'd get for Young Adult. I found this incredible. Training a child from a very young age to fight against these aliens who wiped out billions of people from nearly a decade ago.

 

The bulk of the book focuses on the main character, Ender, who joins the Battle School and has to fight through "games" which, in one sense are just play-fighting for the other children in the Battle School - but in another, very real sense, are linked to the strategy of fighting the aliens in reality. Plus, everyone takes it very seriously.

 

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. As Ender improves, he goes up from team to the next until eventually...it's for real.

 

But here's one thing I don't get. He's six years old?

 

And by the end of the book he's 11? And killed billions of enemies? He's become a battle-hardened commander? He's probably become really traumatised and messed up inside. Does this count as child abuse? I'm not sure. Child soldiers, certainly...

 

His brother and sister are a few years older than him and are talking about mature topics and politics and all these other very "adult" concepts and...it just doesn't feel right.

 

I...just don't get it. None of the children act like their age. They act like they're 20 years older than that! (Maybe ten, if they're ultra mature.) They demonstrate all these ridiculous understandings of technology, fighting skills, strategies, as if it's nothing at all. I can't even begin to wrap my head around this.

 

Also, the n-word is used. Once, I believe. Just in case anyone's sensitive about it, but this was written over 30 years ago.

 

I did enjoy the characters - some of them, anyway. They just didn't feel like they really were children at all? It's like they'd been brainwashed and engineered from a really early age and it just felt weird.

 

But with all that aside it was an impressive book. Just bear in mind that it wasn't written in this generation, it's probably not for everyone with all the concepts it brings to light, and I still can't get over the fact of six-year olds killing each other with their bare hands.

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review 2016-10-27 18:31
The Child's Elephant - Rachel Campbell-Johnston

Trigger warnings: Child abuse, Child soldiers

 

More trigger warnings. I don't deliberately read books like this (I stay away from them if anything) but they just seem to crop up for some reason. And one look at this book, you wouldn't expect to see it. So yeah.

 

This book reminded me of the kind of book that your teacher has you discuss in class, and thoroughly analyze it, and everyone is in agreement that "This is a really thought-provoking book and really awesome! If you want to be a writer, then you should aspire to this kind of writing!"

 

The writing is very good, very descriptive and paints a good image of what it's trying to convey. The main character is Bat (evidently not his real name) and the story starts with him discovering a baby elephant and learning to raise it. The elephant's mother was shot by poachers (in an evocative scene in the very first chapter) and overall I thought it was very beautiful. (The raising of the elephant, that is, not the murder of its mother.)

 

I saw no real flaws with it at that point, aside that I ended up skimming most of the descriptions (there were a lot of them). And...it was really very predictable. I've read books like this before. 

 

Now, I should mention that this book is split into 3 parts. I like that. Let's go over them.

 

Part 1: Bat finds a baby elephant and has to learn to raise it, before eventually he must say goodbye to it tearfully and let it rejoin its herd. Very emotional.

 

Part 2: Bat and his friend Muka are kidnapped by the army and forced to become child soldiers, subject to abuse, outright torture, beatings, half-starved, living in fear all the time, worked to exhaustion and - 

 

wait stop what the fuck?!

 

Where the hell did that come from?? I thought I was reading a nice story about raising a baby elephant! What?! Child soldiers?

 

This is where the book takes a sudden twist and gets rather disturbing with the descriptions. It leaves out the explicit parts, but they are forced to join a child army - which is led by an elephant poacher from the beginning of the book! How coincidental.

 

It's quite grisly at this part. Many of the children are forced to kill, food is very scarce, and inevitably Bat is targeted by the leader as someone who knows where to find the elephant herd.

 

Shortly after that part finishes - spoiler here - the elephants rescue them! Woohoo!

 

Oh, I sure wasn't expecting that part! I mean, the section which dealt with the baby elephant wasn't even halfway. Of course the elephant was going to come back.

 

The third part is them trying to get back home, with the elephant's help. I thought the ending was rather rushed actually. Shouldn't his grandmother be like "Oh my god you were kidnapped for weeks on end I'm so glad you're still alive" or something? You know, something that last more than half a page? Oh well.

 

And then the author's afterword starts talking about Kony. I guess I should have expected that.

 

I enjoyed the book overall, but it was pretttttty predictable...up to the child soldiers part where you're like what the literal fuck. And then that ends, and it becomes predictable-ish again.

 

I was actually expecting the main villain to suddenly come back at the end and say "I've come back for revenge!" or something stupid but he didn't.

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