Ender's Other Slap

Nobody expired as a result of not having enough luggage!  I have photos to share, but I think it will be another couple of days before I can get that together.  One of the things I did a great deal of was to read novels.   I don’t ever seem to find the time to simply sit down and read for hours, and it’s something I love to do.

I also love talking about books I’ve read.

This book, set in Australia, revived linguistically memories (quick: without googling, what’s a bogan?). A kid’s idiot parents are raising him in a manner which ensures his brattitude, and at a barbeque the kid receives a slap from a non-parental adult.  Each chapter reveals a little part of the story, and is from the perspective of a different character.

Tsiolkas exposes less obviously awful parenting strategies for the damage they cause, and for that I applaud him.  In a stroke of good fortune, during one of the three hours we utilised the holiday apartment’s put-a-euro-in-the-money-slot Pay TV on holiday, I happened upon an episode of BBC News’ Hard Talk with this author.   He’s angry with Australia, and general levels of super-spoiled disrespect and entitlement he observes.  He perceived an upsurge in race discrimination: incongruous in a nation with such strong immigration history.  His opinions are practically in red pen all over the novel.  It’s not a polemic, but it comes close.

I found each of the characters fairly despicable.  The sex-writing was disturbing in its overt misogyny, and difficult reading as a result.  Apparently, the author intended this as a statement on how woman-hating porn-sex frames invade every shadow of consciousness.  In some cases I could forgive it for illustrating a character’s vile personality, in some cases it seemed gratuitous bordering on obsessive.

At least two of the chapters seemed so removed from the story that I couldn’t see why they were included: desire to make a tangential and opaque point?  This long book could have cut them without losing anything.  For example, there’s a teenage gay character struggling with his feelings and trying to find his place in the world.  I got the impression the author (who is gay) added that character because he wanted to write about a gay boy’s struggles and he could (and did) do it convincingly.   Coming, as it did, at the end of the novel, it felt like an unnecessary addition.

Equally, I didn’t give two shits about Anouk’s story.  Hers comes at the beginning and I concluded she would be a pivotal character, but no.  I felt short-changed and like I’d had my time wasted.   Two of the more interesting characters (an aborigine man who converted to Islam, and his partner) received no chapter and I would have loved to see the situation through their eyes.

Overall, The Slap gets a 7/10 from me.

The first science fiction I have read in a very long time.  Ender accepts the opportunity of high-level inter-galactic battle strategy training, to fight a group of aliens known only (somewhat amusingly) as the buggers.  The book is his journey through his training and merciless treatment at the hands of his teachers and his fellow trainees.

I loved it and I can see the reasons for its broader appeal. Most importantly it’s not patronising.  Addressing quite a few philosophical subjects, it made me think.  It’s relatively long, but rolls along at a nice pace.  I am unaccustomed to reading incredibly prescient material – Card describes the internet, email, and astonishingly, tablet computers.  This book was written in 1985 (after a short story published in 1977).  I felt a shiver up my spine more than once, like the time I heard that David Bowie described live-streaming of music before the internet even existed.

There are a bundle of sequels, and while I’m not in a rush to get my hands on them, I certainly intend to read them.  8/10

The hardest, the absolute hardest read, but in a good way.  The book begs people not to give too much away about the plot to people who haven’t read it.  It’s about two women in wildly different circumstances who come together, part, and come together again years later.

Infrequently, a book comes along that causes me a sleepless night: this was one of them.  Not because there is graphic violence, but because I had an epiphany about why I spend so much energy unconsciously distracting myself from being able to really think deeply about my own emotional state, and why despite having everything (tangible and non-tangible) I could wish for I’m still unhappy.  I figured a few things out, and in due course I’m going to write it out here.

The Other Hand gets 9/10 from me: a point is removed because even though it spoke really loudly to me, I didn’t find the writing to be the best.  It hardly matters: I say read it.

Have you read any of these books?  What were your opinions on them?


5 Responses to “Ender's Other Slap”

  1. 1 Jenn @ Juggling Life March 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    My son is a huge Ender’s Game fan, so I’ve read a lot of Orson Scott Card. I recommend you try The Hunger Games–another YA book set in a dystopia that is quite compelling.

    The Other Hand is going on my list right now.

  2. 2 Teague March 11, 2011 at 1:49 am

    My dad is also a huge Orson Scott Card fan so I read Ender’s Game and several of the sequels. I recommend Ender’s Shadow, it’s the same story from Bean’s perspective.

    Like you I dip into sci-fi rarely, but I also loved Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” and also the sequel “The Year of the flood.” Then again I would probably follow Margaret Atwood into any genre.

  3. 3 unmitigated me (m.a.w.) March 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I loved Ender’s Game, and frequently suggested it to my advanced readers when I taught 6th graders (11-year-olds, usually).

  4. 4 Jonathan March 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I envy you finding the time to read :)

  5. 5 Jason March 17, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Ender’s Game is the first book I ever read cover-to-cover. I was around 11 or 12. We had gone to the library first thing in the morning. Or rather we had gone to the donut shop first thing, with a quick stop at the library next door. I sat down with the book and my donut and never looked back up. I just couldn’t stop. I remember my neck getting sore, so I went and laid on my sisters bed by a sunny window. Then the sun went down and I moved to a spot under a lamp—Reading as I walked down the hall.

    I only vaguely remember the actual book… Some rivalries, some action, and a bit of trickery. I should really have another look at it.

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