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Sometime in the near future, humanity began to explore the solar system and master interplanetary spaceflight. In doing so, they encountered an alien race known as the Formics, derogatorily dubbed “buggers” due to their insect-like appearance, scouting the system and establishing a forward base in the asteroid Eros. The Formics attacked the humans and the two races entered into two drawn-out wars. Despite political conflict on Earth between three ruling parties, the Hegemon, Polemarch, and Strategos, a peace was established and an International Fleet (IF) formed to combat the Formics. In preparation for the Formics’ inevitable return (dubbed the “third invasion”) the IF created the Battle School, a program designed to find children of the best and brightest tactical minds and to subject them to rigorous training so as to defeat the Formic threat once and for all.
Six-year old Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is the youngest child in the Wiggin family, and part of an Earth program to produce brilliant officers; despite this, Ender is teased as a “third” under Earth’s two-child policy. He has a close bond with his sister Valentine, but fears his brother Peter, a highly intelligent sociopath who delights in manipulating and tormenting him. After the IF removes Ender’s monitoring device, presumably ending his chances of getting into Command School, he gets into a fight with a fellow student, Stilson. Though the smaller and weaker of the two, Ender manages to fatally wound Stilson (though Ender is unaware of this and believes he merely injured the other boy). When explaining his actions to IF Colonel Hyrum Graff, Ender states his belief that, by showing superiority now, he will have prevented further fights in the future.
Graff, on hearing of this, promptly offers Ender a place in the Battle School, situated in Earth’s orbit. Ender initially believes Graff is a friend and ally, but Graff quickly isolates Ender from the other cadets by highlighting his intelligence. Between being ostracized by his fellow cadets and having troubling dreams about Formics, Ender is soon ready to quit the school, but Graff encourages him to continue through communications sent from Valentine.
The cadets participate in competitive small unit based war simulations in zero-gravity arenas. Ender quickly devises new tactics that disrupt the current ways these games are played, often involving sacrificing himself. Graff promotes Ender to a new army composed of the newest and youngest cadets, but Ender is able to gain their trust, and against more ruthless competition, continues to invent new strategies to lead his army to the top of the school. Ender is forced to fight Bonzo Madrid, a jealous commander of another army; Ender manages to gain the upper hand and injure him, but is unaware Bonzo had actually died. As a result of Ender’s leadership and bravery, several of his current and former squad members form Ender’s Jeesh that remain loyal to him.
Back on Earth, Peter has used a global communication system to post political essays under the pseudonym “Locke”, hoping to establish himself as a respected orator (which he believes will shortly lead him to political power despite his youth). Valentine, while not trusting Peter, believes that his methods are sound for affecting world politics in a positive manner. She becomes complicit in Peter’s actions by posting works alongside his as “Demosthenes”. Their essays which they initially develop in tandem are soon taken seriously by people at the highest positions of power in the government. Though Graff is told their true identities, he recommends that it be kept a secret believing the knowledge might one day prove useful and because their writings are politically useful.
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