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Sep. 7th, 2007 | 10:52 pm

So I started trying to write this on Tuesday night, but my computer died. And by died, I mean really truly died, appropriate county colloquialism goes here, it's dead. We took it to the Apple Store Genius Bar today, he tried the same things I'd tried, and then we signed off to send it away. If I'm lucky, what they send me in the mail a few days or weeks from now will still have my hard drive and all my settings.
The points are that that's newsworthy in and of itself, and that on top of everything when I first tried to write this, I've got all the frustration at losing my computer, which I'd grown quite fond of in the short time I had it, swirling around. I didn't get far the first time I tried, so most of this is what I'm writing right now - all of it is, in fact, because the sentences I wrote in take 1 are lost, probably even more permanently than the rest of my stuff might be. (All of this is a good reminder of the importance of backing up, which is a lesson I have now learned and will try to remember in the future.)
The other day I was thinking about how no story, not even the ones I've really loved, has had a protagonist with whom I really felt I could personally identify. Spider-Man, as we all know, was supposed to be so important in comic books because the kids really felt they could identify with Peter Parker: supposedly, a teenage geek with as many or more real problems than superhero problems, and all of them ones recognizable to us. (Understand this is based on the Spider-Man I've read: mostly the Ultimate line, with Spider-Man: Blue and a few other things thrown in for good measure, and that I'm not saying I dislike Spidey, because he remains one of my favorites.) Spider-Man's problems? Doc Ock and the Green Goblin want to kill him. And Peter Parker's problems? Maybe he doesn't have enough free time to be a super-hero because he has to work, but mostly it's that his relationship with Kitty Pryde's not going as well as he'd like, or he's not sure if he should go after Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson, both of whom, as true believers know, are beautiful and interested in him. And you know, maybe some people who've held down jobs during the school year know what that's like, but mostly, those don't sound so much like the problems I had during high school. I don't see myself in Peter Parker; maybe if I'd been a teenage geek in 1962, things would be different - I'd have been a different person, and I'd be reading different Spider-Man - but as it is, he's just one example among several heroes I'm perhaps expected to identify with, but don't. (See also: Harry Potter.)

So I was thinking about that, and having just finished Spook Country, I decided I ought to read Ender's Game, it being a classic, and recommended to me on many occasions. There were some small things I liked about it; I've been thinking for years that space sf needs to really examine the implications of zero-g, rather than persistently showing us Star Trek episodes that take place, basically, with all ships oriented the same way, and the battle room touched upon that. Also, there's Card's 1985 prediction of not only the internet, but blogs, and their relevance in politics, well before either. That was all cool stuff to see - aliens with whom we can't communicate are also nice, but not such a big deal to me.

The big thing, though, was that all of a sudden, I had someone I identified with. It doesn't really matter that the stuff Ender worries about didn't really show up in my life until I was older than he ever is in the book, that I was never actively picked on at school, that I have no history of violence, or that I would never claim to be the genius he is. What matters is that for the first time, I had someone I could relate to. Ender's problems? He's under too much pressure, and the older he gets, the lonelier he is. And well, increasingly, that's me, too.

It's not just that, either; as I read, I had a strong sensation that I was in some way far more ready to leave than I had been before, indeed, than I had known I could be. I'm not going to try and put it into words; the feeling itself faded almost as quickly as it came.

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Comments {3}

Ben Finkel

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from: barnaby36
date: Sep. 11th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)

That's an amazing review for the book - I find that I agree with you on that. While I've never had an issue with identifying with protagonists - partially because I feel I lack the need to do so - Ender's story truly grips at me each time I read it. I'm glad that you found such a powerful message within its pages.

Tangentially related: Spook Country's by William Gibson, right? I read Neuromancer for the first time this summer, and fell for it head-over-heels. Was Spook Country good?


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from: gojuhotsuma
date: Sep. 11th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC)

Yes, Spook Country is Gibson. I've been reading a lot of his stuff this summer, thanks to the library and Tech starting late. I enjoyed Spook Country; it's interesting because, to paraphrase some article, it's "so futuristic it could only be set in the recent past." However, it's very different from Neuromancer, and if you're after more Gibson in that vein, I can wholeheartedly recommend Burning Chrome, a book of his short stories; almost all the ones in there that I've read have been excellent. As for Spook Country, maybe try to find it at the library or wait for the paperback, IMO.

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