Ender's Game

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The enemy's gate is down.
Ender Wiggin

The book that put Orson Scott Card on the map, and remains his most famous work ever.

In the not-too-distant future, mankind has barely survived two invasions by an insectoid alien race, formally known as Formics, but called Buggers by most of the viewpoint characters. As the threat of a third invasion looms nigh, the world's most talented children are taken to an orbiting Battle School. There they study physics, mathematics, history, psychology, politics, and play a lot of games. And the biggest, best game of all is the Battle Room, where they organize into "armies" and play 41-on-41 zero-G laser tag as the adults look on, searching for future commanders against the incoming menace.

Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, six years old and third child of his family, a stigma due to the population restriction laws. He is the only one of his family to be accepted to the school, and so, leaving behind his parents, his loving sister Valentine, and his sadistic brother Peter, he leaves for Battle School... and things won't be at all easy.

The novel acted as a springboard for not one but two series, dealing with different time periods in the same canon. The first, consisting of A War of Gifts: An Ender Story, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind follow Ender in the far future and focus on world-building combined with a major dose of morality.

The second begins with Ender's Shadow, a retelling of Ender's Game from the viewpoint of Bean, one of his friends. The Shadow series then follows Bean in the Twenty More Minutes Into The Future Earth, consisting of Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant. The Shadow series—whose novels might accurately be described as Thrillers—is a more direct continuation of the original novel and its themes of war and politics (with Hegemon being described by its author as "a giant game of Risk"), and many more characters from the original book appear in it.

There is also a short story collection called First Meetings. Marvel Comics is currently [when?] publishing comics adaptations of the books and Formic Wars series, which, according to Card, will be official prequel to the books.

The novels have been quite well-received, though not without their share of detractors; Ender's Game and Speaker For The Dead in particular put Card in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only person to win both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for best novel in two consecutive years.

A movie adaptation of Ender's Game came out in 2013, produced by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the minds behind the Star Trek reboot. It featured an all-star cast including Asa Butterfield as Ender, Hailee Steinfeld as Petra, Abigail Breslin as Valentine, Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham.

The following tropes are common to many or all entries in the Ender's Game franchise.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.

Ender's Game

"...I can't help it. I like the kid. I think we're going to screw him up."
"Of course we are. It's our job. We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive."

  • Action Girl: Petra. A great shot who has much to teach Ender early on, and who proves to be one of the most competent fighters throughout the book. She suffers a breakdown later by pushing herself too far, as a direct consequence of being so valuable to Ender.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novel is this to the original short story. It gives Ender a family and elaborates on his life before he was sent to Battle School, and it provides details about the enemy aliens and the background of the war. In the short story, Ender has no memories of life before Battle School, and the aliens are never named or described.
  • Adults Are Useless: Justified as being part of Ender's Training from Hell. Alternatively, averted, as the adults are disturbingly good at what they do: making Ender's life suck.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Ender's combination of empathy and pragmatism leaves him constantly feeling this way. By extension, after Ender writes his book about the buggers, the whole of humanity experiences this toward them, to the extent that in the sequels, humanity considers Ender the villain for fighting them and his name is a taboo word.
  • Alternate History
  • And You Thought It Was a Game: In much of the later quarter of the novel, Ender and his friends believe they are playing simulations, when really they are actually in command of a full invasion force. Except for Bean. He knew and intentionally hinted to Ender how they should end the final battle.
  • Angst Coma: Ender enters one for a few days when he discovers that he unwittingly won the war committed mass genocide/xenocide against the buggers while believing he was only undergoing training for it. Justified in a number of ways: physical and mental exhaustion, the fact that he was trying to convince the military that he was a Complete Monster ethically unfit for command, and possibly psychic backlash from being connected to the buggers themselves at the moment he killed them all.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The Buggers made this faulty assumption.
  • Arc Words: "The enemy's gate is down."
  • Asshole Victim: The time that we know Bonzo and the school bully kid don't really make us feel sorry that they're gone. Ender, however, still feels guilt over their deaths.
  • The Atoner: Ender at the conclusion of the original novel.
    • The Buggers themselves by allowing Ender to destroy them.

"The humans have not forgiven us. We shall surely die."

  • Badass Israeli: Invoked and subverted. There is a legend at Battle School that Jewish generals cannot lose; on the other hand, Rose "de Nose" of Rat Army is portrayed as not really being that great, and several characters make the point that despite an all-Jewish triumvirate (American Jewish Hegemon, Israeli Jewish Strategos, and Russian Jewish Polemarch), it was the half-Maori, entirely non-Jewish Mazer Rackham who drove off the Second Invasion.
  • Big Brother Bully: Peter, oh so very much.
  • Blessed with Suck: His ability to empathize with his enemy gives him what he needs to destroy them.

Ender: In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them-..... I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist.

  • Bug War
  • The Chains of Commanding
  • Chekhov MIA: Ender's surprise guest on Eros: Mazer Rackham.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In his first battle, the other army is able to pass through the gate even though Ender isn't frozen. In his last battle, he wins by sending a boy through the gate, even though the other army hasn't been defeated yet.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Invoked. The military commanders are searching for child prodigies specifically due to their lack of awareness of the larger picture, so they won't be subject to fatal hesitation.
  • Child Soldiers: Every Battle School participant joins under the age of 12.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Ender. There is NOTHING he won't do to win a fight and ensure it never happens again. He learned this lesson when he was five.

Ender: It was just him and me. He fought with honor. If it weren't for his honor, he and the others would have beaten me together. They might have killed me, then. His sense of honor saved my life. I didn't fight with honor... I fought to win.
Bean: And you did. Kicked him right out of orbit.

    • Mazer Rackham reinforces the same lesson. War is about doing whatever you can to win. There are no rules except what you can do to your enemy and what you can stop him from doing to you (apparently there's no Geneva Convention in a war against aliens).
  • Common Tongue: Stark, an English-based language.
    • Derived from "STARways Kommon".
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Pretty much any battle Ender walks into. Nicely justified, since Ender was born and conditioned his entire life to be the best military commander humans have ever had.
    • Mazer Rackham had one of these as well: he hit one ship (the queen's) and his war was over. The fact that he was the only human on Earth to figure out how to do this is why he was kept around to be Ender's teacher.
  • Deconstruction: Essentially this is the Neon Genesis Evangelion of Space Opera.
  • Despair Event Horizon: It's revealed at the end that the Bugger queens crossed it the moment they lost the first battle of the Third Invasion. By then they had realized with utter horror and deep remorse that each human they had killed in the First and Second invasions was an independent, sapient being, as opposed to the Buggers' Hive Mind. Now they realized the humans were counterattacking in earnest. Summed up succinctly by the thought:

The humans have not forgiven us. We shall surely die.

  • Disproportionate Retribution: Many examples from the original novel, specifically the outcome of the Third Invasion and Ender's retaliation when ambushed.
  • Dramatic Irony: Ender, one of the most compassionate people ever born, is a mass murderer. Peter, a sociopath, gave the human peace and unity. This is not lost on Ender.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: In general, the teachers in Battle School are this. Ender is Genre Savvy with regard to this trope, except that his instructors take it much farther than the TV shows he's familiar with.
    • Graff also subverts this. One purpose of the Drill Sergeant Nasty is to give the recruits a common adversary: they all hate him, and it draws them together into a team. He picks on someone so the rest will sympathize with him. Graff, on the other hand, tells the rest of the recruits that Ender is the greatest soldier ever, and none of them have a prayer of measuring up to him. This turns them against Ender and isolates him, forcing him to develop the leadership and command abilities they need from him.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: The MD Device actually causes an Earth Dissolving Kaboom, but considering a single firing will wipe out a planet, this qualifies.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Ender at the beginning of his time at Battle School.
  • Boot Campe Episode: All of Ender's Game is this. They have to send young kids to battle school, which is this, to train genetically engineered super-genius to command an army against alien invaders. Drill Sargent Nasty?, it is Bonzo Madrid
  • Expanded Universe: Launched with Formic Wars - first Ender-related comics that is not an adaptation, but official prequel.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Subverted; ships can travel at significant fractions of the speed of light, but relativity means that going to the nearest star is still a one-way trip decades into the future.
    • However, secretly, the International Fleet has developed a way to send messages faster than light, with the ansible. This is how Ender commanded his battles without ever knowing the truth. And the "buggers" evolved to do it naturally, which is where the IF got the idea.
    • Played straight in Xenocide and Children of the Mind after Jane figures out how to bring things Outside and back In.
    • There also appears to be some confusion with the relativistic travel. In Speaker for the Dead, the Park Shift is mentioned, which allows a ship to go from standing still (relatively-speaking) to near-light speeds in an instant with almost no energy drain. In Children of the Mind, the Lusitania fleet exits the Shift at slower-than-relativistic speeds in order to avoid spending months slowing down. Then again, the admiral treats it as if there's some sort of threshold for relativistic travel, when it's really a matter of perspective.
  • First Contact
  • Flexible Tourney Rules: The teachers at Battle School start purposely stacking the deck against Ender as he racks up an unbroken string of wins, challenging him to adapt, and seeing how far he can bend without breaking.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Ender was attacked by Bonzo and many others while he's in the shower, so Ender is naturally naked, but Bonzo takes off his clothes after Ender goads him, telling him how cowardly it is to attack a kid naked in the shower who's smaller than you, with lots of reinforcements.

Ender: Be proud, Bonito, pretty boy. You can go home and tell your father, "Yes, I beat up Ender Wiggin, who was barely ten years old, and I was thirteen. And I had only six of my friends to help me, and somehow we managed to defeat him, even though he was naked and wet and alone - Ender Wiggin is so dangerous and terrifying it was all we could do not to bring two hundred."

  • Gag Penis: When Ender first meets Rose de Nose, he's lying naked on his bed with the holographic notepad thing over his groin with an oversized pair of genitals projecting onto it that waggle whenever he moves.
  • Gender Flip: Major Anderson will be played by Viola Davis in the life-action adaptation.
  • General Failure: Bonzo, apparently. Even after Ender prevents him from losing a battle (for which the rest of the army likes him) Bonzo punches him in the stomach and insults him. Ender can hear mutinous muttering over this from the rest of the Salamanders.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Forms a major part of the novel's theme, in a complicated and very brutal way.
    • Lampshaded in the last book of the first series, Children of the Mind. "I'm more afraid that we're varelse. That humanity is the species that should be destroyed," for the sake of all other sentient life.
  • Going Cosmic: While Ender's Game itself is tightly focused, the sequels get progressively more and more Cosmic.
    • Justified in that the sequels were never meant to be sequels, but a completely separate story. Word of God is that he was stumped on creating a protagonist for them, and his wife suggested that he bring back Ender from a short story he'd done about the Battle Room. He then expanded the short story into Ender's Game, partially with the intent of setting up Ender's role in the new story.
      • I believe it was a friend of his, whom Card used as a sounding board. Card's wife dissuaded him from calling the book Singer of Death, as he had already written two books about singing.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The "Warsaw Pact" is still around and ready to threaten world peace after the Third Invasion is over. Retconned in the later books by calling it the New Warsaw Pact.
  • Groin Attack: Ender does this while defending himself against bullies, on two separate occasions, and ends up killing two people - though this was during a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
    • Subverted when Ender is ambushed later, as he knows Bonzo will be expecting this and opts for a headbutt
  • Hive Mind/Hive Queen: The composition of the Bugger race.
  • Honor Before Reason: After being goaded by Ender over ganging up on him in the shower, Bonzo Madrid decides to fight Ender one-on-one. It doesn't go well.
    • Averted with most of the other characters. The series repeatedly plays on the fact that war isn't about honor, it's about defeating your enemy any way you can. The protagonists fight to win.
  • Innocence Lost: A central theme in the original novel.
  • Insectoid Aliens: There's a reason they call them Buggers...
  • Instant Win Condition: Former Trope Namer ("The Enemys Gate Is Down"). Ender wins a match at Battle School by capturing the enemy gate without "killing" the entire enemy team, which up until that point was assumed to be necessary. Also comes up when dealing with the Bugger queens, as killing her will result in the "death" of all her drones.
    • Interestingly, this was set up earlier in the novel: Salamander Army loses a battle even though Ender is "wounded" but not fully disabled.
  • Insult Backfire: While still in school, Ender gets taunted by other kids sending covert IMs over the net-enabled school desks. Ender, who figured out how to do this in the first place, sees every message as a tribute to his intelligence.
  • It's a Small Net After All: Averted, the "Net" in Ender's world is just about as accurate as someone in 1985 could predict. He even predicted Trolls, Sock Puppets and the blogosphere.
  • Keystone Army: The Buggers—the queens are their keystone.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Ender does this to Stilson so the bullies will think he's too crazy/dirty-fighting to mess with again. He doesn't know it at the time, partly because he's shipped off to Battle School right afterwards, but he kills Stilson when he does it.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Very cruel at Battle School.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Ender is intentionally isolated by his teachers so he'll be able to command other students.
  • Loophole Abuse: Ender's entire modus operandi is to thoroughly master the rules of any game, then reinterpret or just plain screw them in new and imaginative ways. His teachers, counting on him to become the greatest living weapon in the history of humanity, are only too happy to let him do so, and have deliberately designed the school environment to favor such thinking.
  • Meaningful Name: One of the Battle School leaders points out that "Ender", a mispronunciation of the name Andrew, can be taken to mean "Finisher", as they hope that he will finish the war between humans and the Formics.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: Attempted Justified Trope.
  • Multinational Team: The International Fleet and the children at Battle School come from a wide array of nationalities.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Buggers on realizing the fundamental mistake in how they had attempted first contact (that killing any human means killing a sentient person as opposed to a drone), Ender on finding out the Twist Ending.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Peter, in the spirit of Machiavelli. Ender and Bean are similarly ruthless in exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents in true Unfettered style.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ender seems to invoke this anytime someone tries to ambush him, specifically when dealing with Stilson and Bonzo.
  • Not So Different: Ender struggles with the realization of how similar he is to his brother Peter. Likewise Valentine and Peter, which is how he coaxes her into becoming Demosthenes.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The immediate reaction to Dragon Army winning by exploiting an Instant Win Condition in the Battle Room game. From then on, all enemy soldiers must be killed or disabled before the gate can be opened.
  • One-Man Army: Subverted, each of the Battle School grads is dangerous precisely because of how they can work with groups.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: All over the place. Ender (childhood mispronunciation of Andrew), Rose de Nose, Bean (from another street kid saying he "wasn't worth a bean"), Hot Soup (romanization/bastardization of Han Tzu), Crazy Tom (self-explanatory), Dumper, Fly Molo...
  • Performance Anxiety: Petra suffers from this, making her much less useful to Ender than she could've been, mostly because of the sheer weight of responsibility she carries.
  • Poor Communication Kills: At the end we find that the buggers were not evil or xenocidal, they were simply trying to colonize the solar system and weren't aware humans were intelligent on an individual level, so in their eyes killing a few million people was just their way of formally declaring their intent and asserting their ability to do so. This was a big reason for Humanity's fear and hatred of the buggers; when they happened upon a human colony, they dismantled our technology to see how it worked - after they "dismantled" the colonists to see how they worked. They didn't understand how much that would piss us off any more than they could comprehend that we would kill a sentient queen, rather than the nonsentient workers. After their first two invasions, they realize this and stop, but by this point it's too late. Only at the very end does Ender learn this. He ends up being friends with the last queen who was created to both continue on her species and apologize.
  • Population Control: Ender is a third child in a society where that's generally illegal.
  • Positive Discrimination: Ender uses this with a select few of his commanders, but in Petra's case it has unintended consequences.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Dragon Army seems like this, as none of the members really stood out from the crowd in their previous armies. Ender's leadership and empathy draws them together into the finest unit the school has ever seen. Later played with in Ender's Shadow: It's revealed that the teachers had assigned Bean to handpick the best army possible, with the stipulation that they all had to be either launchies or on transfer lists. So, rookies and misfits, but specifically the best possible bunch of rookies and misfits.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people complain that the kids at the battle school are too smart, but Orson Scott Card has received letters from gifted children telling him that they found the children in the battle school to be realistic (Ender is Over the Top, but he's supposed to be).
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Lampshaded by Ender himself, when reviewing war footage and noting that real-life space battles are nothing like in popular media. The ships are so far apart that they navigate and aim their weapons entirely on instruments, and never see each other except for the flash of a direct-impact nuke.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: Mazer Rackham.
  • Sock Puppet: "Locke" and "Demosthenes".
  • The Spartan Way: Although students at Battle School are not subject to physical abuse (at least, not by the instructors) they do undergo the psychological equivalent of Training from Hell.
  • Subspace Ansible: Name-checking Le Guin, even.
  • Super Soldier: Almost everyone in the Battle School… the best of the best move on to Tactical and/or Command training to become super-generals actually.
    • Ender, being the best of the best of the best, skips a few grades here and there, graduating to effectively become the supreme commander of all Earth's (space-bound) military forces by the time he's starting to enter puberty.
  • Time Dilation: Responsible for the Chekhov MIA. Also becomes a significant factor in later books, explaining how Ender and Valentine manage to remain alive millennia after the events of the first book.
  • Token Girl: Petra Arkanian, the only Battle School girl of any importance (until the sequels add Virlomi to the Battle School roster). Possibly justified in that, according to the novel, fewer girls have the necessary personality and levels of aggression to be chosen for Battle School.
    • It does seem that there's a degree of sociopathy necessary for a child to even be considered for Battle School, much less succeed there. Current psychological research suggests that less than a quarter of sociopaths are female, with the most common line of descent being father-to-son.
  • Tournament Arc: Battle School is run this way.
  • Trickster Mentor: Ender's mentor on Eros: Mazer Rackham.
  • 2-D Space: Completely subverted. In fact, Ender uses his understanding of 3-dimensional space to his early advantage at Battle School.
  • Truth and Lies: Peter's campaign to manipulate the public via Sock Puppet bloggers.
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: If you think Ender is playing fair, it is either a coincidence or a set up. Either way, you're screwed.
  • Twist Ending: Two of them:
    • The later battles against the buggers were real, not simulations.
    • The buggers weren't actually trying to kill humanity, they just couldn't communicate with humans and fundamentally did not understand them.
  • Tyke Bomb: The entire school is set up so innocent kids can be manipulated into perfect commanders. This works a bit too well for them in the Ender's Shadow series, as the kids that return to Earth after Command School go on to vie for world domination before the still-literally psychopathic Peter Wiggin saves the whole world by semi-exiling all of them to interstellar colonies; one to each, so that they can each get to rule a world.
  • The Unfettered: Ender may have mercy, but you sure as hell won't see it in the Battle Room. Or if you decide to ambush him.
  • The Verse: Orson Scott Card kind of, sort of, made up the term, maybe.
  • Wave Motion Gun: the Little Doctor, a.k.a. MD Device, which operates on the principle of crossing two lasers to create a chain reaction of molecular disintegration. In the first novel it's described as a beam weapon; the POV Sequel houses the device in a bomb.
    • The first novel also implies that the fleets are armed with only the Little Doctor, but without clustering, the ships are picked off one at a time. In Ender's Shadow, it's claimed that the Little Doctor is used only twice. The rest of the time, (presumably) nukes are used. This is probably why the weapon was retconned.
  • We Could Have Avoided All This: The whole Formic War, pointed out by the protagonist himself. The buggers have a Hive Mind and don't identify single humans to be sapient creatures until the second invasion.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: For once, the aliens are guilty of this. By the time they realized their mistake, they knew it was too late. While they resist their destruction, they harbor no malice to humanity.
  • Would Be Rude to Say Genocide: The "third invasion" is painted to look like the Buggers were the aggressors in propaganda. The truth is the humans were committing xenocide against the Buggers, and the Buggers had no intent of attacking Earth again, but we didn't know that at the time.
    • Additionally, when the Starways Congress decides to send an evacuation fleet to Lusitania (in reality, they have orders to destroy the planet), Valentine (under the name Demosthenes) publishes articles attacking the Congress and revealing the true mission of the fleet, to the point of calling it the Second Xenocide. The Congress immediately sends their State Sec to discover who is writing the articles to shut up Demosthenes, declaring whoever it is to be a traitor to the Hundred Worlds. Anyone using the term the Second Xenocide is likewise considered to be speaking treason. So much for free speech.
  • Zeerust: Peter gains control of the world by anonymously distributing political articles on the Internet. Nowadays we call that "blogging," which has become so common that the idea of a blogger gaining that much power seems unlikely. Parodied by Xkcd here.

The rest of the Ender series

"I don't have to be your commander anymore, do I? I don't want to command anybody again."
"You don't have to command anybody, but you're always our commander".

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played with and examined with Jane. She's spent most of her existence hiding in the Galactic "Internet" because she's aware of the whole Killer Robot cliche and worried how humans will react to her, and they do indeed try to kill her by essentially shutting off every computer in the galaxy at once. However, this was after her overreaction to Ender doing the equivalent of hanging up the phone on her nearly got his planet blown up...
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The colonists of Luisitania initially practice this towards the Pequenios. Turns out the Pequenios are less than happy with this arrangement. Turns out later that breaking the clause brings the threat that the human government will try to subject you to rather extreme "decontamination" procedures.
  • Babies Ever After: subverted when it ends the second book: there's still half a series to go, and plus Ender never actually has a child. Played straight otherwise.
  • Biological Mashup: The eventual result of the descolada—see Bizarre Alien Biology below for one example.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Well, let's put it this way: to have babies, Pequenino males have to turn into a tree.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: In Xenocide, one of the mentioned methods that the godspoken use to commune with the gods is "checking for accidental murders". This is in a list with "doorway-standing" and "counting multiples of five".
  • Break the Haughty: Ender does this to Zeck. Also Novinha's children, particularly Quim.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Twice over. Incest Is Relative is responsible for one. The other is (probably) nonexistent, but rather maliciously suggested by New Peter, after Ender's soul accidentally creates teenage versions of his siblings from Outside the universe, with New Valentine being inaccurately saintly and beautiful.
    • This allows Card to issue a Take That toward one of his more obnoxious critics, who decided it was "obvious" that Ender and Valentine were incestuous. Ender replies to the remark above with "God forbid that a brother and sister should love each other!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: Wang-mu's dream of being the wife and companion of the long-dead Peter the Hegemon.
  • Commander Contrarian: Quara.
  • Conflict Ball: Quara has one superglued to herself. Ventures often into Too Dumb to Live, such as when she indirectly ends up causing Quim's death by inflaming the fathertrees.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Novinha.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The real protagonist of the Path story thread in Xenocide isn't Qing-Jao, it's Wang-Mu.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Novinha, though she only gets a certain amount defrosted.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Outside solves all the major problems of the story, though it causes a few of its own.
    • Qing-Jao's searches for information discover Demosthenes' identity, i.e. one of the greatest mysteries of the past few millennia, with pretty much no explanation behind it.
  • Disappeared Dad: Marcao. It takes Ender to point out the trauma that this really inflicted on the family.
  • Eye Scream: Olhado lost his eyes in a freak accident with a hologram projector.
  • Failsafe Failure: Averted in how a Doctor Device is designed to be easy to disarm. Pretty important for a planet buster.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Achieved using a modified version of Subspace or Hyperspace and the series' particle which adheres to Minovsky Physics.
  • Freudian Excuse: Novinha builds her entire life around trying not to get her lover killed (she fails).
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The "godspoken" of Path are hyperintelligent OCD sufferers. The aliens who designed the descolada seemingly outright communicate by genetically engineering viruses to send to each other, and their idea of terraforming turned the piggies into what they are now.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Hangs over the series even more prominently than it did Ender's Game. The third book is even named "Xenocide", which is a portmanteau of "xeno" (aliens) and "genocide".
  • Genre Shift: Speaker for the Dead is an excellent book by any standards, and it's still science fiction, but it's very philosophical and revolves about stopping a war, not winning one.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Qing Jao goes mad about a quarter of the way through Xenocide and never goes back. Ends up being an Ironic Hell, as she's viewed slowly as the most holy person in all the Hundred Worlds eventually.
  • Ice Cream Koan: At one point, Wang Mu has to pretend to be a philosopher that specializes in these, but she's too logical to last long.
  • Idiot Ball: Some of Novinha and Libo's decisions, and how the Xenologers act towards the pequinos before Ender shows up.
    • Qing Jao has one superglued to herself, justified because of her devotion to the gods.
    • Jane's idea to alert Congress about the Xenologist's meddling out of a misguided desire to move things along for Ender ends up causing most of the major conflicts in the series.
  • Instant AI, Just Add Water: Averted. AI evolves on the Internet after a few thousand years of maturation and deliberate intervention by the Buggers.
  • Jerkass: Quara.
  • Knight Templar
  • Love At First Sight: Ender, to Novinha. Because of Ender's empathy and their shared experiences, we can claim this as real love at first sight, too, as opposed to Hormones At First Sight. (In light of the tone of the series, is that a subversion or playing it straight?) Also Jane to Ender, because she assimilated the old Battle School psychology program's files on him. And the Buggers did it.
  • Love Martyr: Deconstructed in the person of Marcao.
  • Mama Bear: Novinha.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: subverted by Miro (and, until he marries, possibly by Ender too). Which makes Miro resent his paralysis even more...
  • Minovsky Physics: Philotes. Pay attention to that word, it shows up a lot.
  • Missing Mom: Han Qing-jao.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The Pequeninos' reaction after being told that humans, unlike them, can't become Fathertrees upon death, meaning instead of honoring their most favored humans, they ritually murdered them. There is literal wailing and gnashing of teeth when they find out.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: the whole point of being a Speaker For The Dead is to avert this custom, by telling the truth instead (fortunately, the kind of people who have Speakers at their funeral tend to have more interesting truths than lies).
  • The Nondescript: Plikt, through personal habits.
  • Not Blood Siblings: The Reveal is inverted: they are blood siblings, and didn't know it.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Olhado is quite possibly the most intelligent person in the entire series, but is content with his happy home life, as he learned from Ender that it was worth more than science. In Xenocide, he's revealed to have basically solved Grego's questions about the nature of the universe long before Grego even brought them up to him.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Olhado ("the guy with the eyes") is the big one, but it's true of everyone on Lusitania, mostly due to the Overly Long Names that seem to be the vogue for the Brazilian colonists.
    • Played straight and then averted with Quim (which comes from his middle name Rei, meaning "King", which is transliterated into Portuguese), whom Bishop Peregrino insists on calling "Father Estevão" after the latter becomes a priest, even by his family members.
  • Our Souls Are Different: They're subatomic particles and involve quantum entanglement!
  • The Plan: Peter's Locke and Demosthenes plan, the Command School's "game", the Warsaw Pact issue; in fact, there's enough of this going on to be quite accurately described as a Gambit Pileup.
  • Planet of Hats: Justified as a natural consequence of instant communication with sub-lightspeed travel. In the later books, after the 3,000 year Time Skip, many specific cultures - industrialist Japanese, Nordic sailors, and Brazilian Catholics, for example - have entire worlds to themselves. The gulf of space keeps them from having to butt heads with each other, while ansible technology allows them to stay in constant contact.
    • Revealed to be a deliberate plan by Graff, who grouped colonists by culture so that humanity would become more diverse and therefore stronger.
      • Justified too; we only ever see a smattering of planets, and the two of the only ones shown in any detail are limited in certain habitable areas, meaning that they more adequately represent a nation rather than a completely separate planet.
  • Poor Communication Kills: While a lack of understanding and proper communication between formics and humans lead to xenocide in the first book, the Starways Congress decides that to prevent the same thing from ever happening again... they should be as conservative as possible and deliberately withhold as much knowledge as they can from another sapient species. This leads to two men being killed in what is merely a gross misunderstanding of alien biology.
  • Preacher Man: Quim.
  • Promotion to Parent: Ela, and to a lesser extent Miro, due to their parents' messy lives.
  • Rewrite: Several details of the conclusion of Xenocide and the beginning of Children of the Mind don't line up with each other:
    • In Xenocide, Jane is said to have never been possible to kill by the disconnecting of the ansible network, but Children of the Mind starts again with that plot point.
    • Novinha's becoming a nun and begging Andrew to join her, with him refusing on the grounds that he still wants to live his life with her is inexplicably changed to Andrew deciding to join her immediately, and Novinha had never actually become an official nun.
    • Faster-than-Light travel in Xenocide requires Ender to be there, or Peter and New Valentine, because they contain Jane. Children of the Mind treats this as optional with no explanation.
  • Single Biome Planet: Lusitania. Of course, it was deliberately terraformed by some heartless-bastard aliens.
  • Starfish Aliens: The central moral quandary of this series is whether an alien species is too different to co-exist with. It occasionally descends into Humans Are the Real Monsters territory. Four alien species are seen in story, and none of them remotely resemble each other. The makers of the Descolada are never contacted in any official capacity though, and may be impossible to communicate with, and Jane ceases to truly be a separate intelligence, as part of her becomes human and another part becomes piggie, while her relatively non-sentient functions remain in the ansible net.
  • Surprise Incest: Miro and Ouanda are siblings but don't find out right until Ender speaks Marcao's death.
    • Of course, thanks to them being Catholic, they never actualy do it, Ouanda for religious and Miro for practical reasons.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: It's established in the first novel that a single ship can be used to blow up a planet, if it's armed with the MD Device. When the Congress decides to blow up Lusitania, they send an entire fleet with only the flagship armed with the MD Device. Lusitania has minimal industry and no capability to defend itself, being a tiny colony of farmers.
  • Trilogy Creep: Xenocide and Children of the Mind were originally supposed to be one book. It didn't work out, and Children of the Mind ended up being published five years after Xenocide.
  • True Companions: A big part of what keeps Ender on Lusitania.
  • TV Genius: Most of the main cast is of above average intelligence, but never is this really displayed outside of ridiculous feats of intuition and scientific discovery.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Ender's Game began as a stand-alone short story, then was later expanded into a novel. The novel is also sufficiently stand-alone, but the final chapter does have a sequel hook that allows for a sequel if you choose to read it. The sequel also sits surprisingly well as a stand-alone conclusion to Ender's story, but also has a sequel hook if you want to tie up some below-the-surface loose ends. This is where it gets into Two-Part Trilogy country. The final two books in the series, Xenocide and Children of the Mind, are far more connected than the previous books and were originally intended to be a single volume, but were broken off into two with a superficial cliffhanger between them. Children of the Mind returns to being a suitable conclusion, if you count the main character Ender dying, but only opens up the biggest cliffhanger in literature since Chapterhouse: Dune. Like the Dune series, it's near impossible to differentiate between the overlapping Sequelitis, Two-Part Trilogy, and Trilogy Creep.
    • The Sequel Hook at the end of Ender's Game is actually a complete aversion of the trope, because the entire novel was written only after Card was stumped on creating a good protagonist for Speaker. See Going Cosmic under Ender's Game above for the whole story.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Miro to Ouanda. Not to mention Novinha and Libo.
  • The Untwist: In universe. The piggies never bother concealing anything about their culture; when they refer to trees as fathers they are being literal.
  • The Virus: the descolada, complete with mutation. "Descolada" translates to "ungluing", for what it does to DNA.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Jane (actually more like an Internet with a voice).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In an early chapter of Speaker for the Dead, Valentine's eldest daughter Syfte is set up as having a bit of a hero-worship for her uncle Ender, and planning to maybe follow him to Lusitania to help him. In the next book, Valentine's family does do that... But Syfte is barely mentioned (of course, this is the series that can't make up its mind how many children Valentine actually had).
  • You Should Know This Already: Lusitanian biology is made up of symbiotic plant and animal relationships. Piggies literally become trees, flies pollinate grass, etc.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Admiral Lands tries to pull one.
    • His reason for disobeying orders seems pretty petty. While it's true that he's prepared to bear the consequences of committing another Xenocide to protect humanity, his main reason appear to be so as not to cause his men additional discomfort by forcing them to be placed in long-term duty above the surface of Lusitania.