Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card details the youth of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a child prodigy who is trained from a very young age by the military to become a legendary commander, savior of humanity and destroyer of the alien race known as the Buggers.
In the book's version of a futuristic Earth, families are normally restricted to two children (presumably to prevent overpopulation). However, if their first two children show great intellectual promise, they are allowed to have a third child, simply and derogatively known as a "Third." Ender is one of these Thirds, his existence called for by military brass after his two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, showed exceptional talents but were deemed unusable for military purposes (Peter for being too aggressive, Valentine for being too compassionate). Ender proves to be a perfect balance of Peter's ruthlessness and Valentine's empathy, and is thus sent to an orbital Battle School at the age of six to become part of a military program designed to produce soldiers and commanders for the next confrontation with the Buggers.
Ender's exceptional skills quickly distinguish him from the other trainees, and he is allowed to skip through the majority of Basic Training to the next level of Battle School; he is assigned to Salamander Army under the command of Bonzo Madrid, which takes part in mock battles in zero-G. During his stint with Salamander Army he is subject to much hostility from Bonzo due to his lack of experience, culminating in an incident where Ender fires his weapon in one of the mock battles when Bonzo had ordered him not to (Bonzo never let him participate in any of the battles). Ender's disobedience results in a draw for Salamander Army instead of a loss, but Bonzo punishes him nonetheless and has him transferred out. Bonzo's actions backfire on him by causing chaos within his own army and disintegrating the discipline he had worked so hard to achieve.
Ender eventually becomes the commander of his own army (Dragon Army) years ahead of time, receiving rejects from other armies to fill out his ranks. Using his exceptional skill as a leader he molds them into perfection, and using his tactical and strategic ingenuity he pioneers many never-before-seen maneuvers and techniques that lead him and his army to victory after victory against even the most impossible of odds. His success sparks hatred and envy towards him among the other armies, and after defeating and accidentally humiliating Salamander Army, his old commander Bonzo makes an attempt on his life but ends up being killed by Ender instead, sending shockwaves throughout Battle School.
The incident with Bonzo sends Ender into a nervous breakdown. He is allowed to finally spend time back on Earth before departing again to Command School, where he takes part in virtual simulations to further hone his skills as a commander. Little does he know that he is actually commanding real ships piloted by real people dozens of light years away; he is commanding the invasion of the Bugger empire. "Simulation" after "simulation" test the limits of his abilities and his sanity, and during his "final test," he destroys the Bugger home world in an act of defiance (his supervisors had ordered him not to knowing that he would disobey their orders). This final victory ends the Bugger threat once and for all and Ender is immortalized as the savior of humanity, hero of Earth, but he feels nothing but guilt over his actions.
While civil war breaks out on Earth and the opposing forces both beseech Ender to join their side, Ender decides to leave Earth entirely and take the first colony ship to one of the once Bugger-inhabited planets. Upon arriving there, he discovers messages left to him by the Buggers, who were able to use their telepathic powers to peer into Ender's mind from across the galaxy. They knew that he didn't mean to or want to destroy them, so they left their final hope, their last remaining queen, in a spot that only Ender would be able to find with the help of the path they left for him. Ender is able to communicate with the queen telepathically and learns that the Buggers only attacked humans because they thought that they weren't sentient, and upon learning that they were, they resolved not to attack them again. Thus, the extermination of the Buggers was not necessary.
Using this new-found knowledge, Ender writes a book titled The Hive Queen giving the Bugger's perspective of the war, and signs it as "Speaker for the Dead." The book is written with such insight that many others choose to become Speakers as well, telling the stories of deceased persons' lives at funerals. Ender eventually makes it his mission to spend as long as it takes to find a new world for the last Bugger queen to rebuild her species on, to right the great wrong he had unintentionally committed.
In all, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin impacts the world quite possibly more than anyone else before him. He introduces whole new aspects of play into the mock conflicts at Battle School and leads one of the greatest armies it has ever seen, kills a well-known Battle School commander, nearly completely exterminates an entire intelligent alien species, and writes a book that spawns a pseudo-religion of Speakers for the Dead. Amazing it is to know, then, that his story has only just begun.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Card, Orson Scott. Ender's Game. Tor Books, 1985.