Ender’s Game: ’77 vs ’85

I was first introduced to the Ender’s Game series at age 11 through my school book club by a wonderful teacher. The version I read then was the revised edition, the one that made it to a book.

EG - 85

It was around this age that I started writing. I’d been working on a “book version” of a movie me and my friends were making, and I’d been working on it with real gusto. So, when I read in Card’s afterword in the book that he was so happy with the alterations to the original that he wished he had written the original that way…boy was I shocked. I hated editing. It felt like I was killing my child; or worse – being disloyal to it.

However, it was only recently that I had the good fortune to come across the very first edition of Ender’s Game – the one published as a short story/novelette in the August 1977 edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. And only then did it finally hit me what he meant. Turns out we owe almost as much to the editors and suggestion-givers as we owe to Card.

ANLGAUG77                                      EG '77 - ASFF - contents

As always, spoiler alert. If you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, I’d hate to spoil such a classic book for you, so don’t read beyond this paragraph. If you came looking for advice on which version to read, I’d say go with the ’85 version. [The one you’ll find in bookstores.] The reason I say this is because, without giving anything away, this book owes a lot of its success to its dry wit and to-the-point dialogue [obviously other than the supremely engaging plotline, and the way key political, social and moral issues have been tackled. The first really intellectual book I ever read.] The ’85 version, having been superbly edited and expanded, has all that. Also, the ending is markedly different. And that’s all I’ll tell you Ender virgins.

For people who’ve read the ’85 version and not the ’77 one, I’ve mentioned a few key differences I noticed below. As you can see if you’ve read this far, I much prefer the ’85 version. If you thought otherwise, or have anything to contribute to this discussion, I’d love to hear from you, so drop a line in the comments section below!

Differences:

  1. Ender’s Game (’77) is about 31 pages, give or take, whereas Ender’s Game (’85) is about 204.
  2. The original (’77) Ender’s Game begins with the “the enemy’s gate is down” battle, thereby leaving out the whole Earth segment, and everything to do with Ender’s family.
  3. Apart from Bean, none of the other Jeesh members we know and love are there – a few are named, but they’re different names, and none are given a role.
  4. A lot of the key moments are more drawn out in EG ’77 – specifically the dialogue. Being less to the point, they lose a lot of their impact; more than you’d think.
  5. The story is terminated well before the ’85 version’s ending.The whole colonization arc is lost, and Graff and Anderson’s post-war job descriptions change.
  6. As the colonization part is left out, neither the Hive Queen nor the Hegemon is mentioned; nor, indeed, do those books even exist in the old version. Meaning  no opportunity for Ender’s redemption.

To conclude, reading the first version of Ender’s Game was a learning experience for me – it was like getting to see Card’s rough draft, like seeing Ender’s Game in the making. For me, reading EG ’77 was basically just a lesson in appreciating the final version. Although EG ’77 features the main elements and scenes of the A-plot of EG ’85, it feels very skeletal (which, in some ways, I guess it was.)

You know how they say that it’s hard to appreciate something you have, or that you never appreciate what you have until it’s gone? EG ’77 helped me see all the things that could’ve gone wrong, but didn’t, in EG ’85. It helped me pinpoint exactly why I love this book. For all of you who are curious, or whose appreciation for Ender’s Game may have been dulled or forgotten over the years, I definitely suggest a reading of EG ’77, followed by EG ’85. You’re welcome.

*N.B.: According to Wikipedia, Card revised Ender’s Game again in 1991 to account for major political events that happened post-1985 (for example, the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.)

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