That is a very good question: what is up with this ending? Or, should we say: what’s up with all the different endings? You ever notice how some recent films seem to wrap things up…and then go on and wrap things up again. By the time they’re done, they have several moments where you thought “this is the ending”? This book is kind of like that. Let’s try to figure out what those endings are here.
Ending #1: We have the end of Chapter 14, when we learn that Ender has been fighting a real war against the aliens. Once you throw in all the stuff about what’s going on down on Earth, what with the war between someone and someone else (does it really matter?) – that could be a very satisfying ending in and of itself.
Ending #2: Next, Card throws in a bunch of stuff about Ender leaving Earth for one of the colony planets. He’s a governor there and he lives with his sister. That seems like an interesting ending: Ender getting to reconnect and start over with his family (well, with the good parts of his family, at least).
Ending #3: After that we have Ender discovering the bugger queen pupa, which is pretty cool. He talks to it and learns all about the buggers, and then he hatches (sorry for the pun) a plan to live with them in peace after he resurrects them from the brink of extinction. Awesome, right?
Ending #4: Finally, Ender invents a new religion. Which is totally how all novels should end – just have a character in the last few pages invent a new religion.
Yeah, what’s up with those endings?
Well, let’s start with the least fun answer: setting up the sequel. Card actually had an idea for a book that he titled Speaker for the Dead. When he turned “Ender’s Game” into a novel (from his original short story), he decided to connect the two. Which is why the last chapter in Ender’s Game has the same name as the next novel in the series. Makes sense, right? Some parts of this ending mainly exist in order to set up the next book. That is, the next book has Ender on another colony world (ending #2), looking for a place to restart the bugger species (ending #3), while dealing with certain philosophical and religious issues (ending #4).
But looked at another way, all four of the endings help tie up some major issue that we’ve dealt with in the novel:
Ending #1: The adults trick Ender into killing an entire species. Why this ending? Ender really will do anything to survive. And adults are liars who can’t be trusted. (Which was pretty much the first thing we learned in the book, what with the nurse telling Ender that getting his monitor removed wouldn’t hurt one bit.)
Ending #2: Ender and Valentine go to a colony. Why this ending? Remember when Ender beats the level in the mind game in which he and Val get to be together forever? Yeah, from one angle, that brother-sister relationship is weird, but from another angle – well, it’s pretty weird, but at least it’s nice for Ender to finally not be lonely anymore. This ties up the “Ender is alone” aspect of the book.
Ending #3: Buggers are not totally extinct. Why this ending? On one hand, this gives Ender a second chance to make something right that wasn’t totally his fault in the first place. (Well, we can debate how much of it was his fault.) Remember when Val tells Graff that Ender would like to undo the evil things Peter does (9.281)? Well, here’s Ender’s chance to undo that extinction he caused. Also, now that the buggers are talking to Ender, we can finally see things through their eyes too. And remember, according to Graff, the whole war might have been caused by the inability to communicate. Here we have communication, which equals no war. Yay.
Ending #4: Ender starts a new religion. Why this ending? This might be the weirdest of the four endings, but it does give Ender and Peter a chance to reconnect.
Through all four endings, Ender defeats or overcomes his old enemies: he defeats the adults by escaping to a new world, defeats the other kids by reconnecting with his sister, overcomes the buggers by realizing they’re not enemies (which is a kind of defeat), and he defeats his brother by finally making peace with him.
Now, are you ready for the sequel?