A War of Gifts

by Orson Scott Card
Series: Ender's Game 9
Reviewed date: 2010 Jan 25
Rating: 2
196 pages
cover art

Card returns to his cash-cow: the Ender series. A War of Gifts is a Christmas story set in Battle School. Zeck Morgan, one of the Battle School children, holds steadfastly to his pacifist religious beliefs; he participates in all the drills and practices, but refuses to actually fire his weapon even in the simulated combat of the Battle Room. Any hint of religion is forbidden in Battle School, so Zeck cannot be excused and sent home; but still he refuses to participate.

When Zeck sees some other students celebrating Christmas, he reports them. If he cannot observe his religion, then they shouldn't be permitted to observe theirs. This sets off a war: the other Battle School children deliberately stage public acts of gift-giving, aimed pointedly at ostracizing Zeck.

The climax of the tale is a confrontation between Zeck and Ender. Using his uber powers, Ender helps Zeck to confront his real inner demons: the guilt over the abuse his father perpetrated on him. Zeck remembers the lashings, and had blamed himself for being less than perfect, for needing punishment. With Ender's help, Zeck realizes that it was his father, not him, whose imperfections prompted the lashings. And his father's sermons about pacifism were a wall that he created to rein in his own anger and his own abusive nature. He couldn't control himself enough to stop beating his son, but his pacifist religion held him back enough to prevent himself from killing his son in his rage.

A War of Gifts is a silly little book. I didn't find it interesting, realistic, or engaging.

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