Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow: A Book Review

While it starts unexpectedly crawling the streets of Rotterdam with orphaned children, Ender’s Shadow picks up steam quite quickly. Returning to the format that made Ender’s Game so great, Orson Scott Card decides that we are going to train a child to save humanity, only this time we witness the story through Bean, a member of Ender’s jeesh, and a backup to Ender’s role as commander. If Ender fails, if he falters (and he does), someone else has to push the buttons.

Graff occupies the very same role he did with Ender, but this time Bean’s minute stature and inquisitive nature allows the reader to snoop on Graff, to seem more of the behind the scenes, and to do so through the eyes of one of his boys. While in Ender’s Game and Ender we saw the blend of resentment and determination, the will to both win and decimate, in Bean we see the cold, calm calculation of a boy who learns that he is not quite human, that through genetic manipulation he will never live to see his twenties but will possess superior intellect. Thus he is plucked off the streets by a high ranking Catholic Nun and placed in battle school where he forever exists in Ender’s shadow.

Yet is Ender his enemy or is he one that Bean should emulate and protect? Written as a companion text, most who open this novel know the ultimate outcome, but Ender has support, Ender vegged out after killing Bonzo and was absent from command school, other people killed the buggers … err formics, and they too reacted. How did Petra live with her errors? How did the other children survive the onslaught of battles? Thus we learn more about the world, more about Ender, and tons about Bean. Card uses this text to launch another line of sequels and explore the social and political vacuum created by the absence of the great enemy. As one who thoroughly enjoyed Ender’s Game, I find equal but different joy in this text as well.

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