In the third book of Orson Scott Card’s Shadow Saga, Shadow Puppets, a cycle of espionage and deception runs rampant on the Earth as humanity continues to engage in regional wars in the wake of the Formic destruction. Thus, in this science fiction turned James Bond narrative, I found myself clamoring for the philosophy of man Card played out when discussing the viability of the piggies in Xenocide. Unfortunately, while Card creates a semi-entertaining novel, this piece fails to live up to both the critical and intellectual level one would expect. While it does fixate on the minds of teenagers, characters prone to the irrational, Shadow Puppets lacks full intellectual mettle. Instead, the text is full of inexplicable decisions, contrived plot points, and an Amazon River like path that meanders to and fro.
As the novel starts, Achilles, the psychopath and enemy of both Bean and the Peter Wiggin is rescued from a Chinese transport and put into the employ of the Hegemon. Why? Only Card knows, for this inexplicable plot point serves as the catalyst for ever event for the remainder of the Shadow Saga. Thus Bean flees with Petra, prompting the two to fall in love. This build up to love is unsubstantiated and lacking in detail—it happens and the reader takes the face in stride lest they stop reading the novel. Bean and Petra argue over having children, get married, opt for in-vitro fertilization in order to avoid passing on Bean’s genetic condition, and then of course, they fall into a web of evil created by Achilles.
On the other side of the word, Asia and the Middle East tumble into war, wars led or planned by battle school graduates. These wars turn society on end, and begin marching toward the planet’s ultimate need of a Hegemon and the removal of the battle school graduates from earthbound society. But this plot will not playout yet—there is still another book to sell. In the end and to no one’s surprise, Achilles is murdered at the hands of Bean, taking the reader right back to where they began, but with a little more war, a marriage, and the search for babies. While not Card’s best work, the pages turn, the saga goes on, and Bean is almost free to travel the galaxy and wait for a cure for his incurable condition.