Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

When my bookclub chose to read Ender's Game for this month, it was the culmination of at least 3 1/2 years of lobbying by one member with back-up by a couple of us who had also read it before. Of course, once we had finally pushed it through as our sci-fi choice, I decided that I wans't going to re-read it even though I had thoroughly enjoyed it the first time around. Instead, I took the opportunity to read Ender's Shadow, the parallel novel to Ender's Game that I had long wanted to get around to reading.

Ender's Shadow tells the same story that Ender's Game tells instead telling the tale from Bean's perspective. Starting when Bean is a small boy starving in the streets of Amsterdam, the novel delves into Bean's background to explain what created the uber-intelligent child who is slated to be Ender's back-up, his lieutenant, in the final battle to save Earth from the Buggers. Bean's early life is one of deprivation and the fight for survival and the only thing that keeps Bean alive is his almost supernatural intelligence. He spends time observing and deducing and then impliments a plan designed to protect himself even though he is years younger than the rest of the street children. Discovered by a nun who is searching for children who might be fit for Battle School, Bean presents a challenge to her and as he is pushed forward to the school and to his inevitable meeting with Ender Wiggin, the good Sister goes on a quest to find Bean's origins. Interspersed with Bean's story are meetings amongst the adults in charge, the Sister, the Commander, teachers at Battle School, as they discuss this preternaturally smart child and his position in the upcoming battle and their understanding--or their lack thereof--of how his brain works.

Although it is not strictly necessary to have read Ender's Game to appreciate Ender's Shadow, having read the first in the series does make the parallel novel a richer read. And already knowing the story and the resolution does not detract from the enjoyment here either. Bean's perspective is wholly new, more clinical than Ender's, and ultimately more informed. He is perhaps not as easy a character to know and less sympathetic but for all that, the story is just as engaging the second time around. Card has managed to tell the same tale twice but still keep readers fascinated, not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. The writing is fairly simple and straightforward and the character and curiousity of Bean really drives the story forward, especially for those who already know the basic ins and outs of the plot. A great addition to the wonderful read that was Ender's Game.


  1. I did grumble at how Card took some of Ender's achievements and gave them to Bean; it seemed like he was rewriting history a bit. I like the Bean books more when they split completely from Ender's story.

    My 13 year old is a big fan and has read them all -- he even came to my book club when we did Ender's Game, but someone had brought the first graphic novel about the Battle Station so he didn't talk much.

  2. I love this parallel story. I thought it gave even more depth to Ender's character. I really loved the whole Shadaow spin off series. Ender's Game is still my favorite, but I love the whole series.


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