Orson Scott Card's Ender’s Shadow
YA science fiction review by J. Anne Huss
(J. Anne has her own site at The Simple Homeschool.)
Ender’s Shadow is the fifth book in the Ender Series and in my opinion is the best of them all!
It is a parallel novel that uses much of the same plot elements and setting as Ender’s Game (read review), but with a whole new protagonist and point of view experienced through the character Bean. Readers familiar with Ender’s Game will remember Bean as he appears about halfway through the book, but what they won’t remember (because it was never revealed) is how such a freakishly small kid came to be in Ender’s Army in the first place.
Bean was another of the brilliant children discovered by the International Fleet scouts around the same time as Ender. Living as an orphan in a ghetto section of Rotterdam, Holland, Bean struggles for survival, but is crippled by his small size. He appears to be only two years old to the other homeless children roaming the streets, but he is in fact four.
His brilliance is unparalleled at the time (Ender is still questionable) and this is quickly recognized as he manipulates whole neighborhoods of homeless children via his “protector” Poke, and her Crew of other similarly small and hungry homeless children.
Like Ender’s game, Ender’s Shadow revolves around kids. The very same kids in the very same Battle School, who are entrusted to learn everything there is to know about battle tactics, in the shortest possible time period, so that they can go out and annihilate an entire race of aggressive non-humans.
Unlike Ender’s Game however, the books that directly follow the Shadow series adapt well to a younger audience, and while there might be a few mature and philosophical young adults who would prefer the Ender series, most would be bored to tears with all the complex intricacies of grown up life.
Ender’s Shadow readdresses what captivated people in the first book, how children survive and adapt as they attempt to live out the complex futures thrust upon them by the manipulating adults who control every facet of their lives.
Bean is also Ender’s opposite in many ways and in my opinion that makes him more interesting and likable. For example, while Ender is alienated by everyone around him and racked by inner turmoil and emotion over the deliberate military mind games from the International Fleet; Bean is cold, calculating, logical, and looking for a way to “stick it to the man” at every turn. He is Kirk’s mini-Spock, only without the pointy ears and with a much bigger attitude.
One thing you won’t find in Ender’s Shadow is any real competition between these two brilliant children, it is as if each of them know that there is no question of who the real commander is, was, and was ever meant to be; Ender. But every great leader needs an understudy and Beans fills that role to perfection.
One of the fun things about reading both of these books is being able to see Battle School from an entirely different perspective. While Ender only gave us his obsessive internal quest to please and win every possible conflict thrust upon him, Bean allows us to see “behind the scenes” so to speak, as to just exactly how all those brilliant wins took place.
Even if you’ve read Ender’s Game and know the final outcome you won’t be disappointed with the climax and ending of Ender’s Shadow. It takes a very talented author to spin an entirely new slant on such a famous ending, (like trying to surprise a 10 year old with the Three Little Bears). But Card pulls this off with twists and turns that all make sense in the end. When you are reading about the final battle from Bean’s perspective, dialog that took place in Ender’s Game suddenly takes on a whole new meaning and leaves the reader with a very real sense of completeness and satisfaction.
(Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant), that will captivate young adult readers with the futures of Bean and the other Battle School children as they adapt to life back on Earth after the war.
Read more of J. Anne's book reviews.
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