TOR, Sep 1999
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
In some ways, the survival of Bean in a slum jungle of abandoned children is the best training he could have had for Battle School. In other ways, it makes Battle School the most alien experience he could have found. Bean's extraordinary mind and abilities, kept secret, keep him alive to the age of four, but they nearly cost him his life when his gang leader Achilles perceives him as a threat. Bean is snatched out of the slums in the nick of time. He arrives in Battle School aged five, the youngest entry ever.
Battle School, physically rigorous for most children, is the lap of luxury to Bean. Beanís challenges come from his assumption that every child's hand is against every other, and from his awareness of his superiority to every other child. Bean is a natural tactician, and his political maneuvering in the slums and in Battle School make fascinating reading. His greatest puzzle is figuring out what makes people cooperate. Ultimately, his life will depend on it. From Ender he learns there is much more reason for cooperation than mere living.
ENDER'S SHADOW is written as a parallel novel to ENDER'S GAME, but it is by no means the retelling of the story from another viewpoint. Author Orson Scott Card says in his introduction that the twelve years between the two books gave him new vision and new things to say. There is a radical difference between the straightforward story of ENDER'S GAME and the complexity of ENDER'S SHADOW.
The new, calculating Bean of ENDER'S SHADOW studies Ender, unseen, for a long time. Much is happening behind Ender's back. In some places, I felt we weren't just looking at Ender from a different point of view, we were looking at a different Ender. This Ender is a less intelligent character, and not just in comparison to Bean's freakish intelligence. The observant, analytical Ender of ENDER'S GAME is not the same Ender who does not realize how his life is being influenced by Bean in ENDER'S SHADOW. This lack of awareness did not ring true to me.
ENDER'S GAME is one of my favorite novels, and ENDER'S SHADOW had much to prove to me. I stayed up very late to finish reading it in one sitting, so it succeeded. Both books are clever and exceptionally inventive. ENDERíS GAME is by far the more moving book and deserves the honor of having won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, but the substantial, intricate ENDERíS SHADOW deserves awards as well. The years of planning Card put into this book have resulted in one of the most dimensional characters he has written.
ENDER'S GAME and ENDER'S SHADOW reach far beyond the category of science fiction into human drama. They are both outstanding for their exploration of issues such as the assimilation and self-expression of the unique individual in the community, and how far and in what ways living beings are responsible for each other.
Just as ENDERíS GAME did, ENDERíS SHADOW sets up for a sequel. After his military training, Bean has much use for his talents. He also has unusual physical prospects which ENDERíS SHADOW does not explore. Most promisingly, Card has laid the groundwork for confrontations among Bean and other characters who did not have a chance to come into their own in this pair of books. ENDERíS SHADOW is followed by SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON and SHADOW PUPPETS, titles which look like they address most of these potentials.July 2000 Original Review Published by the Independent Reviews Site Sep 2003 Revised Version
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