Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game was a book about Ender Wiggins, a genius among geniuses, and the boy who, almost unwittingly, became humanity's great hope in their battle against a powerful alien race.  Ender's Shadow is the story of Bean, who probably had a more remarkable mind than even Ender, but was just a few years behind him and played a less well-recognized role in the fateful events of that story.

This is most definitely Bean's book.  While his tale certainly overlaps with Ender's, and there are common characters, this isn't really just a retelling of the original novel.  A great deal of this book happens away from Ender, beginning with Bean's early childhood on the streets of Rotterdam, or in different parts of Battle School.  By being told from Bean's perspective, even the climax of this book, which directly overlaps with the conclusion of Ender's Game, feels different.  We learn a great deal more about what was going on during those events, much of which happened outside of Ender's frame of reference.  Bean is a fantastic character with a great deal of depth, and it was fun to live in his mind.

The book was a very fast read.  While other novels might take me over a month to pick through, I read this one cover-to-cover in about two weeks (I'm not a fast reader and have a busy life, so this is about as fast as it gets).  It's lively and fun, and I enjoyed it immensely.  If I have a criticism of the story, it's that huge chunks of the novel are long descriptions of what was going on in Bean's mind.  These introspections are often interesting and certainly drive the narrative forward, but I think they were a bit overdone in the book and certainly ventured into the realm of "telling, not showing."  Granted, it'd be difficult to tell the same story without them, because Bean as a character is incredibly secretive, introspective, and, for much of the book, very introverted.

This is apparently the first book in a series of six(!) books focused on Bean and his family, not all of which have been released.  I'm not sure if/when I'll dig into that series, but I certainly would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the original and wanted another chance to explore Orson Scott Card's Battle School.

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