In the beginning, there was Ender's Game. This was a novel (actually, a short story, and then a novel) about a child genius named Ender Wiggin who became the best general the international Battle School had ever seen, and ended up saving humanity from conquest by an alien species.

It then spawned a trilogy of sequels--Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind--although that's not technically correct because the author, Orson Scott Card, actually intended Ender's Game as a prequel to that story, not vice versa. And after that, Card went on to other things.

But Ender's Game remained popular, and so, in time, Card revisited it. But not with more sequels. He wanted to tell the story of what happened to unite the world under Ender's brother, Peter Wiggin the Hegemon, between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. This story was initiated during Ender's Game and briefly touched on in its epilogue, and that was it, because Speaker for the Dead begins long after Peter Wiggin is dead.

So Card came up with the fairly clever idea of taking a minor character from Ender's Game, another child genius named Bean, and retelling the entire events of Ender's Game from his perspective. You know how the plot is going to turn out, of course, but you don't know much of anything about Bean's origins, his friends or enemies, or what happens to him after humanity is saved and the Battle School is closed. And it turns out the little snot has a far more interesting history than anyone could have imagined....

That's what Ender's Shadow is about: Bean. And much like Ender's Game, this book isn't quite supposed to stand on its own. Because all the characters from Bean's life continue on into a new trilogy of books, beginning with Shadow of the Hegemon, about Bean and Peter Wiggin and everyone they know. No Ender, no Valentine (Ender's and Peter's sister), but a whole bunch of leftover adolescent military geniuses from Battle School trying to hang on in a world that wants nothing better than to kidnap them all and use them to win World War III.

See, it was pretty well set up in Ender's Game that the nations of the world were on the brink of some pretty nasty nationalistic infighting (yes, again), and that the looming threat of an alien invasion was the only thing that got them to put their differences aside and combine their resources. Once the aliens were dealt with, though, all those countries would go back to doing what they did before. Peter Wiggin foresaw this, even before his brother Ender went to Battle School. The fact that he was successful in preventing it by becoming the new ruler of the world himself himself was kind of glossed over before. Exactly how he did it, and how Bean plays into it all, is what these books are going to be about.

As a book, it's pretty good. And you don't need to read Ender's Game before reading Ender's Shadow, according to the author, but it certainly helps.

Ender's Shadow is followed by Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets and Shadow of the Giant.

Here's my beef with Ender's Shadow.

To avoid spoilers, stop reading now.

So basically, they make out Bean to be an intellect of astounding magnitude, surpassing even Ender--- uh, what? What I liked about Ender was his empathy; his "emotional IQ", if you will, was a big part of his genius, and ultimately what allowed him to win the Bugger War.

Bean, with his background of emotional deprivation, just doesn't have the skills or the temperament necessary to deliver the final, crushing blow to the Buggers. Yet Ender's Shadow seems to tell us that the Battle School people actually had more faith in Bean than Ender.

It was a good book, written to Card's typically high standards, but ultimately unnecessary. It indulged in what is, in my opionion, the ultimate sin for any multivolume work in any medium: That of retroactive continuity.

The Problem with Ender's Shadow is that the plot feels Engineered. Many writers, Card included, have said that in the best books the Characters write themselves and the hand of the author ceases to be visible.

In Ender's Shadow, the plot is clearly written ex post facto and then crudely joined to that of the original Ender book. When he wrote the first novel, Bean was not the genius he was in Shadow -- he was a little more likeable too. Don't get me wrong, i'm not saying that Bean was unintelligent, he was second only to Ender, but he was Bean. The Bean in Shadow is a different character -- the motivations just don't end up working out. If it had been a real flesh out of an existing character instead of another superboy story, i would have been all over it.

Card should have taken the original suggestion I gave him and written the Mazer Rackham story. I wonder why he gave that up.

Do not read this unless you want to spoil the fun of a good book The beginning of the story opens with Bean being a scrawny boy who is just barely alive on the streets of Rotterdam, where he succeeds in joining Poke’s "crew". He tells them how to get in the front of the line at the soup kitchen: beat up an older kid and use him to get the others out of the way, this is where Achilles comes in. They target Achilles because he has a gimp leg. Bean tells them that they shouldn’t but they don’t listen to him because he is a little child even by their standards. They succeed in getting Achilles to work for them. What they didn’t know however is that Achilles doesn’t like for people to see him when he can’t defend himself; he has a way of getting back at these certain people, which is why he later kills Poke after kissing her. Things are going great and they get better when Sister Carlotta comes looking for children she thinks will make it in Battle School. She originally comes for Achilles but when she tests Bean for his skills he tests better than Achilles, so she decides to use him instead. Sister Carlotta tests him again to decide weather she wants him to go to Battle School, he scored exceptionally high for a four year old so she sends him away even though kids aren’t normally accepted for Battle School until they are six. On the shuttle to Battle School Bean was set apart from the others because the commanding officer seemed to prefer him to the others, which made them think of Bean as a teachers’ pet. When they boarded the school they were sent to their barracks. Bean immediately palmed his hand on the scanner for his locker and started looking at the items that it contained: a casual spacesuit, a battle room suit, and a freeze gun. They were then escorted to the gym by Captain Dimak. Afterwards, Bean wondered off from the rest of the group to explore the station figuring that he had an excuse since he was new. He was sent down from those corridors by Petra Arkanian. He then wondered to the gameroom where he found who he had been looking for: Bonzo. He was looking for Bonzo because he knew that he wouldn’t lie about what Bean wanted to know: who was Ender Wiggin? Meanwhile Sister Carlotta was trying to find out all she could about Bean. She figured out that he wasn’t a regular boy he had been genetically altered, how or by whom is what she didn’t know. Bean soon after decided to explore the vents and ducts since he was still small enough to fit in. While he explored these he noticed a teacher signing onto their computer, Bean thought this and excellent way to get more information. He used the login to create himself an identity which he could use to explore what he couldn’t on his student login. He looked at the student files, mostly just his and Enders scores and tests. He later became friends with a fellow student, Nikolai Delphiki. The teachers came to Bean with a hypothetical assignment: to arrange a team of just launchies and low ranked veterans.He figured out that this army was for Ender. He did this "assignment" and he added his name to the list. The next day all the kids who Bean put on the list were given transfer slips to report to Dragon Army barracks. Over the next couple of weeks Dragon Army became the best having a perfect win record. This was not easy however because they had not been given the set amount of time to practice before they were given their first game and the games also started to come twice a week then to twice a day. Bean didn’t start off as a toon leader but he soon showed Ender what he was made of and he was made a special toon leader. The last game Ender ever played was against two armies. Ender didn’t care about the games any more because they didn’t mean anything anymore, so he just sent is his toon leaders to end the game. When Ender got back to his commanders room Bean followed him there and was invited into a long and serious discussion. The end of this discussion was when Colonel Graff came in and handed Ender a set of transfer papers, Ender was out of Battle School. He was being sent to Command School on the asteroid of Eros. Soon after Bean became a commander of the Rat Army. Soon after that he was informed that Achilles was in his army. Bean got rid of him by trapping him in the ducts and making him commit to all of his murders. Later Bean and some other students were sent to Tactical School. He left to Tactical School with Dink, Petra, Alai, Shen, Vlad, Dumper, Crazy Tom, Fly Molo, and Hot Soup. After about three months they were sent to Command School. At Command School they were constantly being trained with three-dimensional "games" that was supposed to prepare them for the real thing. After weeks of this they finally moved to one room and was then assigned modules. They were told that they were now going to be taking directions from a commander. Bean already knew it was Enderand sure enough it was. They "practiced" with Ender for weeks, doing strenuous activities and challenging models to work out. Finally Petra broke because Ender relied on her heavily after which she never did fully recover from the mental breakdown. Finally they were told that this would be their final test. They were put up against and enemy of overwhelming numbers and the odds were against them. Ender however pulled the same move he did in the last game he played and just dove right in for the kill and the win. They were later told that it wasn’t a game, that they were commanding real ships with real men inside. It hit them like a ton of bricks and Ender took it the worst. They stayed in Eros for a long time while a civil war broke out on Earth and they went back when it was over. Sister Carlotta however had one last thing to tell Bean that she had found out: Bean was the brother of one of friends while at Battle School and if he would have been named his name would have been: Julian Delphiki.

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