on November 17, 2000
Every few years, a book comes along that burns into the very core of the reader, leaving memory of the book for many, many years to come. When ENDER'S GAME first appeared in the mid-80's, the groundbreaking novel did more to turn legions of "mainstream" readers into sci-fi fans. The gripping human drama in that Hugo & Nebula winning book left many of us stunned and wowed.
While some many have followed Mr. Card's foray into the further adventures of Ender Wiggins through the sequels, I personally couldn't get through SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD and decided to abandon the further life story of Ender. And when I saw that a "parallel" novel of ENDER'S GAME was published, I thought to myself, "Well, Mr. Card is selling himself out. Talk about rehashing."
Then as fate would have it, I picked up ENDER'S SHADOW anyway about a week ago and began reading a few days ago. By page 2, I was hopelessly lost in the world of Rotterdamn, where the 2-year old Bean begins his political maneuvering, leading to murder, lies and powerplay by various memorable characters. Forget SURVIORS. The truth about human nature and its various social manifestations are in ENDER'S SHADOW. The reason why ENDER'S GAME was so successful was that, despite its background as a SF story, it was really about believable characters that you cared about. ENDER'S SHADOW does that, too, and by the end of the book, you're sad that you'll have to say goodbye to your imaginary friends.
From the backstreets of Rotterdam, through the Battle School, then to the final simulation game that signals the end of the war between human and buggers, we see the transformation of Bean, from the secretive, emotionless, distrusting schemer to a full-fledged leader of soldiers.
For those who think SHADOW might be rehashing old story, read the book and see how perfectly it fits into the GAME. While events are the same, Ender is only a pivoting point for Bean, the lead character. They say that the journey isn't the destination; it is the journey itself, the road by which you arrive at the destination. The story here is the road where you walk with Bean, where the now-old surprise ending of the GAME is not the point.
For those who have never read ENDER'S GAME, you might want to read that first, but frankly, even without that first book, you'll thoroughly enjoy this one. But, again, frankly, you'll be mad at yourself in the end because, 9 out of 10, you'll wind up picking up that first book immediately.
Is ENDER'S SHADOW equal to ENDER'S GAME? Probably not. But what can equal the power of the first book? ENDER'S SHADOW is almost as good, and will not disappoint. Don't take my word for it. Go ahead and read it.
on May 11, 2000
Card, in the acknowledgements, voices his wish to have named the book Urchin, only to be trumped by the marketability of the name "Ender". So in a desire to sell books, his publishers convinced him to force everyone to look at Bean, and at this novel, through the eyes of their love for Ender and Ender's Game. That was a mistake.
It seems that the Ender aficionadoes out there judge Card a standard by which he himself set. For them, every other book must meet or at least approach meeting the acclaim of Ender's Game, otherwise it is a dismal failure. To anyone fitting this description, please read Card's masterpiece, "The Worthing Saga". I think you may finally be able to tear yourselves free from your Ender obsession and be able to recognize that Card is a very talented and engaging writer even when he is not writing about Ender Wiggin. Then perhaps you can return to "Ender's Shadow" with an open mind.
"Ender's Shadow" is a well-written, substantial book in it's own right. The development of Bean through his precocious street life to the final battle reveals a depth and complexity beyond even his hyper-brilliant mind. This is not a novel about a "superkid" as a reader below says. This novel dives into a child's psyche to discover what lies bare at the center of all of us. There is no question as to Bean's ability. His infallibility of mind leaves no excuse for any fallibility of character. Card is hopeful about human nature and exemplifies with Bean the possibility of benevolence even in a world of vacuous and deceptive morality. Card's little urchin from Rotterdam stands tall enough on his own and casts a shadow so large that a comparison to his commander is not necessary. And so it is with this book and its "parallel".
on August 9, 2001
The book is worth reading. I'd read all ender books so decided to take my chances with this one. It wasn't disappointing. This time the central character id Beam, whom you may remember as one of ender's companions from battle school. We learn about his origins as street urchin from Rotterdam until his genius is discovered and sent to training. The book is well presented and gives much wanted detail on battle school itself and it's teachers. However and without giving away the book, it pained me to see how OSC had to manage to convince us that Bean was way, way smarter than Ender even though none of his interactions with Ender in Ender's game showed it. All the conversations obviously replayed in this book though from a different perspective seemed strained. But the obvious flaw of the series is the improbability of it all. I mean I could accept that Ender (and perhaps Bean) is so unique and exceptional that his training must be rushed to command the battle. He is one of a kind, the best. But how come none of the graduates of battle school are there in the final showdown? All those generations of graduates that had a normal training through tactical and command school (opposed to a few months) never produced any good commander??? That's hard to swallow. You could argue that they were chosen because they'd obey Ender but if the ship captains put their lives on the line surely an adult can take a few command orders from ender. However this is a critique both for Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. Apart from those annoying (though really unimportant) gaffes it's a good parallel novel and certainly worth reading.
on August 13, 2004
The fifth book in the Ender series (and the follow-up to the somewhat disappointing "Children of the Mind"), "Ender's Shadow" is a parallel novel to "Ender's Game": it relates many of the same events in the first book, told from the point of view of Bean, one of the other boys in Ender's army. I greeted the idea of this book with some skepticism, but I'm happy to report that I was wrong: Card's experiment is non-stop, page-turning fun.
Like "Ender's Game," this novel is a bildungsroman--a coming-of-age story about a boy training to be an intergalactic warrior. Both novels share many of the same characters (including Petra, Dink Meeker, Bonzo, Mazer Rackham, Crazy Tom, and Colonel Graff), entire episodes are recapped from Bean's point of view (although often with an unexpected twist), and even some of the dialogue is repeated verbatim from one book to the next.
Yet the disparities are so dramatic that it's truly like reading completely different novels. The opening chapters, set in the slums of Rotterdam, are so unlike anything in "Ender's Game" that, until Bean finally arrives at Battle School, it's hard to believe you're reading the same series.
Unlike "Ender's Game" or "Speaker of the Mind," however, there are no great bombshells or plot twists; the author's usually impressive bag of tricks can't overcome the fact that most of his readers know what will happen at the end, so he doesn't even try to disguise the "big secret" that made the first book so unforgettable. Fortunately, Card's prose style has matured greatly over the years, so he is able to write instead an extraordinary psychological novel, describing a confusing world from Bean's precocious (but still childlike) perspective and allowing the reader a few minor, but still satisfying, revelations that were "omitted" from the first installment.
It's been many years since I first read "Ender's Game" (one of my all-time favorite sci-fi books). Although I remember quite well the basic story (who wouldn't?), I forgot enough of the book to make this fifth episode seem fresh and exciting. But I suspect that even readers who just recently read "Ender's Game" are likely to enjoy Bean's version nearly as much.
on March 16, 2000
I read Ender's Game, the first book in Orson Scott Card's Ender saga, a couple of weeks ago and found it compelling reading. The book was by turns exciting and tragic, and Card's writing style was brief and to the point, focussing on the characters and messages within the story without falling into the trap of excessively descriptive prose to pad the book out. This made Ender's Game one of my favourite books of all time, and I eagerly awaited the sequel (Speaker for the Dead) to appear in my local library. However, Ender's Shadow (Card's latest novel in the saga), was available first and I desperately needed to read another of the series. This book is a parallel novel to Ender's Game, set in the same time period and featuring the familiar settings of Battle School and Command School, as well as most of the original characters. This time the story is seen through the eyes of Bean, a frighteningly intelligent and perceptive boy who has had to fend for himself living rough on the streets of Rotterdam since the age of 9 months! (He is no ordinary child). His sharp mind and will to survive against all odds are soon noticed, and like Ender he is rushed through Battle School as the threat of the alien invasion draws closer. The character of Bean contrasts Ender perfectly - his early years on the streets have made him calculating and without emotion. It is fascinating to see his attitude to Ender change as the story progresses and Bean realises and accepts the part that he will play in the war against the alien race. He learns the meaning of love, trust and loyalty, and finds that he has, after all, got a soul. Anybody who has had to struggle in life and felt that they were "different" will relate to this aspect of Bean's character. Much of the story concentrates on Bean's thoughts and unfailing sense of logic and tactics, making Bean's character probably better defined than Ender's, but I somehow cared more about Ender because he was ridden with guilt and regret at the tragic end of Ender's Game. In contrast, Bean's conscience is clear at the end of the "Bugger War" (he doesn't have to live with the consequences) so the reader feels much less pity for him. In this respect, the conclusion of this book has less impact. In brief, Ender's Shadow is another classic which can be read immediately after Ender's Game - reading the saga in this order probably has its benefits, as it is rewarding to have the first novel fresh in your mind. "Shadow" explains many events and actions of the characters from "Game" but you have to bear in mind that "Shadow" is seen from Bean's perspective and opinion. Ender's Shadow has pages that are almost cloned from Ender's Game but are new and fresh because of Bean's outlook, and these are expertly handled. This book didn't quite have the impact on me that Ender's Game did, but I still cannot recommend it highly enough. Now on to Speaker for the Dead!
Read together with OSC's classic Enders Game, Enders Shadow is a masterpiece of perspective on leadership. While this is basically the same story as the Original Enders Game, Card gives us an improvement on his own great work by way of his improved and matured abilities as a writer, but more so with the unique privilege or seeing a story you think you know through another viewpoint, changing what you thought you knew.
The great lesson I took away from this story is this,
1) The smartest person in the room isn't necessarily the best leader.
2) The best leader always listens to the smartest person in the room
Orson Card is the master of the moral dilemma, the conflicted hero, and for requiring the reader to examine his own motives.
I love this story
Ender's Game is a much-loved science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. It is well-written, has surprise twists, and contains characters readers can identify with. It is also a near-perfect example of a stand-alone novel - the vast majority of loose ends are tied up, redemption is found, and readers generally go away content.
So where's the problem? Well, most authors, once they've had a major success, seem to be unable to leave their popular creations alone. Ender's Game gained a decent (but not nearly as good) sequel in _Speaker for the Dead_. Then came the disappointing _Xenocide_ to continue the series. Finally, _Children of the Mind_ rewrites what seems to be established facts in the series' universe. In the end, many readers are left scratching their heads and feeling disappointed; they are almost envious of their friends that decided to avoid the three follow-up books and read something new.
BUT THE SERIES DOES NOT END THERE. Card continues the saga (and opens up a new avenue for sequels) with _Ender's Shadow_. This book takes us back to the original Ender novel by following the life of Bean, a character established in Ender's Game. The "new" material on Bean (primarily his early life and genesis) is both clever and interesting. When Card brings Bean to Battle School and covers the same events in Ender's Game, however, he fails horribly - because he changes and revises the events in the original masterpiece to fit his new work. For instance, the beginning chapter conversations in _Ender's Game_ simply do not make sense if _Ender's Shadow_ is correct. Established events are impossibly distorted to the point where they seem artificial. Worst of all, the character of Ender is trashed and diminished in order to make the new hero, Bean, seem more necessary.
This is one of the few books I wish I could unread - not because I want that portion of my life back, but because it damages my view of a much-better work. I can not recommend this book to anyone that has already read (and enjoyed) Ender's Game.
on August 29, 2001
While yes, I found ENDER'S SHADOW to be enjoyable, Ill be trying hard to forget this story when I fondly remember ENDER'S GAME. It was not the writing, or the fact that it followed Ender's Game closely. It was just overdone. Bean's "street urchin" background was excellent, and Card did a wonderful job distinguishing his personality from Ender's. But I was disappointed, however, with the way Card added meaning to many of the events we were familiar with from Game.
Now, BEAN made Ender's army -A well thought-out master plan, instead of being just another way the teachers had stacked the game against Ender. Now, BEAN was responsible for Ender's last (and greatest) victory at battle school. Even the deadline cord was now a result of some great victory BEAN won against the teachers, instead of just something he tried out in practice. In fact, Bean was able to figure out almost all of the things Ender couldn't... it's just that he decided to keep his thoughts to himself. Was *everything* the result of Bean's handy work?
*END of SPOILERS*
Card should have left the original story "lean and mean" -the message just isn't the same any more. Too much credit was taken away from Ender, and handed to Bean. Of course, he had to bring Bean up to the lead role for this book, but Ender's tale was too much changed in the process. Everyone knows it was ENDER who could do what nobody else could. Now, we are told that Ender wasn't all that great... That he would have failed miserably had it not been for Bean.
Other minor annoyances:
Ender's Game had little religion in it, (unlike the sequels), and that was something I felt should have been left out of Shadow as well. It just doesn't fit with the story's flow. Same with the constant use of Spanish... There was little of that in Ender's Game, and now, suddenly, it has been worked into nearly every character's dialogue. It breaks the smooth flow of the reading when you can't figure out what a character is saying. Maybe Card has some sort of agenda involving these two aspects in his books, but I found them simply annoying.
on October 21, 2002
It wasn't a bad idea, really. The central idea holds so much promise: to recount the same events of "Ender's Game" but take a machiavellian, interpersonal view of everything. He tried to make a novel with merits wholly different from those of "Ender's Game," so it would be unfair to compare the two. As wholly separate novel, I would like to point out three major flaws.
1. 7-tissue sob story. Having been a peace corps volunteer, I'd like to think I have some idea of what it's like to be poor. This is not it! Kids surviving by licking the sugar off of candy wrappers, or eating another person's vomit?? Maybe you can suspend belief for this part of it, but I could not at all.
2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. The central problem is that OSC has tried to flesh out the personality of Bean, but has not made that personality match very well with that of the Bean found in "Ender's Game." as such, there is a major disconnect in scenes which come directly from "Ender's Game." Bean, who is a calculating, articulate hyperintelligence in most of "Ender's Shadow", becomes a spunky little kid when these scenes from "Ender's Game" appear. This was a major problem for me. The "Ender's Game" scenes are sprinkled in the story like salt on a pretzel, and it seems that Bean has a major schizophrenia attack whenever Ender Wiggin shows up.
3. cf. "Pale Fire", by Nabokov. Have you ever met anyone who has worked as a personal assistant to somebody famous like, say, Mel Gibson, who likes to explain that she was the reason that they used blue face paint in "Braveheart"? And not only that, but she's responsible for his choice of hairspray and for Lethal Weapon 6? Well, I haven't but after having read "Ender's Shadow" I now know what it would feel like. Much of the book reads like some groupie fantasy story, about how some insignificant person changed the life of someone famous. But it is a *fastasy* story still, like Bean's wet dream. The problem stems from that fact that, in Ender's Game, Bean was not a particularly influential person, and in this story, they really have to force situations. Oh, bean did this incredible thing for Ender, but Ender can never know about it. It doesn't work very well, because Ender's Game was such a good, well-constructed story, it's like adding tinsel to a Mondrian.
Well obviously there are a lot of favorable reviews, and I guess the reviewers must have their reasons. But if realistic personalities is something that you need in a novel (I do, and it's part of the reason I liked Ender's Game so much), then you may want to skip this one.
on September 13, 1999
Had I never read "Ender's Game," I would have high praise to give to this novel, but I caution those who have a strong attachment to that original to approach "Ender's Shadow" with full knowledge of what you may find. Not only was I ultimately disappointed, but I almost wish I could un-read this book because of the diminishing light it cast upon the original for me.
The first third (or so) of the book, before Bean meets Ender, is a fine story and well-done. The plot of Bean's story is much the same as Ender's Game, and at times I found it a bit repetitive -- seeming sometimes to be merely a re-telling of Ender's early days with different names and places. Still, it was compelling and invoked enough of the original feel of "Ender's Game" for those very reasons that I enjoyed it considerably that far and was optimistic.
Thereafter, however, my impression changed sharply. From this point, the story builds itself by diminishing the original. Although I have read reviews by others who found it a wonderful tale of how Bean and Ender complimented each other, I found it a story of the true hero of the Formic War (the new politically-corrected name) -- Bean -- and the figurehead who was Ender Wiggin. This is, to an extent, and exaggeration, but I felt cheated out of the original story that I enjoyed so much, as if it had been torn down by this new re-telling and its magic forever tarnished. Be forewarned of this, if you cherise the original, and approach "Ender's Shadow" with caution. I, for one, wish now that I had never read this book and fear that "Ender's Game" will no longer hold for me the same magic it once did.