Perhaps it's because Card knew exactly where he needed to be at the end of this book, but it just worked for me better than the last two. There's less outright war, and more political manuveuring than the last two books. The political machinations are more complex, yet somehow more believable this time around.
That plausibility might be a result of seeing the Battle School characters as human and therefore potentially flawed. In previous "Shadow" series books, the Battle School kids were all good guys, except for the cardboard cutout villian of Achilles. It fell to the other characters, mostly politicians, to display human fallibility.
This time, the Battle School grads have serious character flaws of their own, and these flaws lead them into big mistakes. They also get into more and better conflicts with each other, which enriches the dynamic of the book.
Characters are nicely done - a particular strength throughout Card's books. The tragic Bean, the acerbic Petra, the enigmatic Alai, the dashing Han Tzu - all are crisply drawn. I never, ever get characters confused with one another in Card's books, and certainly not in this one.
The character development of Peter Wiggin is especially well handled. We already know from the very first Ender book (Ender's Game) that Peter becomes a beloved leader, and that Ender writes Peter's "obituary" as the second part of the his book The Hive Queen and the Hegemon. Now we get to see the other side of that story, including what Peter did to arrive at that point and how he was induced to get Ender (of all people!) to write his unvarnished life story.
Not everything is tied up into a neat little package. The matter of Bean and Petra's children is handled well, but I wouldn't call the end result "neat".
The open-ended matter of Bean's children leaves enough room for a sequel, I suppose, if Card decides to go that way. But I'd be happy to just leave the story here. The adventure of the Battle School grads is pretty much resolved, and we are caught up to events mentioned at the end of Ender's Game.
If you've read the other three "Shadow" books, then you absolutely owe it to yourself to get the full end of the story by reading this one. If you liked "Ender's Shadow", but got bogged down in the other two sequels, I'd recommend giving the series another go just to finish off with this very satisfying completion.
Unlike the Ender trilogy, which finished with more of a whimper than a bang, the Bean trilogy ends on a high note. Card wisely returns his main focus to the characters the reader has come to know and love, letting the individuals set the pace of the story instead abandoning character development for geopolitics. Even though the ultimate outcome (spoiler: a Hegemon-controlled Earth) is known to anyone who's read the Ender trilogy, Shadow of the Giant is still surprisingly suspenseful. The fates of characters such as Bean, Alai, and Virlomi are not resolved until near the end of the book, and Card keeps the reader guessing as to who will live and who will die. This is a smart strategy, as Card is at his best when he focuses his attention on the engaging characters he has created: the brilliant, passionate, and yet somehow quite innocent young adults formerly of Battle School. I can't help but think that the Ender trilogy would have been much more satisfying if Card had kept the focus on Ender instead of neglecting him for talk of aiua, alternate universes, and "children of the mind."
Shadow of the Giant closes the door on one chapter of the Ender saga and opens the door to another. For what is most interesting about this book is the ending: Card has left the options for further books in the series wide open. Will Bean be cured? Will Ender return to the series? What will happen with the children? For the first time since Ender's Shadow I find myself truly looking forward to the next edition in the Ender saga.
"Shadow of the Giant" is the latest Card novel in the "Ender" universe. Not all readers know that "Ender's Game," the first novel, started from a short story. That short story still remains arguably Card's best single piece of writing. But after four novels in the "Ender" arc, and now another four novels in the "Shadow" arc, as well as a few short stories along the way, Card and the Ender universe are starting to run out of gas.
Card's first problem is that we know exactly how it is going to come out. Let's call this the Lucas Problem. Anyone who carefully read the first book knows what is going to happen. Card has to make the process interesting enough to hold our attention. He nearly succeeds, but is hampered by some other issues.
Card's second problem is that he knocked off the arch-villain Achilles at the end of the previous book. Since E. E. "Doc" Smith's "Skylark" series, thoughtful science fiction writers have known it's always a mistake to kill the bad guy early. "Giant" misses Achilles.
Card's third problem is that the series' most compelling character, Ender - Andrew Wiggins, the protagonist of the first four books - has long since left the scene. The primary protagonist of the "Shadow" series, Julian "Bean" Delphiki - a minor character in "Ender's Game" - is still dying of the same disease we have known about from the start.
So all that is left for readers is the problem described at the end of "Ender's Game" - a half a dozen or so teenage military geniuses loose on a deeply divided earth. As we watch them succumb, variously, to gene-meddling, megalomania, naivete and ennui, it turns out that the adults, the teachers, those same folks that trained Ender and the other children, had the solution all along. If I were a teenager reading "Giant," I'd be seriously annoyed.
Card is a good writer. He has also shown some terrific creativity in earlier books in the series, especially in "Speaker for the Dead." But in this book he sometimes substitutes political opinion for creativity - let's call this the Heinlein Problem, or, if you like, the Goodkind Problem - and it doesn't work.
The cumulative effect is that the book drags a bit, limps along a lot, and leaves you unsatisfied at the end. The Lucas Problem is there on every page. The Heinlein Problem annoys. Card can and has done much better. First time readers in Ender's universe will be completely bewildered and should not start here.
The plot has a few loose ends; I'd guess Card has left himself narrative threads to pick up in the future. That's fine. Ender's Universe is an interesting place. But he needs to let the creative juices revive for a while first.
on February 28, 2007
I have read the whole ender series, but with a strange sequence which may have affected the way I view the different books in the series. The first book I have read was the Shadow of the Hegemon, thanks to a tourist that had left it in the library of a hotel in Skiathos island. This book got me hooked, but it confused me also as I didn't know if I should start reading the next books or the previous ones.
The general pattern in the whole series is:
The beginning book is Ender's Game. Then we have two subcategories, one the Shadow series (which, with the exception of the first book, take place on earth and are more within military strategy) and one the Ender series (which take place in space and are more into new sci-fi ideas). Shadow series probably can be read from everyone, while I guess that the Ender series (especially from Speaker for the Dead onwards) would be read mainly from sci-fi fans.
Below are my comments for the books of the series, in the order I have read them and a marking (10 is the highest mark):
Shadow of the Hegemon: The first book I have read, and which I could not leave from my hands. I finished it in 2 days. It was fast paced action, very smart plot and after reading it I believed that Orson Scot Card (OSC) has invented/re-invented a new genre of literature. That of military strategy and adventure combined with brilliance/mind games and hidden portions of romance. Such books always existed but this seemed to be THE book. It was like the way Dan Brown re-invented books with trivials and puzzles, together with fast paced adventure. I strongly recommend it to everybody that likes such type of books. (mark: 10)
Shadow puppets: The sequel to the above. I found it interesting but somehow boring as the above story developed little and the focus was on the characters (maybe too much focus so that it seemed to me that it was slightly mumbling jumbling. Strategy, brilliance and adventure seemed to be very low here. I would not recommend it for anybody to read it in isolate, unfortunately you have to read it if you want to go to the next book. I really believe that OSC made a mistake here (deliberately or not) as this book should have been told in 50-60 pages and be included in the previous or the next book. (mark: 6 but you will read it because you will want to read Shadow of the Giant)
Shadow of the Giant: (see below)
Ender's game: A really great book to read, probably the best of the series, however, as I had read its sequels first, when I reached the 80% of this book, I had predicted the end. However, it's at the highest standards of sci-fi, military strategy, adventure, brilliant mind games and very good depth in the human aspect of the characters. In comparison to the shadow series, it is more "space" sci-fi, while shadow series have much lesser sci-fi elements and are more down to earth. (mark: 10)
Speaker for the dead: Another great book, but different style. Less adventure, more human aspect, more maturity. Brilliance yes, but not military, sci-fi yes (some great ideas) but not spaceship style. (Mark: 9)
Xenocide: A good sequel of the previous novel. In certain points more brilliant, in other sections more boring, however is again a very good sci-fi book. The only flaw in these series (Speker for the dead, Xenocide, Children of the mind) is the idea behind one of the alien species described which I found outrageously extreme, however if you ignore it becomes first class reading. (Mark: 9)
Children of the mind: I think that OSC has wrapped up his case pretty badly in that one. It's a fair book except the fact that I felt that OSC mumbles jumbles for one third of the novel not having decided how to end it. In other critiques I have found it described as nice approach to moral dilemmas, however, moral dilemma is when you describe it once and make your choice, while here the dilemma is repeated and repeated... I felt like I was watching a movie worth 10 oscars and the end did not worth to be included even in a cheap video movie. And again, many open ends at the end (for possible sequels). (Mark: 7 but you will read it as you will be hooked from the previous ones).
Ender's shadow: Having read Enders Game and Shadow of the Hegemon, I found this book probably the best of the series, which of course is my subjective preference. I could characterize it as probably the best book I have read ever! Not to repeat myself, it has all that Shadow of the Hegemon and Ender's Game have, and even more...(Mark: the absolute 10).
Shadow of the Giant: When I read shadow puppets, I said, "that's it, OSC has lost either his talent or his appetite for good writing...", so I was pretty unwilling to read it. Fortunately I decided to, as it proved to be a good one, were I believe that OSC has nicely wrapped up his story, with two small flaws.
* The one is described below (its end needed to be slightly more complete) and,
* The other is the fact that although he describes certain smart battles, he does not focus enough on them as it seems that he is in a hurry to wrap all things up. It had all elements to become a masterpiece but it ended up being a good to read book (Mark: 9)
In general, both series have three categories of good stuff:
1) Some great sci-fi ideas (battle room, battle games, fantasy game, ansible, aia, Jane, in/out travel, raman varelse etc)
2) Great military strategy, mind games etc combined with adventure
3) In certain books, depth of characters, moral dilemmas etc
And two main bad stuff:
1) Mumbling jumbling in certain books which was completely unnecessary (either OSC wanted just to produce and sell another title - see shadow puppets- or he could not decide how the story will continue-see last book of Ender series).
2) One of the alien species described in the Ender series was so too outrageous even for sci-fi that made it look ridiculous. The idea behind it was brilliant in sci-fi terms, but he could try a different living organism...
Finally, OSC has left open ends in both series (probably for next sequels), however I believe that there are two things missing. a) the story of the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, told in a metaphorical manner so it means much for humanity. b) In ancient theatre, a story should end in a way that brings "katharsis" to the story, and the souls of the readers. I believe that the end of the shadow of the giant may be smart for commercial purposes but it was very unfair to the reader as it did not bring full "katharsis".
Shadow of the Giant stands along with Ender's Game and Speaker of the Dead as Orson Scott Card's best work in Enderverse, complete with interesting characters and an engaging plot. Like the previous books in the `Shadow' series, Shadow of the Giant continues to follow the life of Bean, the now giant, not quite human, who served as Ender's second in Battle School, at least as retold in Ender's Shadow. Readers who have followed Bean through to this fourth and perhaps final book will not be disappointed.
Several factors work in `Giant's favor. Card deemphasizes his juvenile and often torturous read of international relations in general and military strategy in particular. Readers who in the last book found themselves hitting their heads wondering why any nation's military would behave as irrationally as they did, particularly regarding the strange archaic idea of national status strictly as a function of number of square miles controlled, will find some relief. Card here returns to what made Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead excellent reads, namely focusing on characters and their internal lives. Particularly noteworthy as he looms large over all of the books in both series is Card's exploration of the motivation and conflict for Ender's brother Peter, who here at last ceases to be a two-dimensional Genghis Khan and instead becomes someone readers can relate to and with whom we can sympathize.
Some readers may take offense at the writer's political diatribes rather inelegantly folded into this work, particular his rants against Islam. Again, I took it about as seriously as the other political and military thoughts peppered throughout the series, most of which either lack sense or lack nuance. Card writes well and thus readers do well to focus on plot and character that he develops instead of spending much time attacking his thoughts in other areas.
While Card leaves open a glimmer of potential for continuing this story, he also gives the reader something that has eluded all his work since Ender's Game, a satisfying ending that does not require another novel. For this alone, fans of Card's are sure to enjoy this work.
As usual with Orson, this is a very thoughtful and complex book. I think this is probably my favorite of the Shadow sub-series but definitely not my favorite Orson Scott Card book.
I find his exploration of the political future of Earth to be quite fascinating; everything from an isolated and therefore almost powerless United States to an uneasy alliance of the Muslim Nations. Very interesting an well thought out. His development of the erstwhile villain Peter Wiggin into a man of peace is also fascinating; I always like it when characters become multi-dimensional in a book.
Overall, another gem in Card's crown. The same excellent writing that we have come to expect of Mr. Card; he is imho one of the great writers of this genre!
on July 9, 2006
I had mixed feelings before picking Shadow of the Giant up. The previous two installations were OK - Good. Don't get me wrong, they were good reads, but they didn't pack the same punch as Ender's Game or Ender's Shadow.
But Shadow of the Giant was great. The characters actually have flaws, granted, they are still amazing at politics and war, but they make mistakes. They're human, and that is really what makes this story. No longer are these 'Battle School brats' on high pedestals. But really, its the implied closure that Card finally gives us pertaining to Bean and Petra.
Without giving anything away, the ending of Shadow of the Giant is worth the buy. Ends are tied up in believable ways and this long journey with Bean finally comes to a close. A few tears actually came out, thinking about how this could very well be the end. There might not be anymore writings on Bean, Petra, Peter, anyone we've come in contact through Beans Saga. But at the same time, it was sad to see the end of such a good book. Last pages were the hardest to turn. i couldn't wait to read more, but with each turn of a page, the story was that much closer to being done.
Bittersweet. That best describes Shadow of the Giant. Card delivered, no doubt about that. He started off great, Ender's Shadow was amazing, to think that retelling a story could be so interesting. Yet it was, and we saw a very different perspective on life. Then came Shadow of the Hegemon and Shadow Puppets. Good reading, but nothing amazing. But Shadow of the Giant was the ending this saga needed and deserved...
There are a few openings left. Once you read it (and i hope you do), you will see. This leaves hope for a possible sequel. The gap in the end of the book covers many years, enough that Card could easily write another book, full of information and details. But if he doesn't, i completely understand. Shadow of the Giant is a nearly perfect ending. Any book that can make you emotional over the characters deserves to be read, this book, Shadow of the Giant, is one of those books.
on March 4, 2005
For all of those who disliked Shadow Puppets, well here is the reason that made that book was necessary. Book eight, I thought, was great. It had a massive amount of political intrigue and included basically every battle schooler you ever heard of in the story. And finally we had a book that was absent of the swiftly aging antics of Achilles.
My only real criticism of the book is the same one I had for Puppets, and that is that Card is not so great at writing love story material. This has led to something I find sad, which is the destruction of one of my favorite characters a.k.a. Petra. Every scene Petra is in is a love type scene, or a scene with someone else talking about love. I found myself basically skipping these chapters, as they were fairly tiresome to read through and after the first one they were all the same, never really advancing the story. One other thing that annoyed me somewhat was Card's tendency, in this book, to explain everything that had happened in the past, or over explain aspects of the politics going on. I would have liked that he assumed that first off those who were reading this book had read the previous seven, and that they were somewhat keyed into the political situations going on in the story. I found that he explained way too much, almost to a point of some paragraphs making me feel like I was in grammar school again.
But this is a genuinely great part of the series. I'm not sure that this is the end, as their are still ways he could continue with Bean or with any of the other Battle Schoolers. But if it is the last one, it was a great one to end on. The Last chapter was amazing, really something a fan will love. I actually find myself being sad at the end, I sure hope this isn't the last one, as these are among my most favorite books to read. No kidding I read the last 200 pages in 2 hours. It's just one of those books.
on March 21, 2005
I hear a lot of people describing this book as weak on character development. I agree, somewhat. True, Card's greatest writing comes when he is directly writing about the interactions between characters (through dialogue, insight, conflict, etc.). Now granted, in this book most of the characters had been developed in previous books (remember people, this is a sequel to a sequel to a sequel). However, I'm still left feeling empty because no real STORY took place.
From the time I first read the dialogue between Peter and Ender (via ansible) in Speaker for the Dead, I was always intrigued with how Peter had gone about setting himself up as Hegemon. In Shadow Puppets, we saw the beginning of that - mixed with a great story about Bean. This book touches on a few world events, then violently jerks us back to the subplot (or is it the plot) between Bean and Petra - neither of which get great treatment by the author. The result is a story that never feels like it is taking hold.
There is the "ubermensch" story about superkids that we're used to, a few (very intriguing) lines about how the IF is manipulating Earth Affairs (there's a book in that story alone), and a few random mentions of Randi and Achilles II. My advice to Card: Don't start the story off with an antagonistic character only to completely forget about her to the point of having the reader ask, "why did he ever include that opening chapter in the first place?"
It's a good book, ties up some loose ends... but it nver feels realistic, fails to grab any deeper concepts than watching a train wreck requires, and wraps up too conveniently. But it's fun.
on March 4, 2005
Personally, I like this the best of the Shadow books. I've always been on my soapbox about great Card characters, and SotG is full of them. It completes Bean's story, it fills the hole left by Ender in between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, it makes Ender's jeeshmates more than just ancillary characters in EG, and most important, it brings the story full circle. The Shadow books have always been a stand-along series, and still are, but it brilliantly brings everything back to the beginning. When I finished SotG, I shelved it and grabbed my copy of Ender's Game, eager to start over again.
My only criticism is that Card spends a little too much time following the exploits of Virlomi and Alai and India. These are great characters, sure, and I'm interested in what they're doing, but these two received more focus than any other Battle School children, who are equally as compelling. Spread it out a bit. Besides, if I'm being honest, at this point in the series you care about Bean, Petra, and Peter. Too much exposition on other characters starts to get distracting and a little frustrating.
The book is a series of goodbyes to characters you've loved for years, whether you started with Ender's Game or with Ender's Shadow. It a worthy end to a series that has evolved more in terms of plot and characters than I have seen in most other story arcs. It effortlessly takes you to a conclusion that you've seen coming for four books now, but still feels fresh and unexpected and ultimately moving.