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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 23, 2002
The spectacular Ender's Game and its very good to excellent sequels established Card as a major SF writer. With Ender's Shadow, he came close to matching the brilliance of the original story. Then came Shadow of the Hegemon, with its focus on Peter Wiggin and Achilles, and it seemed like all the power, originality, and dramatic tension faded away, leaving only a shadow to lay across your mind. This latest work is neither as good as Ender's Shadow nor as mundane as Hegemon, but rather somewhere in-between.

Here we find Bean growing beyond the norm, symptomatic of his genetic flaw that will eventually kill him while still a young man. And growing in other ways, as his relationship with Petra finally flowers under her tenacious insistence. This is probably the best part of this novel, as we see sides of the two that have not been in great evidence in the prior works. And we get some small looks into the thoughts and characters of some of the other Battle School graduates, mainly Virlomi, Han Tzu and Alai, each of whom contribute some major items towards Peter and Bean winning their current battle with Achilles. The Wiggin parents emerge from obscurity and are revealed to be (unsurprisingly) very intelligent and (surprisingly) quite forceful. All good things...

So where does this book fail? The main failure is Peter Wiggin himself. For a man who could sway world opinion with his exacting, careful logic as Locke and browbeat everyone into emotional frenzy as Demosthenes, Peter is depicted here as a remarkably stupid, arrogant, and emotional teenager. Achilles, the demon, remains almost totally offstage, providing little room for dramatic confrontations, and what ones there are come off as almost anti-climatic. And finally, the circumstance that draws Bean back into the struggle between Peter and Achilles was totally preventable, a very sad and uncharacteristic lack of foresight by both Bean and Petra. These items do much to kill any major excitement in this work, even though the major (world) battle could have formed a taught political and military thriller.

Is this book readable? Certainly. Card is still an excellent writer. His prose, descriptions, and dialogue (especially the back-and-forth between Bean and Petra) are all well formed and his moral insights flow from the premise of the story. But this one just doesn't have the edge-of-the-seat tension, the incredible insight into human character that have been the hallmarks of his best work.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 30, 2003
I put a question mark next to the word conclusion in the title of this review because it's not clear if "Shadow Puppets" is the final book in the entire 'Ender's Saga' ('Bean sub-saga'). A large number of issues are resolved in this book, but others are still left up in the air. At the present time, there is listing or information about any future episodes in this series. So, for the time being, I will assume this is the last book. If it is, despite seeming loose ends, it would make a satisfactory conclusion.

"Shadow Puppets" should probably be the end, though. Much like the last portion of "Xenocide" and all of "Children of the Mind" in the original 'Ender's Quartet', Orson Scott Card seems to be running out of steam with these characters. Card still displays his gifts of representing human interactions, but "Shadow Puppets" has less ability to stand on it's own. Unlike "Ender's Shadow" and, to a slightly lesser degree, "Shadow of the Hegemon", you absolutely have to have read the previous books in the series for "Shadow Puppets" to have any true meaning. Whereas "Ender's Shadow" and "Shadow of the Hegemon" were connected by similar characters, yet told different stories (much like "Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead"), "Shadow Puppets" merely continues the storyline from "...Hegemon".

To summarize, Peter Wiggin has achieved his long sought after goal of becoming the Hegemon, but the title carries little power with it in the wake of a large Chinese invasion throughout southern Asia, and subsequent assumption of the position of Earth's premier military power. These actions were set in motion by the psychotic Achilles before his true nature came to light and he was placed under arrest by the Chinese government. Peter sees his only true way of thwarting the Chinese and restoring prestige to the office of the Hegemon is to rescue Achilles from prison and put him to work for the Hegemony. Think that, despite Achilles manipulative skills, he can control him, Peter mistakenly compromises his own security and drives away many of those who served him, including Bean and Petra.

During their self-imposed exile from Hegemon, Bean and Petra try to find ways to undermine the Chinese and Achilles while also dealing with a burgeoning romance and Petra's desire to have children by Bean before he dies of his genetic disorder. While it is somewhat interesting to read about Bean and Petra's romance, it is still somewhat dry. It's not impossible to conceive of this happening, as they are both probably 16 years old at this point and far older in many other ways, given what their early years consisted of. Yet, there's not really any spark to the relationship. It seems to the reader as if they are having this romance because they feel that it's something that they should do, not because there is any passionate romantic feelings sparking between them. It can't carry near the same weight as the personal interactions and tender romance that took place in "Speaker for the Dead". That example is just thrown in as a perfect representation of Card's ability to convey human emotion. It's not quite as well-crafted here. It's not bad, though, so the reader still has some emotional investment in these two.

There are other elements of "Shadow Puppets" that are quite interesting. For the first time in all seven of the "Ender's" novels, the reader gets a chance to truly see the personalities of Theresa and John Paul Wiggins, the parents of Peter, Ender and Valentine. A great deal of time is spent on Peter's reluctant interaction with his parents and his eventual acceptance of their advice as relevant and appreciated. They come across as so much more than the bland, inattentive parents that readers were first introduced to in "Ender's Game". In addition, there are interactions with many other former Battle School students. Alai and Han Tzu are just a few of the names who play major roles in the events that shape this novel.

On the whole "Shadow Puppets" was a good read. If there are more books on the horizon, then all the better. However, if this is where the series ends, then so be it. It's not a bad way to go out.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2002
As soon as Shadow Puppets entered stores I ran out and bought it. I'm a huge fan of Orson Scott Card and the Ender series. Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow were my all-time favourite books.
But while Ender's Game was spectacular, Ender's Shadow great, and Shadow of the Hegemon good, I thought Shadow puppets was way below my expectations.
Everything felt tired, boring, and predictable. As with the later books in the Ender series, It seemed as though there wasn't enough plot to stretch across the pages.
Bean and Petra's characters seemed to change radically from Shadow of the Hegemon and Ender's Shadow with no explanation. I also was disapointed in the dialogue. People said things rather abruptly and for no reason. Bean and Petra's romance also seemed very awkward with no excitement at all.
And where was Achilles? His great chapters with Petra made me forgive some of Shadow of the Hegemon's boring parts.
But as a loyal fan, I still give it 3 stars because it kinda satisfied my longing for another Ender book. It's great for fans, but I wouldn't really recomned it.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2002
The genesis of the Bean/Achilles interaction was clear. Two telegenic, winning characters (to the other characters, not necessarily to the readers). One with a tragic physical flaw that is likely to kill him, the other with a tragic moral flaw, ditto.
The problem is that the writing, especially in this book, doesn't rise to the level that Card seeks.
Unless you enjoy endless conversations about minor issues, or five-page musings by minor characters, you are likely to find this book very slow moving indeed. This book resoves the Eastern crisis that Card set up in the last book. But it does it in almost a storybook fashion. After a drop by drop setup (Chinese water torture, maybe?), we are told of tremendous military manoevers that I really don't find convincing. Sure, maybe the Muslims can do all the things that Card has them do. But the denouement relies on all the things being UNDETECTED, it is never explained how that is possible. What happened to radar, satellite imagery, intelligence (in more ways than one)?
The whole military plot relies on the Chinese being slightly stupider than a comic book villian and little weapons advancement beyond 1949. Very strange.
The Bean/Achilles conflict reaches its resolution in this book as well, I will not say how. But by the time we finally get to it, it is difficult to care. In my opinion, this is due to Card's failure to make us feel anything except irritation when it comes to Achilles, however much we may like Bean. Shadow of the Hegemon gave Card the opportunity to make Achilles interesting, rather than just an almost hypnotically alluring (to the other characters) villian. It didn't work.
We get to see more of Peter Wiggin in this book. But he comes across more as a sullen teenager, who (no fewer than twice!) has to be forcibly woken up by his parents than the titular ruler of the world. If you're hoping to see how Peter transforms himself and his job into what we see at the end of Ender's Game, well, don't hold your breath, but if this is what you care about, hold on to your bucks until the next book. For there will be one.
A great present for the insatiable Card or Ender fan.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2010
Shadow Puppets continues the story of Bean, a genetically engineered prodigy who navigates a gauntlet of political intrigue and personal danger while attempting to save the world from a sociopathic adversary. If you've read some of the reviews on this site, you probably already know that. It's probably also safe to say that if you enjoyed Ender's Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon, you won't be disappointed with this effort. That said, it's become very hard for me to overlook the grist of Card's personal beliefs, despite the entertaining quality of his stories.

Before I continue, let me make it clear that I believe all individuals have the liberty to express their opinions, whether or not I agree with them. This is a book review, and as such, I am only bringing attention to the author's beliefs because they show up repeatedly in his writing and undermined the quality of my reading experience. If you happen to share Mr. Card's opinions, then you won't share any of the misgivings I experienced and are likely to enjoy the story immensely.

The crux of my problem lies within some of Card's Mormon-centric views about family and homosexuality that, while not omnipresent throughout his work, form the basis for some "purpose of life" quandaries that motivate his characters' behavior. Before I continue, let's make it clear that this isn't a baseless accusation - googling the words Scott, Card, homosexuality, and family values yields a wealth of information, including articles he has written for the Latter-day Saints that include titles like "The Hypocrites of Homosexuality".

You may have noticed touches of this sentiment sprinkled throughout the Ender's series - the instinctual drive toward getting married and starting a family that overwhelms many of the main characters (Valentine, Ender, Ender's children, Bean, etc.); the anger characters exhibit toward laws governing reproductive rights; the setting up of cynical characters like Ender and Bean (paper tigers) who receive spiritual wisdom and subsequent enlightenment from ancillary characters speaking in Card's voice.

If you didn't notice these things and think I'm just speculating blindly, note following advice given to Bean by an old Russian scientist (who may or may not be gay) who laments that he pursued academic achievement over the will to procreate:

"Even men who do not desire women, even women who do not desire men, this does not exempt them from the deepest desire of all, the desire to be an inextricable part of the human's hard-wired into all of us. Not just sexual desire - that can be twisted any which way, and it often's a deep hunger to find a person from that strange, terrifyingly other sex and make a life together...there's still a hunger for this. For actual marriage, two unlike creatures becoming, as best they can, one."
"[This is] The thing that makes us civilized or at least civilizable. And those who are cut off from it by their own desires, by those twists and bends that turn them in another way...those who are cut off because they think they want to be cut off, they are still hungry for it - hungrier than ever, especially if they deny it."

And you know what? In Card's written universe, these words are absolutely true. Inevitably, protagonists who want the happy ending must, must, must go forth, marry, and have progeny or else die alone and forgotten. And this truth makes it hard for me to continue reading his work.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 18, 2004
Overall I didn't think this book was as bad as other reviewers would claim, although my laundry list of complaints is as long as many others'

- The "witty banter" between Bean and Petra, and between the Wiggins was, as others have mentioned, not witty

- Peter is by far the most disappointing character in the series to date: instead of seeing the transition from Ender's tormentor to master statesman we are subjected to the tedious ranting of a spoiled brat teenager

- Card rambles and preaches nonstop (but still better than Children of the Mind in this area)

- Petra's obsession with having Bean's babies is so scary it's funny

- Achilles becomes as unimposing as Peter

- The story involving the missing embryos was an interesting subplot at first, but then it becomes THE plot for the majority of the book

- The overall story is interesting but the plotting is very dull and predictable. Not once is there a surprise, and despite the "action" that occurs, never is there a suspenseful moment.

And on and on. But I thought the story was better than Shadow of the Hegemon, which felt like the game of Risk on steroids. In Shadow Puppets, the characters are forced to make hard choices, success and failure were not always so clear, and a feeling of melancholy hung over the tale. Although the major characters in the book disappointed me more often than not, the minor characters played interesting roles. Virlomi's Wall of India was simple, yet powerful. Alai in particular was fascinating as the Caliph, a figure elegant and powerful, yet terribly constrained by duty and religion (he reminded me a bit of the young protagonist of Dune).

After the disappointing end to the original post-Ender's Game trilogy, I had ceased to expect great things of this series, so perhaps that is why I was not as disappointed as others were with this book. I was encouraged by Card's return to focusing on the characters, even if his attempts at characterization were often flawed at best.

I see that Card is churning out another book in the series: "Shadow of the Giant" is due to come out early next year. Part of me wishes that I had stopped at the original "Ender's Game", I should have known Card could never top that. Yet I keep going in the series, as I imagine many other readers have, seeing sparks of genius in his books and always hoping for more (despite the inevitable disappointment). Please, Mr. Card: hit one out of the park with your next book. The patience of your loyal readers is starting to die out.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2002
It's so difficult to explain what's kept me coming back to Orson Scott Card. Ender's Game, arguably his finest work, is much different from other books in the series, particularly in the way it approaches the relationships between the main characters. In Ender's Game, the primary focus was on the young Ender and his ultimately tragic relationships with the people around him. It's this, that I believe that drew so many to this series, a morality play built in the framework of excellent sci-fi.
With his parallel series, he seemed to start off with the same formula - telling the story of Bean, whom Card developed into a deep and dynamic character with Ender's Shadow. Bean's survival, and indeed, how he thrived was a interesting and well concieved piece of work.
Shadow of the Hegemon followed, and it took a much different direction than what many of us expected. More political in nature, it focused on Earth and its changing social and political movements after the Formic defeat. Different, but I still enjoyed it, and more importantly, it laid the groundwork for a deep and rich sequel.
Sadly, this is not to be. Card's on autopilot, seemingly paid by the word, rather than the depth and enjoyability of his plot. The burgeoning romance with Petra is thrown together, with little to no build up, and the subplot involving Achilles and Bean's "children" is irritating at best. In fact, it's hard to even see why Achilles is in this book, other than the reconciliation of his conflict with Bean. Card should be shamed with how little he's put Achilles to use here - one of his most original and interesting characters ends up becoming an afterthought, and the final resolution between the him and Bean is one of the most anti-climactic in recent memory.
The book throws characters into the mix seemingly at random, which acts to stymie the development of existing characters, save perhaps Mr and Mrs. Wiggin. Any other character development, however, is confusing and not well-thought out. The Bean of this book is nothing like the Bean of Ender's Game, or Ender's Shadow, or even Shadow of the Hegemon. It's just wrong - like the book was written by someone else.
Adding this to the already tenuous grip on reality that this series began broaching with Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets doesn't inspire anything more than disappointment, and can even perhaps be called "laughably bad."
A promising series of books derailed.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2003
It seems that Orson Scott Card has two personae as a writer -- the pedantic bore, and the gripping plotter. At his best, his books are impossible to put down.
But then there's Shadow Puppets. It seems that Card has lost his way in this series (as he did in the first 4-part Ender saga). While the base story line is interesting, the surrounding details are tedious.
The plot is rich and complex -- Bean battles Achilles for control of the earth, after China has invaded India. How the two characters plot against each other is the best element of this book.
But the sections which move the plot forward are interspersed with two dull elements. First, there is the witty banter between the main characters (Bean and Petra, Bean and his parents, etc.). Except that its not that witty, and it just goes on and on. Fictional characters' pointless sarcastic repartee has to be really part of the story, or it becomes dull. I thought it did here.
Then there are the long rambling speeches, drilling Card's personal philosophy into you over and over. This is similar to the worst of Children of the mind -- nothing I hate more in my action sci-fi then rambling lecturing.
Mercifully, this book is brief, so it's not too painful to skip the dull bits. It would have been far better to have been edited down a LOT ... but then we'd probably have a Bean novella on our hands.
The Shadow series seems to really be running out of interesting ideas. Too bad. I thought the first two were much more consistent and interesting. If you're absolutely committed to Card, it's worth a quick read. Otherwise, skip it.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2003
...but I found that impossible. I am a big fan of Orson Scott Card's literature, especially the Ender and Shadow series, but "Shadow Puppets" was a letdown.
This book was too preachy-- Card's Mormon side definitely shows through, as both Bean and Anton are converted to the belief that the ultimate goal in life is to have many babies, and Petra is reduced to a subservient, loving wife who nevertheless lies to Bean. Also, you'll discover Card's views on abortion in this book.
"Shadow Puppets" is a fine title for the book, as I got the feeling that Card was controlling his characters (the "puppets") against their wills, forcing them into scenarios and decisions that go against their personalities and previous character developments. Even Alai, previously one of my favorite characters, undergoes major changes and isn't even recognizable. Bean is completely different, and not even all that likeable. Suriyawong (introduced in "Shadow of the Hegemon") appears only in two chapters.
Card relies too much on humorous banter that isn't even all that funny, and certainly isn't brilliant.
If you must read this book, check it out from the library, but don't waste your money.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2002
After reading Ender's Shadow, I had high hopes for this tangent series about Ender Wiggin's sidekick Bean. Unfortunately, the subsequent installments have been getting progressively worse. Now, after the dull and plodding Shadow of the Hegemon, we readers are being treated to a tedious and repetitive heap of self-righteous drivel.
First of all, the somewhat forced "romance" between Petra and Bean just gets annoying after awhile. It is never mentioned why either of them suddenly loves the other, it's just sort of squeezed in there as a convienient plot device. The entire relationship is cold and without passion, and a little out of character to boot. If you ask me, Card needs to stay as far away from writing romance as he possibly can.
The characters, while I'm at it, are barely recognizable. You would never guess that the lovelorn, sappy schoolgirl of this novel is supposed to be the tough, snarky Petra of Ender's Game. Or that Ender's weak-willed, slow-witted parents are actually political geniuses in disguise, ready to plot assinations any time the need for one pops up.
And is it just me, or did Card do an annoying amount of preaching in this novel? After his umpteenth religious discourse, I was about ready to throw the book into the fireplace! He's trying to use this book as a platform for his LDS beliefs. As a fellow Mormon, I'm all for missionary work, but when I pick up a sci-fi novel, I want to see some sci-fi. If I want a sermon, I'll read something from Deseret Book
If you're a hardcore fan of the Ender/Bean series, then I suppose this book might be worth the money. Otherwise, I'd advise you to save your money and buy yourself a hat or something. Or, if you're new to the series, perhaps Ender's Shadow or Ender's Game would be a better jumping-off point for you.
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