By: Orson Scott Card
My Rating: FIVE out of FIVE stars
A quick primer on Ender . . .
In the future, Earth has been attacked once by the Buggers, an alien race of insect like creatures, and Earth’s unified military expects another attack. To prepare for the impending invasion, the best and brightest children are recruited into Battle School–a highly advanced military training physicality in space. They are searching for the one child who can save humanity from certain destruction . . . and they think they have found him in Andrew “Ender” Wiggin.
That’s Ender’s Game, and it’s a great book. Actually, it’s considered among the most influential books in history; it is the standard against which all other science fiction books are compared. It is the winner of the two most prestigious awards in science fiction, is #59 on the reader’s list of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, and is on the American Library Association’s “100 Best Books for Teens. It is even on the U.S. Marine Corps list of recommended reading for officers in training.
Not to mention that Ender’s Game contains the greatest surprise ending in the history of surprise endings. Ender’s Game.
Ender’s Shadow, written 14 years after Card published Ender’s Game, is one of the coolest reading experiences I’ve ever had. Ender’s Shadow retells the story of Ender’s Game, only this time you read it from the perspective of Bean, one of the supporting characters in Ender’s Game. Sounds gimmicky at first, but I found Ender’s Shadow perfectly exciting and expertly written. I would even say I enjoyed Ender’s Shadow MORE than I enjoyed Ender’s Game–although I can’t say if that would be true if I had not first read Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game ends with a sort of melancholy tone, not really happy, but not really sad either. Ender’s Shadow has a much more satisfying ending, and when I closed the book I felt good.
After reading Ender’s Shadow, I feel like I know the rest of the story–even though I didn’t even know there was more to the story I needed to know. By following Bean from a homeless 4-year-old (who looks like he’s 2!) on the streets to a 7-year-old general in the army that is to save humanity, the reader learns about the Earth of the Ender Saga. Turns out it’s not a very nice place, and things are set up very nicely for the remaining books of the “Shadow” series.
Bean is one of (or is he the most?) complex character I’ve ever got to know in a book–maybe even more than Ender himself. In Ender’s Shadow you spend A LOT of time in Bean’s head and you get to know him quite intimately. There is action and suspense and excitement–but this is heady stuff. Ender’s and Bean’s world is full of military strategy, justification of actions, and political theory. Each character must calculate and measure the positive or negative impacts of their actions before they act. You, as the reader, are with them in their heads as they plot and plan. You can actually follow their logical thought processes from start to finish and when you get there you can’t help but feel impressed.
I recommend first reading Ender’s Game, then read Ender’s Shadow. Then you’ll probably want to go back and read Ender’s Game again–at least I did. That’s where I’m headed now.
Ender’s Shadow get’s 5 stars and my happy recommendation.
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