Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

( #EndersGame, #OrsonScottCard )

If you have not read “Ender’s Game” and the other three books in the original series, you can learn about them here. If you don’t want to read my post, to quickly summarize: “Ender’s Game” is a really good and the other three books are really bad. Someone must have gotten to Mr. Card and gave him the same opinion because he went back to the original book and fleshed out the story of a beloved character named Bean. Bean is Ender’s tiny, smart-ass friend that is quick with observations and strategy, I can see why Card chose this character to build a series around.

In “Ender’s Shadow”, Bean has been given an upgrade: he is a genetically modified human who has super-intellect. That intellect comes at a price, he will suffer from a severe form of gigantism and will eventually die when his organs can’t support his size. I am told the whole size issue is addressed in the other books (which I just started reading). Bean’s tale does not intersect much with the “Ender’s Game” plot. This book focuses on how he was born (with the whole genetic modification situation), survived as a orphan on the streets, and how he spends his time on the space station training for the “Bugger Invasion”.

Bean does not have the issues and internal conflict that Ender has. The teachers try to get in his head and he outmaneuvers them - essentially remaining one step ahead of everyone in the book. Bean’s major conflict is a bully named Achilles who looked after him while he was a homeless orphan. The ultimate confrontation is weak and clearly leaves room for a bigger payoff in the other books. The other weak concept in the book is comparisons between Ender and Bean. Card clearly wants the reader to know that Bean is smarter and more ruthless than Ender (and more suited to lead the fleet against the invasion) but does not want to be the savior of humanity because that is “Ender’s destiny.” Card sets up this obvious comparison but never really resolves it in a satisfying way (hell the book is called “Ender’s Shadow”). Again, I am assuming that Bean’s great war will be the conflicts on Earth and creating a true world government that we know is established in the other books.

My critiques aside, “Ender’s Shadow” is so much better than the last three Ender books. Card hit the reset button that this franchise desperately needed. I really enjoyed this book. As I write that, I feel I also have to mention that I struggled with even reading it because Mr. Card has some personal issues with tolerance and I don’t want to support giving this man a platform. That said, “Ender’s Shadow” avoids any controversial topics or opinions. It sucks - I started reading these books before I found out the guy was an asshole, and now I want to know what happens.

I would love to hear your thoughts about supporting creators whose work you enjoy but don’t agree with on a personal level.