Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ender's Shadow

After reading through the set of novels in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Quintet, I continued onto the related Shadow Saga series, starting with the first book, Ender's Shadow. This story takes places concurrently with the narrative in Ender's Game, but from the point of view of a different character, one Julian "Bean" Delphiki. We first meet Bean as a 4 year old orphan surviving on the mean streets of Rotterdam. Bean's world is comprised of gangs of young children, living a deplorable and pitiable existence. A child of Bean's physical makeup should not have been able to survive, but he is not just another street urchin. He actually has been genetically engineered for super intelligence. It is this characteristic that ultimately gets him noticed by the International Fleet and accepted into Battle School at 6 years old, the same training facility where Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is being focused on as the most likely candidate to lead Earth's fleet in repelling the next expected invasion of the alien buggers who have already attacked the Earth, killing tens of millions.

Bean was an important aspect of the narrative in Ender's Game, but this novel shows that while Ender received the attention as the commander, Bean was likely as skilled a tactician as Ender. Certainly Bean was a better student compared to Ender, however his ability to command was not on the same level as Ender. While Bean had the skills and the ability, his leadership seemed more forced and manufactured than Ender's. Ender's leadership was simply a natural gift that emanated from him and pulled people toward him. It is a great credit to Bean that he was able to accept his role in the defense of Earth and set aside feelings of jealousy or bitterness.

Ultimately the story in Ender's Shadow concludes exactly at the same point as Ender's Game. While Ender led Earth's attack against the bugger homeworld, he had been led to believe it was just a battle training exercise. It was Bean, with his quick intellect, who was able to understand exactly what was happening and what was at stake. The novel ends with the children of Battle School (except Ender) being returned to Earth in a suddenly tumultuous time. Now that the buggers have been defeated, the unity that held the nations of Earth together against a common foe, has quickly unraveled and a mighty power struggle to gain control is afoot. We know that Bean has a role to play in this conflict and we start to understand why that is. This story was an enjoyable companion to Ender's Game. Now onto the next part of the story in The Shadow of the Hegemon.