Friday, March 14, 2014

Shadow of the Hegemon

My next read in Orson Scott Card's "Shadow Saga" is entitled Shadow of the Hegemon and picks up shortly after Ender's Game and the parallel novel Ender's Shadow ended off. Both of these novels were tales of Earth's smartest children trained in military command to defeat the insectoid alien race known as the Formics. These two books were of the same characters and situations but the first was written from the point of view of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin and the second from the point of view of Julian "Bean" Delphiki. The Hegemon story details the heroic return to Earth of all of the Battle School children, save Ender, who was forced to remain in exile due to the political workings of his brother Peter. The different nations of the Earth had unified under a single leader known as the hegemon to deal with the alien threat. However, immediately after the great victory lead by Ender, the fragile peace shattered and nations moved to reassert their power and independence. The children of Battle School were viewed as valuable assets by their home countries, both in terms of their hero status, as well as their skills as military tacticians and leaders in the battles that were sure to come. It is in this tense backdrop that Card's story follows further along with Bean and his sworn enemy, Achilles, a boy that Bean knew growing up on the streets of Rotterdam. Achilles was marked for Battle School as well until it became known that he was a mass murderer. He vowed that he would get his revenge on Bean.

Achilles is a true megalomaniac. He is brutal, manipulative, merciless, but also charming, brilliant, and cunning. He is a smooth talker and a schemer, who is skilled at playing nation against nation. It is not entirely clear what his true game is as he leaves a trail of betrayal in his wake. Bean though is more than a match for Achilles and is most often one step ahead of him. While Achilles is only out for himself, Bean does not care about personal glory, seeking only the best outcome in any given situation. Early on he recognizes that either Achilles or Peter Wiggin will be made the new hegemon of Earth. While Peter is definitely not the ideal candidate, he is certainly far better than a murderous psychopath. With Bean's help, Achilles loses his control (temporarily?) and Peter is elected hegemon. However, this position is only a mere shadow of what it once was as China has taken over most of Asia and Russia has claimed nearly all of Europe, and both expansionist nations will not recognize the office of hegemon. Yet Peter has a plan to slowly reclaim the power that his office once boasted, yet his path is arduous and his motives are far from selfless. The story continues with Shadow Puppets, my next adventure.