Thursday, March 20, 2014

Shadow Puppets

After completing Orson Scott Card's Shadow of the Hegemon, I moved onto the next book in his "Shadow Saga", Shadow Puppets. This book is the tenth that I have read as part of his "Enderverse". This is the first book that I would classify as a disappointment. Each of the major story arcs was brought about by actions of the main characters that were so out of line with who they were that it seemed Card was either rushed, bored, or inattentive in his writing, or else an unsupervised ghost writer did most of the preparation of the book. However, to complete the series, I felt it necessary to spend the few nights required to read through this one.

This story focuses on four main characters. Peter Wiggin, the hegemon of Earth; Bean, a genius who was the backup to Ender Wiggin during the battle to defeat the alien Formic race; Petra Arkanian, a commander within Ender's battle group; Achilles, a murderous, clever megalomaniac who is trying to usurp Peter Wiggin so that he can consolodate the power of the hegemon and become the most powerful man on Earth. The main story arcs involve Peter trying to restore the office of the hegemon slowly and with calculated steps, Achilles being accepted by Peter as an assistant but secretly working to oust him, Bean and Petra getting married and deciding to have children. The backdrop to the story involves the different battle commanders from Ender's group rising to positions of military leadership and moving toward war against each other.

The weaknesses in the story are characters not acting according to who Card has made them out to be through a long series of books. For example, Peter has the brilliant mind of his brother Ender, but is more ruthless and self-serving in his leadership approach. Howewever, here Peter consistently acts like some dull-witted, petulant kid. There is nothing in his actions or dialog in this story that matches with the power broker that he is supposed to be. He shows no ability to critically examine his own thoughts or those of others. There is nothing charismatic about him as he deals with other world leaders. As another example, Bean is conned by a known con man, taken in by some obvious flim-flam. However, in even letting himself into this situation he goes against principles that are woven into his DNA. Finally, the premise of Peter arranging for the rescue of Achilles and then putting him into a position in his inner circle was so poorly developed and conceived that it left me scratching my head. However, despite this disappointing story, I will still continue to the next part of the story, Shadow of the Giant.