Friday, March 28, 2014

Shadows in Flight

The fifth and final book in Orson Scott Card's "Shadow Saga" (part of his "Enderverse" series) is entitled Shadows in Flight and picks up some time after Shadow of the Giant ends. This short novel is the story of the final adventure of Julian Delphiki or Bean as he was known during his childhood, when he helped to defeat the alien Formics and then became the leading general and military strategist for the Earth's hegemon leader. At the ripe old age of 20-something, Bean exiled himself from Earth with three of his children, leaving behind his wife with another five of his children. Bean and his young brood of Carlotta (the engineer), Sergeant (the warrior), and Ender (the biologist) each share a genetic disorder that gives rise to a level of genius far beyond ordinary humanity. However, the flip side to this blessing is the curse of giantism, where the body never receives a signal to stop growing. This condition eventually leads to premature death in the early 20s as the skeletal and circulatory systems were not designed to function under the strain of such a creature. By exiling themselves, Bean is hoping that on their travels out into the galaxy, that Earth's scientists will have an opportunity to develop a cure for their condition.

Bean's children, all about six years old, are fully independent thinkers who operate their starship, from propulsion, to mechanical repairs, to monitoring the biosystem, to educating themselves in a broad array of fields. Meanwhile, Bean is relegated to the ship's cargo hold, as he has reached a size that has made movement through the ship impossible. He has grown weak and his time is almost up. It is in the moment when he and his children have essentially given up hope of a future that they come upon an alien ship. It turns out that this ship is an early generation Formic ship that has life forms aboard. Of course, it was universally believed that all of the Formics had died when Andrew "Ender" Wiggin led the attack on the alien home world. It seems that there is more to the Formics than was believed. It is this opportunity that spurs the children to make contact and learn the truth about the Formic species, which gives Bean one final opportunity to teach his children and set them up for the rest of their lives. A sweet and simple ending to the series.