Tal Cohen's Bookshelf: A Collection of Personal Opinions about Books
Ender's Shadow / Orson Scott Card
Reviewed by Tal Cohen Sunday, 26 September 1999
(For my review of the original Ender’s Quartet, click here.)

Ender’s Shadow is not a sequel to Ender’s Game. Rather, it is what Card calls a “parallax”, retelling the events in Ender’s Game from a different point of view. The point of view is that of Bean, a relatively minor character in the original novel. Readers of that book will recall Bean was one of the children under Ender’s command, a physically tiny yet intelligent child.

The new book sheds a whole new light on Bean, whose intelligence turns out to be plainly superhuman. We find that the commanders of the International Fleet placed Bean as a backup for Ender, if the latter failed for whatever reason. We also learn that Bean’s part in the story was not as minor as it might have seemed from reading the first book alone. In fact, Bean is so intelligent that at times, he reaches conclusions that seem impossible to reach based on the knowledge he possesses. In several such cases, Card hurries to provide the background knowledge that enabled Bean to make these brilliant deductions. (This is an interesting contrast to many cases in the original quartet where highly intelligent characters failed to reach obvious conclusions.)

(From the book) “You frighten me, when you say there isn’t time.”

“I don’t see why. Christians have been expecting the imminent end of the world for millennia.”

“But it keeps not ending.”

“So far, so good.”

Naturally, since they tell the story of the same war, several scenes are shared between Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, but each book presents these with a different focus. Once again, Card proves to be a master storyteller, and the two books end up being beautifully woven. Identical dialogues and scenes suddenly gain a whole new meaning. Whatever minor incompatibilities there might be between the books are explained by Card as a result of the different viewpoints; these are, he says, “features, not bugs”. Card claims the two books can be read in any order — neither is a sequel of the other — but I suspect the enjoyment would be more complete if the books are read in the order of their publication.

Ender’s Shadow is a spellbinding book, much like Ender’s Game (and in many ways unlike Ender’s Game’s three sequels). Anyone who enjoyed the original book will almost certainly enjoy the new one just as much. However, while many readers of Ender’s Game could identify their childhood with that of Ender, no reader of Ender’s Shadow will be able to identify his life with that of Bean. This alienness could somewhat detract from the readers’ enjoyment.

(From the book) “All we know about this kid is that he survived on the streets of Rotterdam. It’s a hellish place, from what I hear. The kids are vicious. They make Lord of the Flies look like Pollyanna.”

Bean’s speculations about the intrahuman wars to come after the Buggers are defeated provide a highly fertile ground for sequels. Unlike the previous sequels to Ender’s Game, these should take place in the future shortly after the story of Ender’s war. They should tell the story of Bean, some of his fellows from Battle School (and Rotterdam), and of course Peter the Hegemon, Ender’s brother. If Card will not fall into some of the traps he encountered with the previous sequels, then this is one book I’m looking forward to read; all in all, the universe presented in the Ender series is truly a fascinating one.

(From the book) “When did you read Pollyanna?”

“It was a book?”

(My review of the sequal, Shadow of the Hegemon, appears here.)

Find this book
Faster-than-light communications in science fiction:
The Ender universe includes an instantaneous communication device which enables the children to control ships in real-time from light years away.

Instantaneous communication is a common theme in SF. In some cases, the communication was enabled by using twins that had a psychic connection; but in most cases, the enabled device was a physical invention, and it is almost inevitably called “ansible” — including in Card’s books.

The name “ansible” was originally presented by SF author Ursula K. LeGuin. Her classic book The Dispossessed is hardly focused on technology, but it does tell the story of the device’s inventor.

Should any scientist in the real world ever invent such a device, he’d better call it an ansible. Otherwise, he’d have the whole SF community to face.

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