This is the first of a 2-part review of Orson Scott Card’s novel, Ender’s Shadow (part 1 is spoiler-free).
In 1985, four years after my birth, Orson Scott Card delivered his magnum opus, Ender’s Game, to critical and popular acclaim. Wildly popular among sci-fi fans, it also earned him a Hugo & Nebula award from the critics. All of this from the book that was only supposed to create background story for Ender’s role as the Speaker in Speaker for the Dead (a book that, arguably, a far smaller audience has ever heard of).
Until a few months ago, I was content to agree with a friend of mine that Ender’s Game was the perfect book: too perfect to spoil with a potentially inferior sequel. And so it was in ignorant bliss that I overlooked Children of the Mind, Xenocide, and Speaker for the Dead. Continuing along this vein, I would have ruefully passed over the literary genius of Mr. Card’s parallax story, Ender’s Shadow.
Ender’s Shadow is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Or even heard of for that matter. It is about as presumptuous a story as can be imagined, and in the hands of a lesser author it would have flopped miserably.
In Shadow, Mr. Card takes one of the minor characters from Game, Bean, and fixes the POV through Bean’s young, gifted eyes, whereupon Mr. Card then follows the EXACT same sequence of events from Game. He has the balls to tell his critically and popularly acclaimed story.. AGAIN! Talk about a guy who can’t get out from the shadow of his own success, right?
When I first read what Mr. Card was attempting to do, I was flabbergasted: how do you return to a story that fans love without ruining it? WHY would you return to a story like that with even the slightest chance of ruining it?
“For a brief time I flirted seriously with the idea of opening up the Ender’s Game universe to other writers, and went so far as to invite a writer whose work I greatly admire, Neal Shusterman, to consider working with me to create novels about Ender Wiggin’s companions in Battle School. As we talked, it became clear that the most obvious character to begin with would be Bean, the child-soldier whom Ender treated as he had been treated by his adult teachers.
And then something else happened. The more we talked, the more jealous I became that Neal might be the one to write such a book, and not me. It finally dawned on me that, far from being finished with writing about “kids in space,” as I cynically described the project, I actually had more to say, having actually learned something in the intervening dozen years since Ender’s Game first appeared in 1985. And so, while still hoping that Neal and I can work together on something, I deftly swiped the project back.” – Orson Scott Card on writing Ender’s Shadow
After writing a series of books (Xenocide, Speaker for the Dead, Children of the Mind) that were still contained within Ender’s universe–though removed from the events of Game by 3,000 years–Mr. Card placed himself, like Bean under the shadow of mighty Andrew Wiggin, under the influence of the book that launched his career, to boldly see if there was anything left to be said.
In the 2nd part of this review, Enough about Ender, I shall happily report that Bean stands highly (though not very tall), and is an ace of a character up Mr. Card’s literary sleeve.