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Ender's Shadow
Orson Scott Card
Tor Books, 380 pages

Ender's Shadow
Orson Scott Card
Born in Richland, Washington, Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid Mormon Church missionary, and received degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine, and five children.

In an unprecedented fashion, Card won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel two years in a row for Ender's Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, in 1986 and 1987.

Orson Scott Card Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Ender's Shadow
SF Site Review: Enchantment
SF Site Review: Heartfire
SF Site Review: Homebody
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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I've never read Ender's Game, the Orson Scott Card novel that made such a hit back in 1985, so I figured I'd make a pretty good test subject to see if Card's new novel, Ender's Shadow, stands on its own. Neither a sequel nor a prequel, Ender's Shadow is what Card calls a "parallax" book, in which he revisits the same story and themes, but through the eyes of another character. It's a wildly ambitious undertaking, but for the most part I would have to say that he succeeds.

The street kids in Rotterdam named him Bean because the starving four-year-old was so tiny. But Bean was smart -- in fact, so phenomenally intelligent that he changed the whole social structure of the street and drew himself to the attention of Sister Carlotta, a nun who also happened to be a recruiter for Earth's International Fleet.

At five, Bean became the youngest recruit ever sent into orbit to Battle School to join an elite team of children being trained to fight the Buggers -- aliens who threatened to destroy the whole human race. There he met his own nemesis -- "Ender" Wiggin -- a kid who was not only as smart as Bean, but had natural leadership skills that Bean couldn't begin to compete with. Half admiring, half jealous, Bean set out to compete in a contest where cleverness was not all that counted, and the stakes were higher than any of the children were being told.

Orson Scott Card can certainly write a riveting book and this one had me glued to the pages right from the start. Bean is an interesting character, with the strangely skewed viewpoint of a child who is as intelligent as an adult, but lacks experience, perspective and empathy. He is very much the focus of the book, but Card also makes effective use of other viewpoints (most frequently Sister Carlotta) to broaden the reader's view of the action, and often to show just how wrong Bean can be.

I had a few problems with this book. While I admired Card's depiction of Bean, it never entirely worked for me, and in particular I found some of the details of Bean's background were not credible. Not all the minor characters in the book stood out. In particular, the military instructors at Battle School blurred together in my mind -- something Card may have deliberately exacerbated by presenting most of their scenes as transcripts.

Finally, I didn't like the sentimental tone of the very last chapter of the book. The way in which Card wrapped up the final details was so much at odds with the flavour of the rest of the book that if this had been a Hollywood movie, I would have suspected the studio of doing a last minute rewrite.

However, these are minor issues. Ender's Shadow is a strong book, with good characters, a compelling plot, well considered ideas, and lots of thorny ethical issues. It definitely stands on its own as a novel. And most of all, it's a good read.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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