Ender's Game told the story of humanity's fight against an alien takeover from the perspective of Ender Wiggin, a genius child groomed to command Eart...moreEnder's Game told the story of humanity's fight against an alien takeover from the perspective of Ender Wiggin, a genius child groomed to command Earth's starships in the fight against them. This book tells the same story from the perspective of Bean, Ender's chief lieutenant. I would recommend reading Ender's Game before this book, because this book is essentially one long spoiler for that book, whereas the reverse is not true. But you don't need to have read that book to understand this one. It's merely better if you did, because the drama and reveals in that book are dependent upon information dispensed much more readily in this one.
One might cynically think that this is merely Card's attempt to milk one amazing story a bit longer. To some extent the sequels to this book (and some of the sequels to Ender's Game) certainly do that, and I don't doubt that, as a practical matter, this book made money in no small part because of its association with Ender's Game. But this book should not be pigeonholed this way. For Ender's Shadow tells Bean's own story, the story of a genius even smarter than Ender: from his hardscrabble formative years on the streets of Rotterdam, to his time in Battle School with Ender, to his time assisting Ender in battles. The story is not about Ender, or about the events of Ender's Game, and it does not focus on that story -- it's about Bean and how he views and influences those events, and about his own life and its concerns.
It's generally very hard to pull off sequels, prequels, or retellings as good as the originals -- but there's a strong claim that Ender's Shadow does just that. If forced to compare the two I would probably rate Ender's Game higher than Ender's Shadow, but it's a close thing. Read Ender's Game first, but read them both.(less)
This story continues the line that began with Ender's Shadow. Its plot and development are highly dependent upon the previous Shadow novels; don't was...moreThis story continues the line that began with Ender's Shadow. Its plot and development are highly dependent upon the previous Shadow novels; don't waste your time tackling this until you've read all the previous Shadow books. You'll be missing so much context it's just not worth the confusion, and the book will be mostly wasted on you. I'm going to be very deliberately circumspect in this review to avoid revealing much in the way of details that people who haven't read those stories wouldn't know, just to be safe.
Pros: We see the natural evolution of Bean's story and of a few of his kids. The developments that happen make sense. The presentation of his kids, as highly intelligent kids, yet kids nonetheless, is careful and subtle -- much in the same way, I think, that Watership Down anthropomorphizes rabbits while making their thoughts distinctly rabbit-ish.
Cons: It's small; Ender's Shadow was 469 pages of dense text; this book was 237 pages of 1.5-space larger text that I finished in a few hours. The story arguably didn't need to be told; previous books stopped things at a reasonable juncture (although one clearly designed for something like this book to fill in -- and sucker for the story that I am, I'm only happy to read whatever Card pumps out here). The amount of cleverness of thought can feel a little overwhelming at times; yeah, I know the characters are unnaturally smart, but sometimes the pace and certainty of thought feel too much to be realistic.
Thus far in the handful of Goodreads reviews I've written, I have a consistent and disturbing habit of rating almost everything a 4 or 5. I can't rate this a 5; it's too thin to be satisfying in the ways the previous Ender's Shadow storyline novels were. Yet I can't rate it a 3, either, because as a way to wrap up various bits of the Shadow storyline, it leaves me more satisfied than that. So 4 it is, probably closer to 3.5 if I could grant it.
How exactly does it leave me satisfied? I was reminded of bits of three other books that I think capture my feelings pretty well. I'll note them behind some spoiler tags since they relate to the final plot development of the book.
It was only when he had attained a great age that the youngest brother finally took off the Cloak of Invisibility and gave it to his son. And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.
I was also simultaneously reminded of Dumbledore talking to Harry near the end of the same book:
[T]he true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die, and understands that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying.
Second, I was reminded of the last several paragraphs of the epilogue of Watership Down. If you haven't read Watership Down, don't read this quote; read that book instead as soon as you can. If you have and are simply forgetting it, this page includes the relevant quote (search for "One chilly, blustery morning"). (But really, you should reread the book.)
Third, I was reminded of the way in which the mortality of humans is portrayed in The Silmarillion. I don't have exact quotes here; it's more the way in which the mortality of humans was portrayed as a blessing, as contrasted with the immortality of the elves. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway. If you read the other Shadow books, I think this one does a good job of continuing the story, and it's worth a quick read for that purpose. If you haven't read them, I'd only recommend this if you read those and remain interested.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)