Book of the Week – June 25th 2015

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It’s that time again! Every Thursday, I will be talking about a book that, for one reason or another, stuck out to me in the past. I’ll do a little review and summary (no spoilers, of course), and give a rating and recommendation.

This week, the Book of the Week is Ender’s Shadow!

Ender's Shadow

I think it’s a reasonable assumption that pretty much everyone knows about Orson Scott Card’s acclaimed work, Ender’s Game. Telling the story of an exceptionally smart and talented boy named Ender Wiggin and his trials in Battle School and destiny to lead the forces of humanity in a final struggle against the invading Buggers (or Formics, to be “PC” about it), Ender’s Game is wildly popular both with older audiences and with the YA age group. It features kids with agency, space battles, cool technology—and darker themes of ethics, racism, manipulation, and secrecy.

A smaller percentage of readers probably knows about the sequel to Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead. It’s a very different kind of book from Game, with the characters all adults and without all of the bombast and adventure. Nonetheless, Speaker for the Dead is probably the single best science fiction novel I’ve ever read…but that’s a conversation for another day.

Today, we’re here to talk about the “other” Ender’s Game sequel. Ender’s Shadow isn’t really a proper sequel, to be honest. It covers a lot of the same events as Game, with a little bit extra tacked on the beginning. The change is that it’s all from Bean’s perspective: the littlest kid at Battle School, an orphan who grew up struggling to survive on the streets of Rotterdam, with a mysterious origin and a curious aptitude for survival.

Bean’s adventures take him to Battle School, where by necessity he is compared to the revered Ender Wiggin, but Bean’s path is different—though no less fraught with danger—and builds up to a continuing series of a different tone from the later Ender books. Where Ender’s arc deals with issues of faith, racism, responsibility, and forgiveness on a personal level, the Bean Quartet (with a new, fifth book released last year) delves into international politics and warfare, the ramifications of vengeance and ambition, and the consequences of dubious science.

Ender’s Shadow provides readers with an easy gateway into this much deeper world, setting things up slowly and building until, by the end of the book, Bean’s actions seem almost mandated by destiny, much as Ender’s do in Game. Ender’s Shadow is packed with action, compelling characters, sparkling moments of witty humor, and dark souls ready to be revealed in the light.

This book is a must for all lovers of science fiction, as one of the quintessential series-opening books in the genre. Readers need not have read Ender’s Game before. I give Ender’s Shadow an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars.

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