Sunday, June 17, 2012

Another Book Before Last Week's Book: Ender's Shadow

Hard to believe a week has flown by already... I'll catch up soon though! Look for blog posts about non-Book a Week subjects too.

June 3-9: Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Science Fiction (1999 - 379 pp.) 

Ah, young Bean and his perspective on the sci-fi classic Ender's Game. It's amazing I hadn't read this by now considering how much I love the original. First things first: in the introduction, Card claims this to be a standalone book from Ender's Game, with it being just as easy to read either one first. I beg to differ. I had a tough time recalling events while reading this, having not read the first one in years, and it would have helped a lot to have re-read Ender's Game in advance of this one. Certain knowledge is assumed that makes Ender's Shadow a bit of an odd standalone read. 

It's not common to see a book effectively rewritten from another character's perspective. That immediately wins my respect. More to the point of the book's contents, the Bean origin story that takes place on the streets of Rotterdam is a welcome surprise, showing sides of him and of background non-Ender's Game characters we would never have seen otherwise. It was also interesting to see an extended version of how these characters act outside of Battle School. Bean's young age makes the whole thing a little less plausible, but this is not a genre known for being plausible and Card makes the characters work well. Poke attracts a combination of sympathy and disdain, for example, while Sister Carlotta acts as one can only imagine a nun may in that bizarre world. 

As far as the events overlapping with Ender's Game go, the different perspective allows for the reader to get a greater handle of what it's like to live beside the spectacular Ender. So many books discuss the surroundings of a dominant character through his or her perspective, or following his or her events, but it's not as common that the dominant character is one of the surroundings. An outsider's look at subjects like whether Ender is worth all the hype, how he acts in individual versus group settings, how his beliefs and actions are interpreted, and everything else about him make curious objects of study. That Ender's selflessness could be deemed inexplicable, for example, makes the reader consider Ender's heroism in an entirely different light... until Bean understands his own lack of perspective. 

If I were to have a qualm with this book - other than the VH1 Behind the Bean Revenge of the Sith-style atmosphere that pervades the whole story - it would be how close Ender's Shadow comes to threatening Ender's mystique. There are times when it seems as though Bean is just as special as Ender, and even smarter, making Ender's exclusively special nature less determined. There are other times when Bean venerates Ender, especially when the two interact, but the taste remains. Whether this is simply due to Bean's hubris or due to Ender not being as far ahead of some of the other students is I suppose debatable. 

Ease of Reading: 10 
Educational Content: 1

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