I have ranted many many times about how much I wanted more points of view about what was going in Ender’s Game. But, then again, everything would have been redundant and the book would have been another thousand pages long.
Ender’s Shadow, being in Bean’s point of view, was therefore a long overdue read for me.
Bean is a starving, four-year-old street rat in Rotterdam, the only thing keeping him alive being his ability to analyze a situation and find the solution that means survival.
When he is found by Sister Carlotta, he is educated and brought to Battle School. He’s younger, smarter, and smaller than everyone else—but what really strikes everyone at Battle School is that he’s a lot like the current top student, Ender Wiggin.
Can Bean make his own name if he’s constantly in Ender’s shadow?
Ender’s Shadow is so good for one reason and for one reason only: it is not Ender’s Game.
Sure, it’s a parallel novel to Ender’s Game, but Ender’s Shadow is like an in-depth “Behind the Scenes” twisted with Bean’s personal history.
Yes, Bean is only one person—but he is the perfect person to be the focus of this parallel novel. Bean’s analytical mindset allows for details that weren’t explained or delved into originally. This includes glorious details such as information on Petra, Dragon Army, and Bonzo that weren’t mentioned in Ender’s Game.
Bean’s story, which is independent of Ender’s Game is also quite interesting to read. Besides the story of Bean on the streets, there is the story behind his identity, his intelligence, and short stature.
And that’s about as far as I’m willing to go into spoilerific territory.
There are only two major problem with Ender’s Shadow. One is that it suffers from, ironically, Ender’s shadow.
Since the novel works in parallel to Ender’s Game, a lot of the suspense for the ending is effectively killed for anyone who read it first. Fortunately, any redundancy in other plot points that overlap with the original novel are eradicated by Bean’s unique and in-depth take of the various situations.
Also, Bean and Ender are very similar people, and therefore the parallels in their stories extend farther than just their time together in Battle School. They’re both incredibly smart, incredibly outcast, and incredible people. It’s really easy to say Achilles is Peter, Nikolai is Shen, Dimak is Graff, etc. This makes the beginning of the story almost hard to get through, since it feels like a rehash of Ender’s.
This however, improves as the story continues, and the obvious differences between Bean and Ender are explored.
One of these differences is the other problem. Bean is a very objective character, and it can get very dry. While Ender is troubled by emotional trauma, Bean’s mind focuses on problems as if they were experiments, with a tactical and objective approach. This, combined with the previous flaw, make that beginning a little difficult to get past.
However, this is only one of the many differences between the two protags, and because they focus on different values, the stories’ themes also vary. Where Ender’s story focuses on the ethics of war and children’s innocence, Bean’s story focuses on flawed education systems, what it means to love someone, and the importance of acknowledgement.
In the end, Ender’s Shadow is a great novel in it’s own right. Stand alone or in conjunction with Ender’s Game, it’s a good read. If you can get past the dry bits, this book is definitely one anyone should read.
Recommendation: Buy. Those who have read Ender’s Game should read Ender’s Shadow. Actually, even people who haven’t read Ender’s Game yet should read Ender’s Shadow, since it can hold its own. Much like Ender’s Game, it would definitely connect to what the education system calls “gifted children” and I think certain scenes should be required reading for teachers.
What to read next? Well if you haven’t read Ender’s Game yet and just read Ender’s Shadow…find Ender’s Game immediately! Read it! For the majority of those who’ve already read Ender’s Game prior to this and enjoyed it, I think Lord of the Flies is a good choice if you want a good analysis of human nature from the perspective of a child. (Plus, there’s always Battle Royale which I have also been meaning to read…)