Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card is the first book of a series parallel to the Ender Quartet. While Ender’s Shadow covers the same events in Battle School as Ender’s Game, it does so from the viewpoint of Bean, a scrawny little Napoleon in the making. Like Ender, Bean was admitted into Battle School early and pushed through the system at a breakneck pace. Unlike Ender, it seems Bean’s worst horrors happened before going to Battle School, not after.
The problem with rewriting the same novel from a different character’s point of view is that you have to make sure all the facts line up. Card did this well for the most part, but on a couple points he didn’t. Mainly, he spent so much time in Ender’s Game developing a society in which religion is discouraged and mistrusted, and yet one of the main characters in Ender’s Shadow is a nun, Bean frequently spouts Bible stories (though one of the last times he does this is so poignant I’m glad it was included), and a Muslim student is seen praying (the same student who, in Ender’s Game, is careful to hide his faith). I also disagree with both Card’s ideology about the nature of families and how he presents it as being universal; his belief about family seems to fit more with Aeschylus’s Oresteia than the modern day or the future.
However, despite getting annoyed at Bean’s long-winded monologues of perfection (the joy of reading the thoughts of a character who is always right), I did like this book. Orson Scott Card is a good story-teller, he raises good questions, has built an interesting universe. Even when I wasn’t reading, my thoughts wandered back to Battle School. I will probably even read the rest of the Bean quartet, because I want to know what happens on Earth while Ender is away, what happens to the rest of the students at Battle School, what happens to Peter. Sometimes it’s enough to have an author from whom you know what to expect when you pick up one of their books: perhaps a bit too much stream-of-consciousness, but a working world and an interesting story.
And though it hardly needs to be said, I like Bean, but I love Ender more.