10.13.2010

Currently Reading: Ender's Shadow

I would carry some of it if I could, Bean said silently. Like I did today, you can turn it over to me and I'll do it, if I can. You don't have to do this alone.

Only even as he thought this, Bean knew it wasn't true. If it could be done, Ender was the one who would have to do it. All those months when Bean refused to see Ender, hid from him, it was because he couldn't bear to face the fact that Ender was what Bean only wished to be
the kind of person on whom you could put all your hopes, who could carry all your fears, and he would not let you down, would not betray you.

I want to be the kind of boy you are, thought Bean. But I don't want to go through what you've been through to get there.


Author: Orson Scott Card

Synopsis: Set during the same time period as Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow tracks the perspective of the smallest, smartest child in Battle School. Known only as Bean, he goes from starving on the streets of Rotterdam to fighting alongside the greatest legend and hero of his time.

Notes: If anyone outdoes Orson Scott Card in nuanced fictional portraits of human nature, relationships, and character development, I've never read them. I would rank him with Jane Austen on this, and she's the best I could think of off the top of my head.

Foremost among his creations is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, protagonist of Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Ender may be the single most sympathetic character I've ever come across in fiction. From the first pages of the first book, he evokes a combined desire to step forward and protect him and to stand back and watch him succeed. From there on out, readers learn to love him as his soldiers do.

Looking at him through Bean's eyes was, therefore, part of the power of the book. Much of the rest of that power, for me at least, was in the character development of Bean himself. Bean spends a fair portion of the book putting The Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen to shame in the cold-and-calculating-survivor department, and—well, it's very hard to explain without giving out spoilers, but watching him grow in humanity is a beautiful thing indeed.

And without going into those spoilers, I'm struggling to express why I loved this book so much, why it brought me to tears several times. I can praise it for being exceptionally intelligent, for hooking me in immediately and making me want to tell everyone and everything to scram until I'd finished, for keeping me fascinated even though I normally couldn't care less about technological marvels and war strategy. But the book mattered to me for different reasons. The lengths and widths and depths and heights of love that Bean discovers. The way Scripture is used, and the situations behind those references. What it's like to self-effacingly serve someone you love with all your heart.

There aren't words.

Recommendation: This book gets an unreserved yes from me.

5 comments:

  1. SO happy you liked this! Keep reading the Shadow books if you can. If you don't absolutely adore Petra yet, you will if you keep reading. :) Kind of interesting...actually, REALLY interesting that, you compared Bean (rightly) to Katniss, and each of their counterparts are named Petra/Peeta, respectively. Wow, this might be a parallel worthy of John Granger's perusal. :)

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  2. I loved Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead even more. So much that I haven't wanted to pick up another book in the series. This may inspire me to do so!

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  3. Sara, I know exactly what you mean.

    Donna, there are more Shadow books? This one made me want to read everything OSC has ever written. I'll have to look into that. Oh, and I love your Petra/Peeta parallel... now I really have to keep reading.

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  4. Jenna, yes there is a quartet, just like there is a quartet of Ender books... although now there's a 5th Ender book (which chronologically falls after Ender's Game but before Speaker for the Dead), AND there's a 5th Shadow book in the works which makes me so excited I could spit. The other Shadow books are called, in order: Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant. The one word of caution I will state though--it's best to read the Ender universe books in the order of publication. I found that Card layers his details as he writes... although, the Shadow books kind of stand alone so you can pursue the current ones without having finished the Ender books. BUT when the 5th Shadow book comes out eventually (slated to be called Shadows in Flight), don't read it without having read the final 2 Ender books, because it is supposed to tie the two series back together.

    Ok, I'm done geeking it out over here :)

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  5. Ooh, thanks, Donna! Knowing what order to read things in is really helpful. I like to read chronologically the first time.

    Geek out all you want on my blog. That's what it's for. :D

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