11.03.2010

Currently Reading: Shadow of the Hegemon

"Oh, spare me your delusions," said Peter. "You're a little boy in hiding."

"I'm a general who's between armies," said Bean. "If I weren't, you wouldn't be talking to me."

"And you want an army so you can go rescue Petra," said Peter.

"So she's alive?"

"How would I know?"

"I don't know how you'd know. But you know more than you're telling me, and if you don't give me what you have, you arrogant oomay, I'm done with you, I'll leave you here playing your little net games, and go find somebody who's not afraid to come out of Mama's house and take some risks."


Author: Orson Scott Card

Synopsis: The members of Ender's jeesh--his core army, the group that helped him defeat the Formics--have been kidnapped; all except Bean, who narrowly escaped a bombshell. Suspecting that his old psychopathic enemy, Achilles, is behind the kidnappings and attempted murder, Bean goes into hiding. While on the run, he deduces that Achilles is building a dangerous political career by means of genius and charisma. Achilles has also taken brilliant jeesh member Petra Arkanian, Bean's friend, as a slave strategist. For Bean to have even a chance at rescuing Petra, he must team up with Ender's brother Peter, get into global politics, and prepare to put his own life on the line.

Notes: One of my favorite things about Orson Scott Card's work is his linguistic depth. Everything about that fascinates me, from the Battle School slang (jeesh, oomay) to the smatterings of Hindi and Portuguese, to Petra's recognition of the fake Turk soldiers by their accent on the Russian loan words. Card's characters come from all over the world, and the primary ones are all academic prodigies, so the language support helps a lot with my buy-in.

Card's characters are also very lifelike. I had a pretty impressive nightmare about serial killers after reading several chapters before bed; Achilles absolutely terrified me. On the other hand, it was fun to get to know Petra better, interesting to meet an older and perhaps barely less sadistic Peter, and Bean's development is such that I keep winding up hopeful for him.

This particular novel was less emotionally moving for me than Speaker or Ender's Shadow, more action-oriented and somewhat more painful. It also did not have the heartrendingly beautiful, satisfying ending of either of those. Of course, after both of those I was afraid to go further with the series; long stretches of happiness don't make for compelling reading, and it seemed to me that Ender and Bean had both been through enough. But now I have to keep going.

Which, obviously, I would have done anyway. So many stories nowadays are obviously designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator; it's incredibly refreshing to read something intelligent, something thick with meaning. I've never found a novel that beats the Ender books for that.

Recommendation: It's hard to imagine myself not recommending something written by Orson Scott Card. This is a good book. My only qualification: Read it in broad daylight if you're susceptible to psychological creepiness.

2 comments:

  1. Yes yes yes! I'm so happy you're finding the time to continue w/ the Shadow books. As you alluded to, the plot is driven more by global politics than previous volumes in the Ender-verse (which was a bit of a challenge for me in these books), but as you also noted, the characters are just so intriguing that you want to root for them and see how things wind up with each. Well, I guess we're not "rooting for" Achilles, but he is definitely still compelling (and scary as heck).

    I think Petra is the main stand-out character in *this* book, for me. Love that girl. :) Also, Peter does get more palatable, once we start to see things through his eyes, which we didn't get in the Ender books.

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  2. I totally love your enthusiasm for these books, Donna! It makes my day to read your comments on these posts.

    Peter does improve somewhat; at least he doesn't still seem to be torturing squirrels. I did like Petra a lot--she's tough and brilliant, though I think Bean held more of my interest, possibly just because I knew him better. Also, I probably should have mentioned how much I've loved Sister Carlotta. Wonderful woman. Mrs. Wiggin was also amazing.

    Compelling... that's a good word for Achilles. He's not an obvious Voldemort-style monster, although he and young Tom Riddle have a lot in common. Watching him convince Pakistan to get along with India was mind-blowing. And yet, he's absolutely cold-blooded. Ack.

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