5.29.2013

Currently Reading: Shadow of the Giant

Shadow of the Giant (Shadow, #4)She had come here from Rwanda, as humans had come out of Africa for fifty thousand years. Not as part of a tribe that climbed down into caves to paint their stories and worship their gods. Not as part of a wave of invaders. But... wasn't she here to take a baby out of a woman's arms? To claim that what came from this stranger's womb would belong to her from now on? Just as so many people had stood on the hills overlooking the bay and said, This is mine now, and it always was mine, regardless of the people who happen to think it belongs to them and have held this place all their lives.

Mine mine mine. That was the curse and power of human beings—that what they saw and loved, they had to have. They could share it with other people but only if they conceived of those people as being somehow their own. What we own is ours. What you own should also be ours. In fact, you own nothing, if we want it. Because you are nothing. We are the real people,  you are only posing as people in order to try to deprive us of what God means us to have.

And now she understood for the first time the magnitude of what Graff and Mazer Rackham and, yes, even Peter were all trying to do.

They were trying to get human beings to define themselves as all belonging to one tribe.

Author: Orson Scott Card

Synopsis: Bean, dying of giantism, doesn't have a lot of time to do the great things he has to do: aid Peter Wiggin in creating worldwide hegemony, and find his own eight missing children. Nor does he have a lot of time to live with his wife, Petra, and their son. With just months allotted to him, he's all over the world, leading armies into the final battles that will free their nations to ratify Peter's constitution, and getting the help of the International Fleet in tracking down his and Petra's IVF babies. As the clock ticks down for Bean and the chance for hegemony, the choices are made—not just by Bean and Petra, but by the other Battle Schoolers as well as Peter and the I.F.—that will set the course for post-Formic Wars human history.

Notes: This is the fourth of the Shadow books, and in it, Card picks up the question of what happens to a lot of young people who have never known anything but war, as Ender's Jeesh and other key Battle School graduates take their places among the heads of state. It's thoughtfully done, if not carried to great personal depths in every case; so much happens in this story that a lot of the political maneuvers simply have to be summed up, and some of the important character development happens in just one or two scenes. Card has quite the knack for doing great things with lone scenes, however.

Of those great lone scenes, I was surprised at which characters' big moments affected me the most. This was Bean's book, and Petra's, and yet I have loved Bean and Petra for five books. I did not expect to love Peter. That astonishing little delight provided for a hefty share of the sweetness in the bittersweet ending, and in some ways, this was his book as well. The narrative hops perspective a lot, giving the reader sight into the various Battle Schoolers' struggles to shape the world and their own lives; it focuses on Bean and Petra, but Peter's genius and his motivations, his hard work and his healing are the central tale.

As for the Battle Schoolers' struggles, Card structures the military movements with outstanding logic, best as I can tell; he appears to have done his research thoroughly on the various countries involved, and everything from motive for action to the playing out of battle upon available terrain seemed thought-through and believable to me. Someone more knowledgeable of strategy than myself may catch mistakes, but the only thing I saw that resembled a flaw was in how briefly big events had to be summarized—probably a consequence both of word count limits and the fact that not every active country had a Battle School graduate to follow around.

But that abbreviating of key events was well made up for by the thoughtfully optimistic perspective on life and humanity that carries Card's work. If Shadow Puppets came off slightly moralistic, Shadow of the Giant reverted to true Orson Scott Card empathy and brilliance. The comprehension of human nature and culture, the compassionate philosophy, and the powerful, ever-hopeful drive toward light and redemption are overwhelmingly beautiful even amid grief.

And there is grief in this book. This is a tale of hope and happiness and suffering together, and it was both the sorrow and the beauty of it—and the truth of it, for that matter—that had me in tears for the last thirty pages this morning. Card shows redemption working in the most unexpected characters, of which Peter is only the most central, and his latter scenes allow for the existence and goodness of a God who has, as in Psalm 18, 'made darkness his hiding place.' It was those things, even more than the sorrow, that put my eyeliner to the test. (Both eyeliner and mascara survived the meltdown. I'm impressed.)

Card sold me on the ending, but I can imagine some readers being a touch less satisfied. A handful of threads are left unresolved for sequels' sake, and the heartache and sweetness are pretty inextricable. I'll recommend the entire Shadow series wholeheartedly to anyone who has read much of the Ender saga and loved it.

For anyone who has not read the Ender saga: if I taught writing, Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead would be required reading for an understanding of how to write humanity; but even for those only looking for some good reading, I recommend those two books almost without reserve. They are some of the best modern fiction I've ever come across.

3 comments:

  1. Mine mine mine. That was the curse and power of human beings—that what they saw and loved, they had to have. They could share it with other people but only if they conceived of those people as being somehow their own. What we own is ours. What you own should also be ours. In fact, you own nothing, if we want it. Because you are nothing. We are the real people, you are only posing as people in order to try to deprive us of what God means us to have.

    Wow. Just...wow. A brutally truthful and incisive description of humanity's striving for power and position. You're not real, apart from my definition of reality and my desire; you are merely seem-to-be-real poseurs that just get in my way. Therefore it doesn't matter how I treat you, because you won't feel it like I do, and you deserve it anyway. The demeaning and dehumanizing rationale of Manifest Destiny and uber-fundamentalists.

    --Arabella

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott Card's good at that.

      I had forgotten the existence of Manifest Destiny and don't remember much about it. May have to look it up.

      What I thought of, reading this paragraph, was small children and how we all have to have that possessive instinct rooted out of us as early as possible. Letting it flourish into adulthood and independence is dangerous indeed.

      Delete
    2. ...and I'm inordinately proud of the above comment ^^ as it's my first made from the Kindle Fire! Now if only I can find the characters to make smileys...

      Delete

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