Fiction Reviews

Ender's Shadow

(1999) Orson Scott Card, Orbit, pbk, 6.99, pp559, ISBN 1-85723-998-9


This is a delightful book and a must read for all those that enjoyed the Hugo-winning Ender's Game. One half, rather one strand, of the novel is a re-telling of Ender's Game where in the young boy Ender leads a class in a futuristic military school whose aim it is to create super stategists to take on the alien (sic) buggers. If you have not read Ender's Game then you should (it is in the Concat core checklist to good SF.) You will recall that little Poke was one of the characters and this re-telling of Ender's Game is from his perspective. However, the book's second strand is Poke's own story. He is not whom we assumed him to be. The reason for his being recruited to the special military school is because he really is special (as opposed to exhibiting the potential to be special).

I really do not want to give away more of the plot than this as it is solid SF and I do not want to thoughtlessly unwrap the author's carefully prepared package. However I will say this. Having read Ender's Shadow, I re-read Ender's Game. I can honestly say that the author has done an excellent job of dove-tailing the two books. (There are literally only a couple of paragraphs which do not match. One is that in one book Poke gets worried about not having enough time to do his homework, whereas we now know that he could do it standing on his head, no sweat. But you do have to re-read the original to pick this miniscule flaw up.)

Card has successfully avoided a potential pitfall with this sort of a project. He could have been accused of milking a succesful formula. Well, balderdash to anyone that says that! He has added more than enough new material in this other strand to make the book worthwhile and it can stand in its own right alongside the original. Nice one Card.

Jonathan Cowie


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