Orson Scott Card,
Ender's Game
(Tor, 1985)

Ender's Shadow
(Tor, 1999)

There are stories that ring true. There are stories that show us maybe a bit more of how we are, of what we value. Orson Scott Card tells the riveting story chronicling the lives of two people who never lived and yet, they are true. Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow are fictional biographies.

Ender's Game is the story of Ender Wiggin, a child who is chosen to command an army in the battle against the Buggers, an alien race. Once, one of their scout ships wiped out a third of China, and stopping them took almost everything mankind could throw at them. Soon, the two species will fight again. But this is Ender's story and his life, so the focus is always Ender and his preparation for events that will change the world he lives in and fights for.

Most of that development occurs in Battle School, a space-based training program for carefully selected future war strategists. When the story begins, Ender is having a monitor removed from his neck, a monitor which has recorded everything Ender has seen and heard for the past few years of his life to compile information on his suitability as a military leader.

As the book is a fictional biography, it requires a believable central character. Ender is believable. What he does stems from who he is, what he sees and how he thinks. Several of the other characters in the book are more sparsely developed, such as Stiltson, a bully who badly misjudges Ender. Peter Wiggin, Ender's older brother and a brilliant but sadistic child deemed too violent for command -- well, you see the start of his rise to power. And Valentine, Ender's older sister, is instrumental to both Peter's dreams of post-war domination and her youngest brother's longing for love.

There are others who bear mentioning. It is tempting to name them all: the other children who either revere Ender as the world's hope or jealously despise him, the adults who guide, challenge and manipulate him. But I will limit myself to two more names: Colonel Graff, who remains always in the background, whose conversations begin each chapter and who interacts often with both Ender and Valentine; and Bean, another child who will become Ender's second-in-command.

Ender's Game is a biography and is about people and how they interact. It also happens to be the story of a child who is called to stand in the gap, to command an army to save mankind. It works very well as both.

Almost 15 years and several sequels later, Card returned to the world of Ender's Game from a different perspective. Ender's Shadow is the story of Bean, who stands very much in Ender's shadow. He is either seen as a back-up or an alternate to Ender. And while in some aspects he is more than Ender's equal, he is never thought of being better than Ender.

While he is not aware of the role he will play in the future, he is unusual in his own ways: a brilliant mind, a photographic memory and an uncanny ability to read both his allies and enemies. He shapes the world around him and this brings him to the attention of others, people in positions of influence who cause his enlistment in Battle School -- the same school where Ender is being trained. It does not take Bean long to run into the legend of Ender, and later on he runs into Ender himself. In both books it is easy to see how Ender influences Bean. It is really only in this book where you see how Bean influences Ender.

Bean is Ender's shadow. He is there to help Ender however he can, to come up with ideas, to talk to Colonel Graff when need be, but he never has to take the weight of Ender's decisions. He is second-in-command and his personality is best suited for that position. He is not a commander, not in the same way Ender is, and he knows it. And while this is Bean's story, Ender's presence is almost always felt. For while Bean may be an important child, Ender holds the ultimate responsibility for saving the planet.

Each story can be read on its own, but together the two books add much to each other. Incidents in one influence reactions in the other. Events in one have direct impact on events in the other. And they provide both sides of the story, the differing views and thoughts of Bean and Ender when they interact. So, if you can, read both books together. If not, then read both books anyway. This story is well worth a second visit.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]

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