This is for a new category for class called The Sandbox. I’m working ahead just because I can, and I’m posting it now because I know I’ll forget later. I may have missed some things because I read this several months ago and haven’t had the chance to re-read it recently, but here we are anyway.
Title: Ender’s Shadow
Author: Orson Scott Card
Audience: Young Adults
Bean: Bean is a child genius who grew up on the streets of Rotterdam, where it’s every kid for himself. Small for his size, Bean has always been about sheer survival, and it’s only his brilliant mind that has kept him alive – and is the only thing that will keep him alive as he goes to Battle School, where other children with minds like his are trained in combat and military strategy for defeating the Formics now attacking Earth. Though independent, cold, and honestly rather selfish at the beginning, Bean learns to care for others throughout the story as he defies the society in Battle School and makes his way to build and join the elite team that will eventually save the planet.
Achilles: Narcissist, serial-killer, and genius, Achilles is one of Bean’s major antagonists as the fellow Rotterdam orphan kills Bean’s friends and makes an attempt on Bean’s own life. Somewhat maniacal, Achilles has only one important person in his life: himself. Growing up with a bad leg until a corrective surgery, he’s made his way in the streets and temporarily Battle School with his brains.
Poke: As the nine-year-old leader of a band of orphans in Rotterdam, Poke is the first one to take Bean seriously in his life as she recruits him after hearing his strategy for recruiting a bully. She looks out for the other children and is content enough when she loses her position of leadership to Achilles. She isn’t seen as the brightest by Bean, and her kindness and protectiveness of her members gets her into trouble.
Sister Carlotta: Sister Carlotta is a genius nun (honestly, there aren’t many stupid people in this story) who saves Bean from the streets and tests him into Battle School. She sees Bean as the son she never will be able to have, and she looks out for him and advises the Battle School leaders through his time in training. Though Bean denies the fact that he cares about her, he still “goes with” her expressions of care.
Colonel Graff: Both the colonel of the International Fleet and the administrator of Battle School, this sarcastic man has plenty of encounters with Sister Carlotta and Bean, not all under the most enjoyable circumstances. As the one who has to keep order and the well-being of humanity in mind constantly, Colonel Graff isn’t a bad guy; he just has too many things to take care of, and both the nun and child genius create plenty of problems for him. Though he may see both as a pain, though, I think he has a special place in his heart for them.
Nikolai Delphiki: This Greek boy is one of the first real friends Bean makes. Although he isn’t as genius as some of the other children at Battle School, he still has a sharp enough mind to have brought him here, and he and Bean develop a special brother-like relationship during their time in the same teams. He’s more kind than many of the other aggressive kids who have everything to prove.
Ender Wiggin: Although Ender obviously is not as main a character here as he is in Ender’s Game, he’s still a figure that Bean and many others look up to. As the adults in charge of Battle School consider him humanity’s only hope, he’s pushed beyond his limits and faced with the impossible, and he makes it through much with the help of Bean whether he knows it or not. He’s generally nicer and a natural commander, but he is ultimately a survivor, and when other jealous children try to push him down, he makes sure to come out on top.
Point of View
This story is mostly written from the third-limited perspective of Bean, but it also switches occasionally to characters like Sister Carlotta, Achilles, and Poke.
The events in this story happen in about the year 2170, and the main events occur on Earth and in space stations.
Bean is a genius.
As an undersized orphan growing up on his own in the streets, only his brain has been able to take him this far – a brain that analyzes people, observing everything, missing nothing. When the aliens known as the Formics threaten the Earth once more, the International Fleet begins recruiting child geniuses to be trained in combat and military, and Bean is one of the children chosen. But the Battle School is just another system and game to be learned, and Bean will learn it as well as all of its secrets.
Then Bean runs into Ender, the one chosen not only for Battle School, but also the one appointed for the saving of the entire world. With two of the brightest minds put uniquely together – one working in the spotlight, the other in the shadows – will these children be able to save humanity?
Ironically, although the overall focus is to defeat the Formics, most of the conflict in this story is man vs. man. Bean is fighting against the teachers and their “games,” but he’s also struggling to survive with all the other aggressive students striving to get to the top and prove that they’re worth something. Battle School isn’t for the faint of heart.
One relatively minor conflict is Bean fighting against Achilles, who will kill anyone who even sees him when he’s weak. At first it’s a battle of brains between Achilles and Bean in the streets, but when Achilles comes to Battle School, Bean knows it’s only a matter of time before Achilles tries to take his life, so he comes up with a plan to force Achilles to confess to his murders.
Finally, the major or core conflict is man vs. “animal,” or the alien Formics. This is ultimately what the children are supposed to aim for: enough development of their minds and strategies to destroy the aliens before the aliens destroy them.
One theme Card plays with is that one can only trust oneself to get the job done. Bean is the smartest person he knows, and he only trusts himself to do everything he needs. He tries not to depend on others, and he tries to figure out things on his own.
Another theme that’s more prevalent in Ender’s Game but still obvious in Ender’s Shadow is that nothing is as it appears to be. Though people say one thing, they really mean something else. Though Bean seems the least significant of the children, he turns out to be the smartest… and though the adults pretend the war simulations are games, everything turns out to be much more than that.
Allusion: “They make Lord of the Flies look like Pollyanna.”
Hyperbole: “Everyone knew that Rotterdam was, if not the capital, then the main seaport of hell.”
Asyndeton: “Bean followed along, wishing he could go with Ender, talk to him, assure him that he agreed completely, that he understood.”
I would undoubtedly give this story five stars. Even if some of the core concepts might be somewhat cliché or generic, Orson Scott Card weaves a brilliant story with memorable characters, genius reasoning, and witty conversations that carry the whole novel over from a gripping beginning to an unforgettable end. He can twist your emotions in ways you didn’t see coming, and although the characters can admittedly be unrealistic in their emotional needs and reactions, they’re still lovable in just how talented and intelligent they are. Though some parts are a bit crude and inappropriate, this is definitely a favorite on my list. A perfect complement to Ender’s Game.