Shadow of the Giant

by Orson Scott Card
Series: Ender's Game 8
Reviewed date: 2006 Mar 26
Rating: 3
367 pages
cover art

With his eighth novel in the Ender series, Orson Scott Card has officially succumbed entirely to the siren call of Robert Jordan. He knows the only reason people buy his books are because they read Ender's Game. The rest of the books in the series are of little value, but he keeps churning them out and we keep buying them, because the power of Ender's Game's reputation compels us.

Shadow of the Giant is a true series novel, and will not make sense unless you have previously read (at least) Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, and Shadow Puppets. The two main story lines from the previous books are continued: Peter's quest to become Hegemon of the world, while Bean and Petra search for their missing children.

The Bean and Petra plot is irritating and offers a sampling of the worst aspects of Card's writing. Petra, once the brilliant girl who helped Ender in Battle School, is now reduced to baby factory. Her only concern--her only purpose in life--is to have Bean's babies and become a mother. Bean, once a powerful and compelling character, becomes a flat uninteresting character who is apparently as domesticated as Petra. The truth is that people don't read science fiction books to hear about the wonders of parenthood. Getting married and raising a family may be an honorable pursuit in real life, but in our fiction we want something more. The Bean and Petra subplot should have been excised from the whole series.

The other subplot is far more compelling. Peter Wiggin, Ender's older brother, is working to turn his office of Hegemon into more than a figurehead position. He intends to unite the whole world under a single government, to smash eons-old national prejudices and truly unite the people of the world into a single democratic community where war will be a thing of the past.

But he has rivals. Han Tzu has made himself Emperor of China, and has ambitions. Alai has become Caliph of a united nation of Islam, and Alai believes it should be he, not Peter, who united the world under a single government. Finally, Virlomi has styled herself the Goddess of India, and desires to secure India's place in the geopolitical future of the world.

The conniving that Peter Wiggin goes through to make his world government a reality is fun to watch. Card writes decisively and shows hints of greatness. But every time I started to get that feeling of awe that filled Ender's Game, the Bean and Petra subplot reared its ugly head.

There are some great parts, but if Card wanted to write a great book he should have focused entirely on Peter Wiggin, to the exclusion of Bean and Petra. Bean had his time in the spotlight in Ender's Shadow, but he should have relinquished the stage for the real star: Peter Wiggin, Hegemon.

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