Shadow Puppets

by Orson Scott Card
Series: Ender's Game 7
Reviewed date: 2004 Aug 22
Rating: 2
372 pages
cover art

Shadow Puppets is the seventh novel in the Ender universe; it follows Shadow of the Hegemon in chronicling the events on Earth after the Bugger War. To understand this book you must have read the others in the series:

  1. Ender's Game
  2. Speaker for the Dead
  3. Xenocide
  4. Children of the Mind
  5. Ender's Shadow
  6. Shadow of the Hegemon

The plot of Shadow Puppets has promise. Bean battles Achilles, while the Hegemon Peter Wiggin tries to turn his figurehead position into one with real power. China continues to carve out an empire, having already overrun Burma, Thailand, and India.

Orson Scott Card is at his best showing off his ideas about future world geopolitics. China is a military superpower, India is defeated relatively easily. America and Europe are spineless and neutral and have effectively ceded power to Asia. Russia is still a player on the world scene, but the real powers are China and a united Islam. And who would have thought that Indonesia's navy would be the envy of the world?

Orson Scott Card is at his worst showing off his tedious moralistic dialog. It's not quite as bad as in Shadow of the Hegemon, but much of the book is characters discussing why it is morally imperative to get married and have oodles of children. According to Shadow Puppets, a man's reason only for existence is to have children. It's preachy, it's annoying, and it has no bearing on the plot.

That doesn't mean none of the moral observations in the book are compelling. I always find that Card is a master at casting things in a moral light.

  [The spy] turned to look at Peter. "My betrayal might have killed you and your family."
  "But it didn't," said Peter.
  "I like to think," said Graff, "that God sometimes shows mercy to us by letting some accident prevent us from actually carrying out our worst plans."
  "I don't believe that," said Theresa coldly. "I believe that if you point a gun at a man's head and the bullet was a dud, you're still a murderer in the eyes of God."

There is a compelling novella in Shadow Puppet, but unfortunately it's trapped inside a novel full of stupid dialog and preachy nonsense. I would give the good parts a rating of four, but the stupid stuff brings the rating down to a two. This novel feels as if it were written merely because Orson Scott Card knew it would sell, not because he had any more good stories to tell in the Ender universe. I guess Mr. Card is having the last laugh, because I bought his book new. As a stand-alone novel, I would not recommend it. But if you've read all the previous books in the Ender universe, you might as well read this one.

If you haven't read anything in the Ender series yet, I recommend Ender's Game without reservation. Ender's Shadow is also good. You can skip the others. I agree fully with this reviewer at

[ "kostya" on ]
In both "Ender's Game" and "Ender's Shadow," Card managed to blend action, philosophy, heroism, and moral dilemma in powerful, yet subtle ways. ... I finished "Shadow Puppets" not only caring much less about the characters than I had before, but downright irritated with them. And I had a headache after being hit non-stop with the Sledgehammer of Morality.

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