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A novel by Orson Scott Card
(2006, TOR Books)

Ender's Shadow, book 4

Bean and Petra search for their missing children as Peter tries to exploit the war between India, China and the Muslim league while creating a world government.


-- First reading (hardcover)
March 25th to April 8th, 2016


This book does a good job of showing how somebody could go about creating a world government given the political turmoil that is present. While I was interested in the character parts while reading, so much of it was done at such a high level, moving troops and national borders, that it became much less interesting –though I don’t see any other real way to do something of this scale.

Spoiler review:

It’s tough to create a world government, even when you have a huge amount of power. Peter Wiggin moves into the spotlight in this book, so that he can do just that. Unfortunately, he only really starts doing it in the last quarter of the book. The descriptions given to the movement toward world government were interesting, but they were in the form of a history book, instead of the characters. While the characters were present, only Bean and Petra’s story really made any emotional connection. Peter was setting things up and getting nations moving, but we are only witness to the results of his actions, not the way he actually moves them. The latter strategy would have been, I’m sure, immensely difficult for the author to write.

Peter has to wait for the dust to settle from the India/China/Muslim war that held up the plot from the previous novel. Han Tzu takes control of China after their defeat, something everybody agrees he should have done earlier, being a Battle School graduate and one of Ender’s jeesh. Ali is in a difficult situation, forced to move to India to become the true Caliph, but although he has the motivation and lust for power, he ultimately wants peace with his non-Muslim neighbors, which goes against the beliefs of so many of his people, especially the military might of the unified Muslim nation. The author presents a long analysis of the Muslim culture through the book, all of it interesting. While he seemed sympathetic in the last book, he turns that completely around here. It’s interesting to see, as he could have easily been talking about what’s going on in the world today.

Finally, Virlomi, who was not part of Ender’s jeesh, begins her crusade again. In the last book, she had to lead her people to fight off the Chinese. Now, she starts the fight against the occupying Muslims. As so many of her strategies are successful, she begins to think of herself as blessed by the Indian gods, even possibly a goddess herself. Eventually, she proposed to Peter, and when he rejects her, she offers herself to Ali, and they create a combined India/Muslim nation, which begins to fall apart almost immediately.

I liked the meddling of Graff and Mazer Rackham in the affairs of Earth. They are offering each member of Ender’s jeesh a place to lead a new human colony. They are all great leaders, as shown by being selected by Ender, and shown in the last few books, as they have risen to become leaders of each of their respective countries. Each one rejects Mazer’s offer, but by the end of the book, they have all left of their own volition, with the exception of Petra.

I also liked Peter’s strategy for getting countries to join the united world government, the Free Peoples of Earth (FPE). He secretly gained the support of several small nations, and with the elite fighting forces he’s had, he’s able to protect them. Then he accepts peoples who have been subjugated by their own nations, and is able to protect them, as well. He then makes everything sound so reasonable, with a plebiscite required before joining. By the time of the war between India and the Muslim nation and China, there is a lot of forward momentum. At the end of the book, only the US has not joined the FPE.

The plot of finding Bean and Petra’s babies, which have been secretly implanted in various women, takes a back seat, but they do find them all, except one, in the end. A few of them have Bean’s genetic key that makes him such a genius with a short life, but there are some normal ones, too. Bean makes the decision to go out on a near-lightspeed starship with the ones who have the key, so that he can wait for a cure. The others stay behind on Earth with Petra, who is furious about not being able to stay with Bean. After he is gone, she and Peter grow close, and eventually marry, too.

There is a cool surprise at the end of the book, where Peter talks with Ender, who forgives him in a way. They talk about the state of the world, and other things that are not too much of consequence, though it was neat regardless.

The one remaining baby that Bean and Petra can’t find is also unknowingly placed on a starship heading for a colony world, with a woman who thinks the baby actually belongs to Achilles. It’s obvious setup for another, future series.

I can’t say that this tetralogy has been my favorite, or even totally enjoyable. It’s been interesting to see Bean grow (literally), and turn from a person who could not feel any real emotion, to one who wants to have a family, to a person who will sacrifice everything for humanity and for his children. In the meantime, we see Peter go from an influential mystery to a powerless leader, and finally to a real leader. Most of his work was taking advantage of other peoples’ mistakes, as he exerted very little influence through most of the books. Fortunately for him, even Battle School graduates make fatal mistakes.


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