SHADOW OF THE HEGEMONA novel by Orson Scott Card
(2001, TOR Books)
Ender's Shadow, book 2
After returning to Earth, the battle school graduates are kidnapped, and used to further the struggles of conquest between nations, though behind it all is an old enemy of Ender's Shadow.
-- First reading (hardcover)
I liked the manipulation that the main bad guy pulled through to the end of the book. Unfortunately, the plot with Ender's family seemed to be extraneous. Still, the book was well written, as with all novels I've read from this author.
While the book was good, it didn't pull me in the way the other books did. It was well-written and plotted with a few surprises, but the buildup was maybe too overreaching in some ways, and not enough in others.
Petra and Bean were not all that close in Ender's Shadow, but through the events that take place in this book, even though they are apart until the very end, they fall in love. Bean says he doesn't love, but he does. Love is all kinds of things, and doesn't follow a set of rules. He is dedicated to her, would do anything for her, even die for her, even though he says he wouldn't. He almost did here.
The last book ended with the kids returning to Earth after hiding in the asteroid where they made their final stand against the buggers, waiting for the war on Earth to come to a close, as governments took a big sigh of relief that the threat to humanity was gone, and they could resume their power struggles. Bean found his family in Greece, and he is still learning to fit in. When his team-mates, all the people in Ender's group, disappear, his family goes into hiding. Bean figures out pretty quickly that his old nemesis Achilles is behind it, as the boy disappeared from the psychiatric ward he was sent to in the last book. He knows that it would be impossible to rely on other people to hide him and his family, so takes it upon himself to find a place of seclusion for them. And he is right, of course. The place where the government hid him is bombed soon after they leave. He heads to Brazil with Sister Carlotta to wait things out.
Part of this book takes place from Bean's point of view, while most of the others are from Petra's. All the battle school graduates are super-smart, and it is only a matter of time before somebody finds a way to smuggle out a message. Petra finds a way to make a message out of a simple graphic, which becomes a trend online, until Bean finds something suspicious about it, and gets obsessed about figuring out what it means. Once that happens, he finds a roundabout way to get them freed, suggesting to Locke (Ender's brother in disguise) that they remind the Russian government that Achilles is a murderer.
I found the slowest part of the book to be Bean's recruitment of Ender's brother Peter. They go to Ender's house, where Bean discovers his parents know that Peter is Locke, but due to their strange religious beliefs, they refuse to tell him so. It was a very strange conversation all around. But Peter does agree to Bean's plan, and in the end it all goes according to plan, with no surprises from Peter's point of view.
The interesting part is the love triangle between Petra, Achilles and Bean. There is no preteen love, but it is something akin to love. Petra is the only graduate not released by Achilles, and Bean wants to get her back, so bad that it becomes his sole obsession, even to the point of risking world peace. Achilles takes Petra to India, where she and the Indian graduates are forced to make detailed plans to assault Asia. Bean goes to Thailand, where he meets up with a battle school graduate there and makes plans to counter an Indian assault.
Achilles is an unstable genius, and almost outthinks Bean, probably because Bean is more interested in getting Petra back. Achilles makes a surprise move in creating a non-aggression pact between India and Pakistan, allowing them to pull all their soldiers from the border and commit to an attack on Asia. Bean, on the other hand, devises his own strategy, but feels impotent because he doesn't have all the power he wants or needs to successfully counter the coming attacks. This is mainly because the people in charge do not understand how unstable and intelligent Achilles is.
When Bean is betrayed in Thailand, he manages to escape, and gets word to Locke and some people in the Thai government. When Sister Carlotta is killed flying over China, he realizes that Achilles is not working for the Indians, but for China, and is destroying the Indian army by throwing them into the battle against Thailand haphazardly. Everything would be ready for China to take over Asia unimpeded.
Bean convinces Peter to reveal the Chinese plans, but is not content in the way the older boy does it. Still, this halts the advance, and allows Bean and a squad of Thai fighters and battle school graduates to go into India and rescue Petra. But in doing this, Achilles gets away.
I liked the manipulations and realizations as they came, and the history of India and Asia in general were very interesting, though they got a little in the way of the storytelling. Peter and Bean manipulate the Hegemon into granting Peter its leadership, though there is very little left in terms of nations supporting it. It will be an uphill battle to make the Hegemony back into something peaceful and planet wide.
I guess that's what the next book will be about...
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