Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reflections: Shadow of the Hegemon

Adam C. Zern opines on the sixth book in the 'Ender' series Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card:

"Several years ago I read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  I really, really enjoyed the book and became more acquainted with its main character—Andrew (Ender) Wiggin—by reading Card’s follow-up novels—Speaker for theDead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind.  The fifth book in the series—Ender’s Shadow—doesn’t continue down the timeline of the last three, which take place thousands of years after the events of the first book (science fiction allows interesting ways to mess with time in such a drastic way).  Ender’s Shadow might very well be my favorite ‘Ender’ book and is also the first book that changes the narrative focus away from Ender, although he is always hugely important and affects, directly and indirectly, just about everything.  The narrative focus turns to Bean, one of Ender’s most trusted friends.  Shadow of the Hegemon continues the narrative path that readers are introduced to in Ender’s Shadow.  Unlike all of the 5 previous books, Shadow of the Hegemon takes place on earth and focuses on Earth’s political and military upheavals after the dreaded ‘Bugger’ threat is eliminated by Ender and his loyal team of genius children. 

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As is expected, a reader won't enjoy Shadow of the Hegemon without reading some of the previous Ender books.  However, a reader would be able to enjoy Shadow of the Hegemon after reading Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow and won't need to read the other three I've already mentioned.  The story in Shadow of the Hegemon is very compelling, but the characters were slightly underwhelming.  It was difficult to not feel more annoyed with Card's characters than actually have empathy or sympathy or even interest at times.  They're children geniuses, yes, but sometimes they act too much like petty and bickering children - Peter Wiggin, Ender's infamous brother, was especially disappointing.

Having said that, the story of the book saves it from some of its characters' adolescent annoyances.  I was completely enthralled in the geo-political difficulties that were at the core of the book's story.  What would happen if mankind's existential threat and therefore its greatest unifier was suddenly eradicated?  Which countries and for what reasons would try to gain dominance over other countries?  Furthermore, if a gaggle of military geniuses who happened to be children were returning to Earth from their universal conflict, to what lengths would countries go to ensure their cooperation and loyalty?  One of Card's greatest strengths as a writer is to present extremely interesting and sometimes brutally difficult ethical, moral, and now with Shadow of the Hegemon, international questions and complications.

Shadow of the Hegemon is definitely not the best book in the 'Ender' canon.  However, it's not a bad read.  If you have liked previous 'Ender' books, then Shadow of the Hegemon is more than worth reading to once again be absorbed in Card's fascinating universe."

2 comments:

  1. I liked your comments, Adam.

    Often when I am reading a series of books I break it up by reading other books inbetween. The Ender series is one of the few that I read straight through without getting bored or overloaded with the characters and writing style, and it is a long series! To me, that says something impressive about the author and his books.

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  2. Really well analyzed. I read the shadow series, honestly, because of Petra and Bean. The other characters, I have to quite agree, go in and out of their strong moments, but the action keeps you going. I personally can't get myself to read the rest of the Ender's books. I liked how him and Valentine got to leave to start life over and I like to think not another bad thing ever happens to them again :) I'm a idyllic like that.

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