Despite hearing some positive things about it, I had been resisting reading Ender’s Shadow, by Orson Scott Card, which is basically Ender’s Game told from Bean’s point of view. However, since I was determined to make a dent in my to-read stack this vacation week, I took it along with me to jury duty today, on the theory that I’d be forced to read it there once I got tired of my Wills, Trusts, and Estates textbook (which is actually more interesting than I’d thought it would be, but not something I could read for hours). It worked: I read it while waiting to see if my panel would be called. (It wasn’t. Seven civil trials and four criminal trials on for today, and they empaneled one jury: the civil all settled, two of the criminal pled out, and one more was put over. Oh well; I would have liked the experience, but I have a lot of things to do this week.)
I couldn’t really get involved in this book, for two reasons. One, Card’s prose style has stopped working for me (if it ever did; more likely, I just didn’t notice it when I originally read Ender’s Game and sequels). Two, parallel novels are by their nature slightly dubious; I can’t help but wonder if the author really knew that this was all going on at the time of the original book, and if so would it really have not shown up in the prior book, etc., which is distracting. (I held off reading this because I was afraid it would force me to re-read Ender’s Game, which I didn’t want to do because I don’t think I’d like it nearly as much now; I’ve managed to avoid a re-read, but I was right, it did make me want to.)
Though I might like to see what happens to Bean, I’m not going to read the sequel, Shadow of the Hegemon, for two additional reasons. One, it also focuses on Petra, who I’ve never thought Card handled well; Peter, who I’ve never found very interesting; and a new villain, who I don’t find interesting at all. Two, in the afterword, Card says that the story that he originally planned to tell in Shadow of the Hegemon had to be split up over two books, adding a book to what was supposed to be a trilogy. Those who remember the debacle that was Xenocide and Children of the Mind know that this is not a good sign. (Some people insist Xenocide and Children of the Mind do not exist, in the same way that the only sequel to Hyperion is The Fall of Hyperion. Fine by me.) Oh, and a half reason: Card’s tossed a lurking tragedy into Bean’s life, which tries to be profound but to me just feels emotionally manipulative (Card? Manipulative? Never.).
It killed a couple of hours at jury duty for me, so for that I’m grateful, but probably I should have gone with my instincts and not read it.