The Earth is at war with an alien race referred to as the Buggers. But Bean couldn't care what is going on beyond his streets in Rotterdam. He belongs to one of the gangs of young children that roam the poor neighborhoods trying to survive and get something to eat. He has no home other than what he gets with Poke. When Achilles joins their group as protector, Bean knows that things are better now but in the long run Achilles will get him.
Bean is only 4 or 5 and small for his age. Yet he also is a genius. He has survived without a family or home for around 3 or more years. He is the child who helped Poke get Achilles for their gang. He is able to use his brain to see how his young appearance can be an asset to their group. When Sister Carlotta realizes that this group is special, she soon learns that either Achilles or Bean are potential candidates for Battle School. When Bean is certain Achilles is ready to kill him, he runs to Sister Carlotta. She tries to get him into Battle School, but he is still too young. She trains him herself for a year. She is amazed at what Bean can do. He has a photographic memory. He can reason like an adult. He has memories younger than anyone should have. When Bean is accepted into Battle School, she starts a new quest to discover his past.
In Battle School Bean quickly starts scoping everything and everybody. He has had to protect himself all his life. Now as the smallest and one of the smartest students in Battle School, he watches out for himself even more. He is able to make one true friend but distances himself from the others. Within his first few hours he learns about Ender Wiggins, the star of Battle School. As his studies increase, Bean reasons out the Bugger conflict and current conditions. He believes that the powers that be think that Ender is the future leader that can help win the war. He also believes that he is to be Ender's back up if something happens to Ender.
Ender's Shadow is an excellent companion piece to Ender's Game. This novel tells the same Battle School story from a different point of view. Orson Scott Card developed Bean into a believable, sympathetic protagonist. If you've read Ender's Game you know the basic ending of Ender's Shadow. Yet this is Bean's story rather than Ender's so the ending of the battle has a different take, the politics have a different take, and the final ending is more. Card has returned to the younger fun and excitement of the original novel in the Ender's series yet has been able to keep some of the societal threads that develop into the sequels. Now I have to make time to re-read the first one to fix the two together in my head.
This is a two leveled novel. First there is the basic story line of Bean's life from the streets of Rotterdam through his quiet triumph in Battle School. Then there is the philosophic level - the lives of the abandoned street kids, genetic manipulation, charity, children at war, and xenocide to name a few. Bean reads a lot of military history that Card pulls into the story to show how we repeat the past. Sometimes the philosophy almost smacks the reader in the face. Usually, though, this is a fun tale with an acceptable moral.
| Ender Wiggins Series (in publishing order):
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