Last week I had the pleasure of watching Ender’s Game movie for the first time. I’m writing for the first time because I plan to buy it on Blu-Ray in order to watch it again. I’ve read the original book 5 years ago and I absolutely loved it. At that time, the general perception about it was that the movie adaptation would be pretty difficult to film because of all its complexity. Of course, we could have witnessed a fast-wrapped summer release, but it would have not complimented the book. The fans needed the real deal and they were ready to wait for it. Time passed and the technology finally got where it needed to be in order to make it happen. I loved the movie (although it’s a stripped version of the original story), so I decided to read more books from the Ender Universe. In one week, I managed to read two more books from the EnderVerse. This article is a short study on Ender’s Shadow in comparison with the original story written by Orson Scott Card.
Back to Battle School
Reading Ender’s Shadow was a blast from the past because it brought me back to the Battle School station. This time, we follow the story of a side character from the original story, the small child named Bean. In Ender’s Game, the child is presented as the smallest and the youngest from Ender’s team, but he proves himself to also be the smartest of its coleagues, always giving fast answers and smart ideas to Ender and everyone else. In Ender’s Shadow we get to know a lot more of Bean and we find out that he actually has an important role in the final battle and that he’s probably the most important character in the series, besides Ender.
In the beginning of the book we learn that Bean is a self raised 4 years old child that lives on the streets of Rotterdam. As a hungry orphan with no family or friends, he uses his smartness in order to enter a crew of children bigger than him and he influences the leader of the crew with great ideas on how to get food, his primary need. With a turn of events and with the help of another character, Sister Carlotta, Bean manages to enter Battle School where Ender has already established himself as the smartest kid in the school. For me, this is the point where everything gets interested, because I learn that Bean is actually smarter than Ender Wiggin (although he is younger than Ender). The two stories intersect a lot, everything is presented from Bean’s perspective and we learn his thoughts on every event that he witnesses. We also learn that he is more introspective and more analytic than Ender and we also find the reason for this.
Ender, version 2.0
I’m not going to spoil your experience of reading the actual story, but reading the Shadow 5 years later brought back some good memories about Ender, but also revealed unknown details about the characters and events of Battle School. In the first book, Ender has an ongoing competition with the teachers which he eventually lose. They break his spirit in order to get him where he needs to be. In Bean’s story we discover a completely new character who is playing the teachers’ game differently. More than that, he usually beats them at their own game (when he decides to play it). Bean is variant from Ender because he is street smart and he already knows not to trust anyone when he gets to the school. If Ender knows how to win a battle by hitting decisively in order to avoid further confrontation, Bean usually wins the same battle before it starts, without the actual fight. He thinks a lot…
The same end but…
The end of the book was not as intense as the one in Ender’s Game, but we get to see everything in a new and more objective light, from Bean’s perspective. I loved the fact that I got to see what happens in the same timeline with the other characters. After reading the last page from the Ender’s Shadow, everything I knew about the original story faded away because I had a new favorite hero from this Universe: Bean.
The good, the bad and the ugly
For me, the Bean’s own story is more interesting than Ender’s. We get to see the smartest child from the school, his role in the original story, why he is this smart and how what happens to him after the fight. At the same time, he unfolds his own layers of plots and sub-plots and brings new interesting characters into reader’s attention. I loved the way Bean turns in his favor every trap and task set by the teachers, and the way he deals with his failures and winnings.
The line of events in the two books intersect a lot and we get to see a lot of the same action. Although the overall story is presented differently, we witness the same situations, and the reader may get bored of reading the same main story twice. That’s why I think that if you’ve loved Ender’s Game, you probably need to let some time pass before reading Ender’s Shadow. It is the only way you will enjoy it properly.
There were times when I thought that Bean thought too much. Ender also thought, but there a reason for it. He ultimately took action. There were many moments in Ender’s Shadow when Bean seems to overthink everything that happens around him for no particular reason. He is not tormented by his bad decisions like Ender because… well… he thinks way too much in order to make bad decisions. I think that Orson Scott Card wanted too much to give Bean his own story, so he let him witness or be a part of… everything. At times, this seems unneeded and artificial.
I loved both books, and reading the “Shadow” was definitely a good move. I discovered a new character in the EnderVerse besides Ender. A loveable character. The book sets the premise for the sequels, and I will probably read one of these sequels in a not-so-distant future. Until then, I’m back to Ender’s story. I’ve just finished Speaker for the Dead and I’m preparing for the next book.