Shadow of the Giant, by Orson Scott Card (2005)

Date read: 10.28.09
Book from: Borrowed from Kakaner
Reviewer: Emera

Aaaand approximately 11 years after I first read Ender’s Game, I’ve finally finished the last book of the original two Ender series.  (Nope, still haven’t read Ender in Exile, though Kakaner has already hit it up.) I feel as though I should get some kind of prize, especially since I almost never read series anymore. Somewhat fragmentary review follows; spoiler-free so long as you have a feel for the general trajectory of the series. Since the plot is so dependent on all the previous novels, I didn’t really bother contextualizing the summary.

Lots of wrapping-up of business here. The China/India/Muslim world/rest of the world duke-out winds to a finish as Peter slowly builds the prestige and influence of the Free People of the Earth, working both through subtle manipulations and Bean’s reputation and strategic abilities. Virlomi is seized with an ever-greater conviction that she is, in fact, backed by divine forces. Bean and Petra race to find their remaining children before the planned greater-than-lightspeed journey that will preserve Bean’s life as scientists back on earth work to find a cure for his condition.

Overall, I found this tighter and more compelling overall than Shadow of the Hegemon, possibly because it’s more clearly end-directed and hence has greater momentum.

I’m not sure how I felt about the ending, however. Although I was very moved by how it converged with the end of Ender’s Game, the speed and convenience with which certain romantic developments occurred read falsely to me. Mostly I think I wish there were more time for solid character development, rather than having it strewn piecemeal throughout the geopolitical wrangling. Though I can’t fault Card for the novelistic ambition that keeps him juggling so many balls in the air at once, it backfires on him when he suddenly wants to make a dramatic change in character interactions, but we’ve only had the time to see those characters interacting on one or two previous occasions.

On a practical/facetious level, it also bothers me that he doesn’t account for things like Petra and Bean having to nurse/diaper 3-8 babies at any one point, without any apparent frustration or fatigue. And I know Card tries to avoid elaborately expressed sentiment, but the extent to which Petra and Bean treat/talk about their children as if they’re objects is also rather creepy, starting from when Petra first thinks to herself that she wants “Bean’s babies in her.” (and yup, it was in those words exactly, or near enough.) There are some moving scenes between the parents and children at the very, very end, but otherwise, the babies are essentially… props. Again, creepy.

Also, I am beginning to be frustrated by the extent to which Card leaves threads dangling for future sequels, because I know I’ll just feel compelled to keep reading them all. I can’t blame him for not being able to give up his most popular and beloved universe and characters, but… argh, I don’t know. At a certain point I just want closure. Maybe the Battle School kids should grow up quietly and invisibly from here on out, as we assumed they did all the way back at the end of Ender’s Game.

Go to:
Orson Scott Card
Shadow Puppets [E]
Ender in Exile [K]

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