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Denver Rocky Mountain News
October 10, 1999
Reviews by Mark Graham


Ender's Shadow

Among the most beloved of science fiction novels is Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985). What makes the story of 7-year-old Andrew (Ender) Wiggin and his battle to save the world from the "bugger" invaders from space unique is that its popularity transcends age divisions. While the book was marketed (and intended by the author) as an adult novel, children as young as the protagonist share a fierce loyalty to the book with older siblings, their parents and even their grandparents.

In the results of a recent online poll, Random House's Modern Library named Ender's Game No. 11 of the best 100 books of the century, just behind Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and two spots ahead of James Joyce's Ulysses (No. 1 on the widely debated list published earlier this year).

While Ender's tale seemed to be finished in the four-book series that followed, Card has felt for some time that there were aspects that still needed to be told. Thus, the publication of Ender's Shadow, a "parallel" novel. In my experience, this is the first time an author has gone back to tell the same story from the point of view of another character.

A somewhat minor character in Ender's Game was Bean. While he didn't make his appearance until late in the narrative, his importance was significant. In the new book, Ender actually is in the shadows, and Bean takes center stage.

I hadn't read Ender's Game until last month. I had read more than a dozen Orson Scott Card novels, but somehow I missed his signature work. So, I read Ender's Shadow first. Immediately after, I had to find out what I had been missing, and I read the original.

Unlike most books in series, you can read in either order, or only one of them. But you will be amazed when you read them both. There really are two stories here, and both are wonderful. And, in case you are curious, I liked Ender's Shadow better.

Magic Mirror

Whenever Orson Scott Card speaks to groups, he credits his family with his success, and he frequently mentions his concern over the disintegration of the family in modern times. So, it is not surprising that his "fable for adults" tells the story of a dysfunctional family.

Using a typical fair tale format, Card and Pinnock present us with a king too busy with affairs of state to care or communicate with his wife and children, all of whom are enslaved by a magic mirror. Only this time, the magic mirror is a computer screen; the queen becomes addicted to chat rooms, the young prince to computer games. The disenfranchised daughter joins dark-robed young people like herself and loses interest in the rest.

The book is frighteningly close to reality and an apt metaphor for the problem that seems to concern the author most.


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