Orson Scott Card
This book is a sequel to Ender's Game, covering the same time period and actions as in Ender's Game but from the perspective of one of the other boys, Bean. The book would probably stand on its own, rather than as a sequel, but it's very good as an alternate vision of Ender's Game. While it ends up covering most of the same events, it is almost entirely new material.
At the start of the book, Bean is a tiny street kid who is starving to death and has to find a gang willing to take in a member that doesn't offer any visible strengths. A large part of the book is about his struggle to keep alive, not through strength but through cunning. He learns about human nature and getting other people to do what he can't do himself. The second half of the book, when Bean meets up with Ender, shows Bean learning how to apply the principles he learned on the street to intelligent children who aren't sharpened by the fear of death and believe that the adults in their lives will take care of them.
With Bean as the main character, Ender only makes occasional appearances in this book. There is less puzzle-solving, and more puzzling out of managing people and groups. Whereas Ender is the last hope of Earth and the focus of everybody's attention, Bean is the backup plan that is too iffy to count on.
As in Ender's Game, the interactions between the children were very well written. These were not idealized, sweet innocents. Throughout the book, children are put in difficult positions by the adults supposedly in charge of them, and they have to figure out their own solutions. Much of the fun of the story is seeing how resourceful the children can be and how well they can manipulate the adults around them.
If one wanted to, one could take this book as a parable on the difficulties of being a child (particularly an intelligent child) and the inability of adults to protect their children from danger. But I think this book is better read as a good story about some exceptional children.
I give this book a definite '+' if you've read Ender's Game already. If you haven't read Ender's Game yet, it is probably the better book and I recommend you read it first, but come back and pick this one up.
Review written May 2001.
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