Shadow of the Hegemon
Orson Scott Card
Shadow of the Hegemon is the sequel to Ender's Shadow and follows Bean and the other children that found with Ender against the buggers after the war ends and they have been returned to Earth. I cannot imagine bothering to read this book if you hadn't read at least Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow (and I will give away plot from those two books in this review). It is weaker than the other sequels in the series with respect to plot and writing. It's strongest point was the additional insight it gave into Peter Wiggin, Bean, and the other children Ender fought alongside.
When Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow ended, the buggers had been beat and all of the children from Battle School were returned to Earth, except for Ender who, at Peter Wiggin/Locke's urging, was not allowed to return to Earth due to the risk of allowing any one country to claim him and his talents. Ender and his sister Valentine/Demosthenes have left to colonize another world. The Ender series is interesting when we get to see children outmaneuver the adults who think they run things and solve cool puzzles. After winning the war, everyone realizes that these children are exceptional. In fact, all of the world's governments are handing their militaries over to Battle School trained children. So, a new conflict is needed.
It turns out that Locke's warning was apt, because all of the children who fought with Ender in the war are kidnapped, presumably by a country that wants to use them to take over the world. And then the twist comes in - the kidnappers try to murder Bean instead of kill him. Why would that be, when he is the most talented of them all? Who could possibly want Bean dead? If you remember Ender's Shadow, the answer is obvious - Achilles has escaped from the mental hospital and he is out for revenge, with a little world domination on the side. Can Bean stop him? Will the world remember that there is still a Wiggin on the planet? Can Card really write a book where over half of the plot takes place on the internet? The answer to all of these questions, of course, is yes. We're just along for the ride to see how it all works out.
This book suffers in part because it tries to address too many deep themes. Bean, the genetically manufactured, loveless, super-being has to learn about doing for others rather than for oneself. This issue suffers from the unrealistically extreme lack of empathy Bean has. Petra has to forgive herself for breaking down in the final battles and prove her strength to herself. This was perhaps my favorite aspect of the book, and Card seemed to lose track of it as the book progressed. Those on a mission to save the kidnapped children have to decide whether capturing the power-hungry Achilles is worth opening the door for power-hungry Peter Wiggin to take over the world instead. Since I thought that it was pretty clear that Peter would be a more ethical leader, and that he might scheme to acquire power but probably would not murder to get it, so this seemed like a non-issue. Finally, everyone needs to learn in the end that life really isn't full unless you get married and have oodles of children. This came out of nowhere and was a really distracting instance of an author's personal agenda getting in the way of a good story.
On the plus side, you get to learn a lot more about Petra and some of the other Battle School graduates. You get back inside Peter's mind for the first time since Ender's Game, and his character gets flushed out better. There are some cool puzzles and plots to rule the world. The book moves fast and a lot happens. I think that a very good book could have been written about the psychological aftermath of taking these children away from their families, using them to fight the war to save the world, and then expecting them to return to life as a normal 14 year old with parents they hardly remember. Unfortunately, this wasn't that book. Overall, I give it a weak '0'.
Review written June 2001.
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