The First Bugger War is over after a surprising and inexplicable victory. But humans fear that the aliens will return so they set out to train the best tactical commanders possible, which, it turns out, is a position best suited for children. Apparently children are best able to make the decisions necessary to command strategic warfare. Not just any children of course, genius children raised in Battle School and trained at war, strategy, and survival. Enter Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, the most promising child ever to enter the school. Through his decisive and intelligent battle style he earns respect and loyalty, and of course, the position of head commander in the strike against the Buggers. This is the story of Ender’s Game.
But there is more. Ender’s Shadow, sometimes seen as a sequel, revisits Battle School but rather than follow Ender, it follows Bean. Bean is the super genius, next in command under Ender. Brilliant but tiny, he grew up on the streets before being taken to Battle School and know what it takes to survive. Card manages a brilliant retelling, hitting all the key points of Ender’s Game while making this book unique, interesting, and exciting nonetheless. Not only does it give you insight into the goings on of Battle School that Ender missed, it also weaves a tale of complexity as Bean attempts to connect with others and trust after all he has experienced.
From here Card does something interesting. He splits the series into two parts, one following Ender and his sister as they travel through space and watch humanity expand its reach in the galaxy, and one following Bean and the other Battle School kids as they deal with the ramifications of Battle School back on Earth.
Card does a fantastic job of keeping the two series connected while allowing them to develop their own paths and unique futures. He creates mythologies and politics that shroud the stories, creating a fully thought out and believably unreal universe. He leaves no detail unfinished, no plot point forgotten. And he does all this while asking big questions that keep you thinking. What is the difference between hero and xenocide? Is it worth winning at all costs? How does your family really effect your life? Can you ever overcome your past? Can you escape it? Can you ever redeem yourself?
My only complaint is that sometimes, the stories get so complex they hit that “over the top” point where you kind of wish he’d stopped just short of the last idea or two. Card has so many big ideas that there are perhaps a few too many of them crammed into the series.
Nonetheless, Orson Scott Card has created a series worth reading and from all the books I’ve read of his, this is certainly the author at his best.