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Shadow Puppets

Orson Scott Card
In Print
Tor Science Fiction (2002)

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This entry created 4 August 2020. Last revised on 4 August 2020.

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©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Shadow Puppets
Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star no star no star no star no star no star (5.00)

348 pages. Acknowledgments.

This book is the sequel to Shadow of the Hegemon, which follows Ender's Shadow, which is a retelling of Ender's Game from the perspective of the arch-genius child, Bean. You will enjoy this novel more if you have read the three previous novels.

In the previous novel (without giving too much away for those who haven't read it), war broke out and a new superpower arose, thanks in part to the manipulations of Achilles, the psychotic Battle School drop-out. Supergenius Bean saves his old schoolmate Petra from Achilles, and proves himself on the battlefield commanding Thai special forces. Frightened nations accept Peter Wiggins (Ender's older brother) as Hegemon, but he has limited resources.

As this novel begins, Peter Wiggins sends his elite forces to rescue Achilles from captivity, believing that he can exploit Achilles for his own purposes. Bean and Petra, now in love, go into hiding to avoid Achilles' revenge.

Meanwhile, nations are rising or falling depending on how they make use of their Battle School graduates. Will they merely collect the now-adult geniuses, or will they give them power?

And what exactly is the cause of Bean's extraordinary abilities? Is there a price for superior intellect? Can he, in good conscience, father children?

A good portion of the novel is about Bean and Petra's adventures around the world, and the author shows he can write romantic comedy! Battle School graduates, including characters reintroduced from previous novels, struggle to find a role in their various nations. We also finally get to meet Mr. Wiggins, father of Ender and Peter, as he and his wife try to protect Peter from his own arrogance and miscalculations.

As you might expect, the novel winds up with another war, heralding the rise of another superpower.

Unfortunately, this book fails to live up to its promise. Peter Wiggins, the master political manipulator, looks like an idiot for trusting Achilles. Bean, who was just starting to get interesting as a battlefield commander, walks away to spend most of the novel… traveling. Achilles, the evil genius of the previous two novels, seems a poor imitation of his usual self this time around. Petra, who was a tough, brilliant teenage survivor in the last novel, spends this novel in a quest for… children? As for the war itself, on the strategic level it's interesting, but I had believe-ability issues when it came to cavalry armies (yes, horses!) and invasions by fishing boats.

The book does set things up for a sequel: A new quest for Bean and Petra, and concerns about what the new superpower will do next.

Can you wargame it? There are no battles in the novel that you would want to turn into scenarios, but the war itself could inspire several sci-fi campaigns. Note that the novel is light on technical details, so you would have to guess what the orbats are or what weapons are being used.

I enjoyed parts of the novel. I hope the next novel in the series is better.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.