367 pages. Acknowledgments.
This book is the sequel to Shadow Puppets, sequel to Shadow of the Hegemon, which follows Ender's Shadow, which was 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 all of the previous novels.
In the previous novel (without giving too much away for those who haven't read it), a new superpower arose and made war against the victor of the last war, leaving the nations to wonder if global conquest is next. Peter Wiggins, older brother to famous Ender Wiggins, seems no closer to ruling the world as Hegemon (which we know is what happens because of Ender's Game).
The Battle School graduates must now decide where their destinies lie – to use their military skills in the service of their various nations, to aid the Hegemon in uniting Earth, or to rule over distant colonies.
Bean, meanwhile, is 16 years old, grown into a physical giant, and dying from the same genetic manipulation which made him a supergenius. How long can he afford to serve the Hegemon, using his skills, prestige and legend to defeat the conquering nations? Should he take the offer of a star voyage to escape gravity and return when his genetic condition has a cure? Can he locate the children born from his stolen embryos, and how many of them will have his same curse?
Returning again are a cast of familiar characters, including Hyrum Graff, Mazer Rackham, Petra, Hot Soup, Alai, Dink, the Wiggins parents, Suriyawong, and Virlomi.
This novel once again gives us entertaining dialogue, familiar relationships, politics and intrigue, lions (Battle School graduates) and donkeys (conventional military leaders), and winds up with a major war.
This book is also the ending novel of this series, so it wraps up the question of how Peter Wiggins became ruler of Earth, and reveals the fate of the Battle School kids. An epilogue takes us forward to Peter and Ender Wiggins' reconciliation, Peter's death, and Ender's biography of his brother. Left unresolved is Bean's fate and that of his children, particularly those with the genetic curse.
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's an entertaining read, and the major characters are given complex problems to solve. The author sets out a plausible future history, with much commentary along the way about various cultures and religions (Hindus, Muslims, Americans and Chinese may be amused or offended). We finally learn what drives Hyrum Graff, and which characters have a masterplan or are just winging it.
On the contrary side, Bean – is he the 'Shadow' this time, the 'Giant', or both? – doesn't have a lot to do this time around, though his abilities (and decisions) are critical at certain stages.
I thought the biggest disappointment was the story of Peter Wiggins. From Ender's Game, we knew him as the 'evil' older brother who somehow came to rule Earth, with foreshadowing of all the apparently terrible things he had to do to accomplish this. And now, at the end of the trilogy, he's morphed into a proponent of democratic rule (well, under his unelected leadership as Hegemon!), who it seems never did anything that bad, and is never that interesting as a character.
Can you wargame it? Unfortunately for gamers, most of the wars this time around are resolved by 'superior Battle School thinking' that doesn't result in good scenarios. Unless you want to conduct fighting retreats (until the enemy falls into your traps), defense of mountain strongholds, or airborne assaults that seem rather one-sided.
I enjoyed the novel; in fact, couldn't put it down. Though the series disappointed me in some ways, the characters are always entertaining.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .