At the end of the Shadows series – Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant – the fate of Bean, the genius commander, was left unresolved.
If you've read the previous novels, then you know that Bean was born as part of a forbidden genetic experimentation project. His mutation, 'Anton's Key', has the result of keeping his brain forever growing, just as a baby's brain develops in the first stages of life. The unfortunate side effect is that, while the children are born small, they eventually become giants and die at a young age.
In addition to this, when Bean and Petra married, the same researcher convinced them he could ensure that their 'in vitro' children did not suffer from the mutation. He lied, and scattered their children in surrogate mothers around the world. Bean and Petra recovered most of the babies, some of whom did have the mutation.
At the conclusion of Shadow of the Giant, Bean takes flight on a faster-than-light starship. The low gravity on the ship will extend his life by a few years, while the time shift means that researchers on Earth will have centuries to search for the cure to his genetic flaw. He also takes with him the three babies who share his genetic flaw.
As this novel begins, centuries have passed on Earth. Bean's children – Ender, Carlotta, and Cincinnatus (AKA 'Sergeant') – are six-year-old geniuses, specializing respectively in medical research, technology and war. Bean, whom his children refer to as The Giant, has continued to grow until he is confined to the cargo bay.
After an episode in which the children attempt to rebel against their father, they detect a habitable planet – and an alien starship ahead of them on the same course…
This book was entirely a pleasure. It's classic science fiction, it's about exploring a mysterious alien ship, it's got interesting characters in conflict, it's got aliens, it's got family relationships… and it throws a wrench into what we thought we knew about the Ender universe.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .