The Beginning of the Ender

enderJust today I finished reading Ender’s Shadow, the companion novel to the original Ender’s Game book.

Ender’s Game is in my top five favorite books of all time. It is both a self-contained complete experience and a grand invitation to an expanded universe of sequels and prequels. In a sense, it is the perfect book for an author to begin his series with: easy to pick up for a general reader, inviting for the particularly experienced.

I’ve had a paper copy of Ender’s Game for quite a while and it was just within the last year that I went looking for more novels in the series. Both Shadow and the third part in the main series, Xenocide, were at the local book store, and with some time to kill in between working a job and getting a ride home, I decided to pick up reading again.

It’s incredible, the parallels between the two novels. Ender, the namesake of the series, is a genius, a natural-born leader. Bean, the star of the Shadow parallel series, is perhaps the smartest person on the planet, but too analytic to be the best commander and too small to be taken seriously. Both books deal somewhat with the politics of an Earth at war in space, with alliances and rivalries, and with manipulating minds and maintaining control so as to be an effective leader and listener.

These are the kinds of things that make a man think. Why can’t I lead well, or take charge, or be brilliant and absorb information? What’s stopping me?

Well, first and foremost, it’s only a book. I know that. That’s easy. But understanding the concepts behind the book only makes me respect it more and more, and myself less and less.

Regardless. If you haven’t, go read Ender’s Game, and if you liked it, Ender’s Shadow serves as a fantastic spin on the same story arc. The other novels in the main series, Speaker For The Dead, Xenocide, and Children Of The Mind are slower-paced and more thoughtful—in fact I only got through the first two back when I was on my big reading kick toward the end of middle school, and I didn’t absorb them particularly well. But I’m going to revisit them, and there’s plenty of great reading to be had.