Ender's Game is the book that put Orson Scott Card on the map, and it remains his most famouswork ever, with its sequel Speaker for the Dead a close second.In the not-too-distant future, mankind has barely survived two invasions by an insectoid alien race, formally known as Formics, but called Buggers by most of the viewpoint characters. As the threat of a third invasion looms nigh, the world's most talented children are taken to an orbiting Battle School. There they study physics, mathematics, history, psychology, politics, and play a lot of games. And the biggest, best game of all is the Battle Room, where they organize into "armies" and play 41-on-41 zero-G laser tag as the adults look on, searching for future commanders against the incoming menace.Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, six-year old and third child of his family, a stigma due to the population restriction laws. He is the only one of his family to be accepted to the school, and so, leaving behind his parents, his loving sister Valentine, and his sadistic brother Peter, he leaves for Battle School... and things won't be at all easy.The novel acted as a springboard for not one but two series and other associated works, dealing with different time periods in the same canon.
The second begins with Ender's Shadow, a retelling of Ender's Game from the viewpoint of Bean, one of his friends. The Shadow series then follows Bean in the Twenty More Minutes Into The Future Earth, consisting of Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant. The Shadow series—whose novels might accurately be described as Thrillers—is a more direct continuation of the original novel and its themes of war and politics (with Hegemon being described by its author as "a giant game of Risk"), and many more characters from the original book appear in it. Shadows in Flight loses the politics and is more contemporary with the Ender Sequels, though still a Bean story.
In other works, there is also a short story collection called First Meetings. Marvel Comics has published Comic Book Adaptations of Ender's Game,Ender's Shadow,Speaker for the Dead, and Ender in Exile, as well as several one shots. Additionally, they launched the Formic Wars series, which function as prequels to the books. A trilogy of novels, Earth Unaware,Earth Afire, and Earth Awakens, is being co-written by Aaron Johnston and Card, expanding upon the characters and events of the comics.The novels have been quite well-received, though not without their share of detractors. Ender's Game and Speaker For The Dead in particular put Card in the Guinness Book of World Records as the only person to win both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for best novel in two consecutive years.A movie adaptation of Ender's Game was long rumored, but languished in Development Hell for around two decades. However, the project was finally greenlit in 2011. Written and directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), executive produced by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and starring Asa Butterfieldas Ender, Hailee Steinfeld as Petra, Abigail Breslin as Valentine, Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham, the production wrapped filming in summer of 2012, with a projected November 2013 release date. That's right folks, a year and a half of post-production. You can watch the trailer here.
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"...I can't help it. I like the kid. I think we're going to screw him up."
Achilles in His Tent: Ender is allowed to go on leave between Battle School and Command School. He spends it on Earth, and decides he'd rather stay there, build a raft and lie around on a lake. The teachers are afraid of forcing him to return against his will, so they eventually send Valentine to shame him into returning. She despises them for using her to manipulate Ender, but she does it anyway because she knows what's at stake.
Adaptation Expansion: The novel is this to the original short story. It gives Ender a family and elaborates on his life before he was sent to Battle School, and it provides details about the enemy aliens and the background of the war. In the short story, Ender has no memories of life before Battle School, and the aliens are never named or described.
Alas, Poor Villain: invoked Ender's combination of empathy and pragmatism leaves him constantly feeling this way. By extension, after Ender writes his book about the buggers, the whole of humanity experiences this toward them, to the extent that in the sequels, humanity considers Ender the villain for fighting them and his name is a taboo word.
And You Thought It Was a Game: In much of the later quarter of the novel, Ender and his friends believe they are playing simulations, when really they are actually in command of a full invasion force.
Angst Coma: Ender enters one for a few days when he discovers that he unwittingly committed mass genocide/xenocide against the Buggers while believing he was only undergoing training for it. Justified in a number of ways: physical and mental exhaustion, the fact that he was trying to convince the military that he was ethically unfit for command, and possibly psychic backlash from being connected to the Buggers themselves at the moment he killed them all.
Asshole Victim: The time that we know Bonzo and the Stilson doesn't really make us feel sorry that they're gone. Ender, however, still feels guilt over their deaths.
Badass Israeli: Invoked and subverted. There is a legend at Battle School that Jewish generals cannot lose, and Rat Army, led by the Jewish Rose "de nose", is second in the ranking when Ender joins; on the other hand, Rose "de Nose" is portrayed as not really being that great, and it is pointed out that despite an all-Jewish triumvirate (American Jewish Hegemon, Israeli Jewish Strategos, and Russian Jewish Polemarch), it was the half-Maori, entirely non-Jewish Mazer Rackham who drove off the Second Invasion.
Beware the Nice Ones: Ender has his sister's compassion but his brother's ruthlessness (much to Ender's dismay).
Blue and Orange Morality: The Formics. They didn't realize humans were intelligent when they attacked, since they didn't meet their species' criteria for sentience (being a hive-mind). When they realized their mistake, they left their planet alone. Too bad the humans came looking for them...
Chekhov's Gun: In his first battle, the other army is able to pass through the gate even though Ender isn't frozen. In his last battle, he wins by sending a boy through the gate, even though the other army hasn't been defeated yet.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Invoked. The military commanders are searching for child prodigies specifically due to their lack of awareness of the larger picture, so they won't be subject to fatal hesitation.
Child Soldiers: Every Battle School participant joins under the age of 12.
That said, they're (normally) not sent to fight until they're healthy adults, at which point they're have been through a regular adult boot camp. Battle School is, as the name suggests, a normal military school.
Combat Pragmatist: There is NOTHING he won't do to win a fight and ensure it never happens again. He learned this lesson when he was five.
Ender: It was just him and me. He fought with honor. If it weren't for his honor, he and the others would have beaten me together. They might have killed me, then. His sense of honor saved my life. I didn't fight with honor... I fought to win.
Mazer Rackham reinforces the same lesson. War is about doing whatever you can to win. There are no rules except what you can do to your enemy and what you can stop him from doing to you. (Apparently there's no Geneva Convention in a war against aliens).
Complacent Gaming Syndrome: In-Universe example. The other commanders at Battle School rely on tried-and-true strategies that have been in place for years. Ender wins by exploiting the flaws in them.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Pretty much any battle Ender walks into. Nicely justified, since Ender was born and conditioned his entire life to be the best military commander humans have ever had.
Mazer Rackham had one of these as well: he hit one ship (the queen's) and his war was over. The fact that he was the only human on Earth to figure out how to do this is why he was kept around to be Ender's teacher.
Despair Event Horizon: It's revealed at the end that the Bugger queens crossed it the moment they lost the first battle of the Third Invasion. By then they had realized with utter horror and deep remorse that each human they had killed in the First and Second invasions was an independent, sapient being, as opposed to the Buggers' Hive Mind. Now they realized the humans were counterattacking in earnest. Summed up succinctly by the thought:
The humans have not forgiven us. We shall surely die.
And the scary part is that it makes sense, as Ender's empathy would allow him to understand and anticipate his enemies' plan and reactions and counteract them with brutal efficiency, while Peter's sociopathy would allow him to make rational judgments (once he gets over his homicidal tendencies) and ignore petty emotions that spark 90% of the human conflicts (such as nationalism, pride, or ambition).
Drill Sergeant Nasty: In general, the teachers in Battle School are this. Ender is Genre Savvy with regard to this trope, except that his instructors take it much farther than the TV shows he's familiar with.
Graff also subverts this. One purpose of the Drill Sergeant Nasty is to give the recruits a common adversary: they all hate him, and it draws them together into a team. He picks on someone so the rest will sympathize with him. Graff, on the other hand, tells the rest of the recruits that Ender is the greatest soldier ever, and none of them have a prayer of measuring up to him. This turns them against Ender and isolates him, forcing him to develop the leadership and command abilities they need from him.
Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The MD Device actually causes an Earth Dissolving Kaboom, but considering a single firing will wipe out a planet, this qualifies.
Expanded Universe: Launched with Formic Wars - first Ender-related comics that is not an adaptation, but official prequel.
Faster-Than-Light Travel: Subverted; ships can travel at significant fractions of the speed of light, but relativity means that going to the nearest star is still a one-way trip decades into the future.
However, secretly, the International Fleet has developed a way to send messages faster than light, with the ansible. This is how Ender commanded his battles without ever knowing the truth. And the "buggers" evolved to do it naturally, which is where the IF got the idea.
There also appears to be some confusion with the relativistic travel. In Speaker for the Dead, the Park Shift is mentioned, which allows a ship to go from standing still (relatively-speaking) to near-light speeds in an instant with almost no energy drain. In Children of the Mind, the Lusitania fleet exits the Shift at slower-than-relativistic speeds in order to avoid spending months slowing down. Then again, the admiral treats it as if there's some sort of threshold for relativistic travel, when it's really a matter of perspective.
Flexible Tourney Rules: The teachers at Battle School start purposely stacking the deck against Ender as he racks up an unbroken string of wins, challenging him to adapt, and seeing how far he can bend without breaking.
Foreshadowing: When Enders goes off his three-month leave on earth before Command School at Val's persuasion, he thinks that she convinced him to leave earth for another four, forty, maybe four thousand years.
Full-Frontal Assault: Ender is attacked by Bonzo and many others while he's in the shower, so Ender is naturally naked, but Bonzo takes off his clothes after Ender goads him, telling him how cowardly it is to attack a kid naked in the shower who's smaller than you, with lots of reinforcements.
Ender: Be proud, Bonito, pretty boy. You can go home and tell your father, "Yes, I beat up Ender Wiggin, who was barely ten years old, and I was thirteen. And I had only six of my friends to help me, and somehow we managed to defeat him, even though he was naked and wet and alone - Ender Wiggin is so dangerous and terrifying it was all we could do not to bring two hundred."
Gag Penis: When Ender first meets Rose de Nose, he's lying naked on his bed with the holographic notepad thing over his groin with an oversized pair of genitals projecting onto it that waggle whenever he moves.
Genocide Dilemma: Forms a major part of the novel's theme, in a complicated and very brutal way.
Lampshaded in the last book of the first series, Children of the Mind. "I'm more afraid that we're varelse. That humanity is the species that should be destroyed," for the sake of all other sentient life.
Going Cosmic: While Ender's Game itself is tightly focused, the sequels get progressively more and more Cosmic.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: The "Warsaw Pact" is still around and ready to threaten world peace after the Third Invasion is over. Retconned in the later books by calling it the New Warsaw Pact.
Groin Attack: Ender does this while defending himself against bullies, on two separate occasions, and ends up killing two people - though this was during a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
Subverted when Ender is ambushed later, as he knows Bonzo will be expecting this and opts for a headbutt.
Averted with most of the other characters. The series repeatedly plays on the fact that war isn't about honor, it's about defeating your enemy any way you can. The protagonists fight to win.
Informed Ability: Ender certainly seems brilliant when compared to his fellow students. However there are times when he seems merely up against unimaginative opponents whose only real shortfall is Crippling Overspecialization.
Ender wins a match at Battle School by capturing the enemy gate without "killing" the entire enemy team, which up until that point was assumed to be necessary. This was set up earlier in the novel: Salamander Army loses a battle even though Ender is "wounded" but not fully disabled.
Comes up when dealing with the Bugger queens, as killing her will result in the "death" of all her drones.
Insult Backfire: While still in school, Ender gets taunted by other kids sending covert IMs over the net-enabled school desks. Ender, who figured out how to do this in the first place, sees every message as a tribute to his intelligence.
Played straight, in retrospect, in that Peter and Valentine could manage to get their work under the right people's noses. Our Internet is huge, with thousands of people pushing and shoving, trying to make it big just like Peter and Valentine. In the 1980's, as Card was writing this story, the idea of breaking in like they did seemed more reasonable.
It can be marked as justifed, as it's mentioned early on that there are barriers in place prohibiting underage citizens from even accessing the non-school Net, and it itself is divided into tiers dependant on your recognition and reputation levels, effectively averting Eternal September - you have to get recognized in your local area to be invited to speak/write on a more global scale (Peter even took the time to plan out where and how they will attain that), and both of them had stepping-stones of being invited to be columnists for old media outlets along the way. In our world, they'd be the YouTube personalities with millions of views that get hired by major newspapers or magazines and boosting their recognition levels through those.
Kick Them While They Are Down: Ender does this to Stilson so the bullies will think he's too crazy/dirty-fighting to mess with again. He doesn't know it at the time, partly because he's shipped off to Battle School right afterwards, but he kills Stilson when he does it.
Loners Are Freaks: Ender is intentionally isolated by his teachers so he'll be able to command other students.
Loophole Abuse: Ender's entire modus operandi is to thoroughly master the rules of any game, then reinterpret or just plain screw them in new and imaginative ways. His teachers, counting on him to become the greatest living weapon in the history of humanity, are only too happy to let him do so, and have deliberately designed the school environment to favor such thinking.
Meaningful Name: One of the Battle School leaders points out that "Ender," a mispronunciation of the name Andrew, can be taken to mean "Finisher," as they hope that he will finish the war between humans and the Formics.
My God, What Have I Done?: The Buggers on realizing the fundamental mistake in how they had attempted first contact (that killing any human means killing a sentient person as opposed to a drone), Ender on finding out the Twist Ending.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Peter, in the spirit of Machiavelli. Ender and Bean are similarly ruthless in exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents in true Unfettered style.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ender seems to invoke this anytime someone tries to ambush him, specifically when dealing with Stilson and Bonzo
Not So Different: Ender struggles with the realization of how similar he is to his brother Peter. Likewise Valentine and Peter, which is how he coaxes her into becoming Demosthenes.
Obvious Rule Patch: The immediate reaction to Dragon Army winning by exploiting an Instant-Win Condition in the Battle Room game. From then on, all enemy soldiers must be killed or disabled before the gate can be opened.
One-Man Army: Subverted, each of the Battle School grads is dangerous precisely because of how they can work with groups.
Only Known by Their Nickname: All over the place. Ender (childhood mispronunciation of Andrew), Rose de Nose, Bean (from another street kid saying he "wasn't worth a bean"), Hot Soup (romanization/bastardization of Han Tzu), Crazy Tom (self-explanatory), Dumper, Fly Molo...
Performance Anxiety: Petra suffers from this, making her much less useful to Ender than she could've been, mostly because of the sheer weight of responsibility she carries.
Poor Communication Kills: At the end we find that the buggers were not evil or xenocidal, they were simply trying to colonize the solar system and weren't aware humans were intelligent on an individual level, so in their eyes killing a few million people was just their way of formally declaring their intent and asserting their ability to do so. This was a big reason for Humanity's fear and hatred of the buggers; when they happened upon a human colony, they dismantled our technology to see how it worked - after they "dismantled" the colonists to see how they worked. They didn't understand how much that would piss us off any more than they could comprehend that we would kill a sentient queen, rather than the nonsentient workers. After their first two invasions, they realize this and stop, but by this point it's too late. Only at the very end does Ender learn this. He ends up being friends with the last queen who was created to both continue on her species and apologize.
Positive Discrimination: Ender uses this with a select few of his commanders, but in Petra's case it has unintended consequences.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Dragon Army seems like this, as none of the members really stood out from the crowd in their previous armies. Ender's leadership and empathy draws them together into the finest unit the school has ever seen. Later played with in Ender's Shadow:It's revealed that the teachers had assigned Bean to handpick the best army possible, with the stipulation that they all had to be either launchies or on transfer lists. So, rookies and misfits, but specifically the best possible bunch of rookies and misfits.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people complain that the kids at the battle school are too smart, but Orson Scott Card has received letters from gifted children telling him that they found the children in the battle school to be realistic (Ender is over the top, but he's supposed to be, and he's also got some genetic engineering factoring into his intelligence).
Science Marches On: Notably averted in the remarkably accurate descriptions of tablet-sized computers, the Internet and the blogosphere, in a book written before the creation of the World Wide Web. Although, as xkcd points out, it missed the mark on the blogosphere in terms of scale if nothing else.
Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Lampshaded by Ender himself, when reviewing war footage and noting that real-life space battles are nothing like in popular media. The ships are so far apart that they navigate and aim their weapons entirely on instruments, and never see each other except for the flash of a direct-impact nuke.
The Spartan Way: Although students at Battle School are not subject to physical abuse (at least, not by the instructors) they do undergo the psychological equivalent of Training from Hell.
Straight for the Commander: Mazer Rackham reveals this is how he defeated the Formic Navy, by deducing which ship had their queen. Once he destroyed it, the entire fleet became inert. Unfortunately, the Formics learn from this and try to bait Ender in his first battle into trying the same strategy, by putting their ships in a sphere formation with an expendable decoy as the "leader" in the center. Ender doesn't fall for it. Then at the climax of the book, Ender orders his fleet to charge straight in and fire their mass disintegrator weapons at the Formic homeworld, causing an Earth-Shattering Kaboom that kills all the queens there, taking out all the species under their control.
Super Soldier: Almost everyone in the Battle School… the best of the best move on to Tactical and/or Command training to become super-generals actually.
Ender, being the best of the best of the best, skips a few grades here and there, graduating to effectively become the supreme commander of all Earth's (space-bound) military forces by the time he's starting to enter puberty.
Take a Third Option: Ender's modus operandi. One reason he's such an effective strategist is because he's a lateral thinker. Give him two options, he will find a third one.
For a specific example: The game the title refers to (one of them, anyway) is a computer simulation that the teachers use to monitor the students' mental health. One scenario in the game is called the Giant's Drink, and it's designed to be unwinnable. A giant offers you a choice between two drinks, supposedly with one containing life and one containing death. But in reality, you will be killed in creatively horrible ways no matter which drink you choose. Ender plays the scenario repeatedly, to the point where the teachers worry about his obsession with it. Eventually he figures out that there's no way to win playing by the giant's rules, so he kicks over the drinks and kills the giant by digging into his eye with his bare hands.
Tech Marches On: Locke and Demosthenes are awfully influential for a couple of bloggers, aren't they?
Theme Park Version: In-verse. The entire world knows about Mazer Rackham, but the details of his victory over the Buggers/Formics is not revealed until Ender actually meets him years after he should have died. It turns out to have been a lot more subtle and a lot less grand than anything in the popular imagination could come up with.
Time Dilation: Responsible for the Chekhov M.I.A.. Also becomes a significant factor in later books, explaining how Ender and Valentine manage to remain alive millenia after the events of the first book.
Token Girl: Petra Arkanian, the only Battle School girl of any importance (until the sequels add Virlomi to the Battle School roster). Possibly justified in that, according to the novel, fewer girls have the necessary personality and levels of aggression to be chosen for Battle School.
It does seem that there's a degree of sociopathy necessary for a child to even be considered for Battle School, much less succeed there. Current psychological research suggests that less than a quarter of sociopaths are female, with the most common line of descent being father-to-son.
2-D Space: Completely subverted. In fact, Ender uses his understanding of 3-dimensional space to his early advantage at Battle School.
Tykebomb: The entire school is set up so innocent kids can be manipulated into perfect commanders. This works a bit too well for them in the Ender's Shadow series, as the kids that return to Earth after Command School go on to vie for world domination before the still-literally psychopathicPeter Wiggin saves the whole world by semi-exiling all of them to interstellar colonies; one to each, so that they can each get to rule a world.
The Unfettered: Ender may have mercy, but you sure as hell won't see it in the Battle Room. Or if you decide to ambush him.
The Verse: Orson Scott Card kind of, sort of, made up the term, maybe.
The first novel also implies that the fleets are armed with only the Little Doctor, but without clustering, the ships are picked off one at a time. In Ender's Shadow, it's claimed that the Little Doctor is used only twice. The rest of the time, (presumably) nukes are used. This is probably why the weapon was retconned.
Weaponized Offspring: The Formic queen gives birth to all her soldiers, since the Formics are an insect race.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: For once, the aliens are guilty of this. By the time they realized their mistake, they knew it was too late. While they resist their destruction, they harbor no malice toward humanity.
Word of God: In one interview on National Review, Card says that he was inspired by Bruce Catton's histories of the American Civil War, and that part of the message was that war means sacrificing the innocence of young people for the Greater Good and that it is the duty of the old to make sure their civilization is worth it.
Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": The "third invasion" is painted to look like the Buggers were the aggressors in propaganda. The truth is the humans were committing xenocide against the Buggers, and the Buggers had no intent of attacking Earth again, but we didn't know that at the time.
Additionally, when the Starways Congress decides to send an evacuation fleet to Lusitania (in reality, they have orders to destroy the planet), Valentine (under the name Demosthenes) publishes articles attacking the Congress and revealing the true mission of the fleet, to the point of calling it the Second Xenocide. The Congress immediately sends their State Sec to discover who is writing the articles to shut up Demosthenes, declaring whoever it is to be a traitor to the Hundred Worlds. Anyone using the term the Second Xenocide is likewise considered to be speaking treason. So much for free speech.
Wrong Genre Savvy: During Ender's flight to the Battle School, he isn't intimidated by Colonel Graff's Drill Sergeant Nasty yells. He knows full well that it's just an act to get the soldiers to unite through the mutual anger towards their unkind commander. Unfortunately for him, Graff isn't doing the Drill Sergeant Nasty routine, he's doing a new routine where he praises Ender and tells the others how insignificant they are compared to him. Graff is uniting the soldiers through mutual anger towards Ender, forcing the poor kid to be isolated so that he has no choice but to rely on himself. Ender realizes too late that Graff has turned him into the Teacher's Pet, and therefore the team scapegoat.
You Won't Feel a Thing: At one point, Ender is told "it won't hurt a bit" to have his monitor taken out, but Ender knows that adults say that when it is going to hurt.
Zeerust: Peter gains control of the world by anonymously distributing political articles on the Internet. Nowadays we call that "blogging," which has become so common that the idea of a blogger gaining that much power seems unlikely. Parodied by XKCDhere.
"You think anybody will ask me for military advice? Because I'm going to get into this war, even if I have to lie about my age and join the marines."
Action Girl: any female Battle School grad would be this, but Petra and Virlomi are the only ones who have any major prominence in the story, so they get the awards.
Bilingual Bonus: This series introduces Battle School slang, which is appropriately polyglot since Battle School draws children from all over the world. All of them are variations or corruptions of extant non-English words and phrases, but we'll stick with the one you'll hear most: the slang term for a personal army, "jeesh," comes from the Arabic جيش ("jaysh"), literally meaning "army" or "corps".
Blessed with Suck: Bean. His brain can keep growing and making new neurons... but only because his body grows too, until his heart gives out or his spine caves in, thanks to the Square/Cube Law.
Brother-Sister Incest: Discussed in "Shadows in Flight" Bean planned for his children to reproduce with each other test-tubely and suggested they should raise their offspring separately so that the incest taboos wouldn't kick in and THEY could breed with each other naturally.
False Flag Operation: Several in Shadow of the Hegemon. When the Chakri (Thailand's supreme commander) decides to get rid of Bean and Suriyawong, he blows up the barracks where they are staying and blames it on an Indian strike force in order to justify a military response. However, as the boys survive, the Chakri's deception is discovered, but the Prime Minister of Thailand decides to maintain the ruse for the same purpose.
Also, when preparing to attack Thailand, China sends a truck with a hidden missile launcher across the border in order to shoot down a Chinese plane in Chinese airspace full of Thai passengers. Then China would claim that Thailand deliberately set up the attack on its own citizens in order to justify attacking China, thus allowing China to strike first.
Fantastic Slur: "Bugger" is retconned into this (the aliens are officially called "Formics").
Friendly Enemies: though the members of Ender's Jeesh end up opposing each other at various times, the lines of communication remain open. (Especially since they all have each other's email addresses.)
Gambit Pileup: Hoo boy. The whole world is one big Gambit Pileup.
Gambit Roulette: Petra's dragon. She sends a message to a single individual by creating an internet meme and hiding the actual message in one of the pixels, when there is no way Bean could have known that she was sending him a message at all before he saw it.
Not Blood Siblings: once again inverted. Bean becomes very close friends with Nikolai Delphiki and calls him as good as a brother, before discovering that his "creator" (Volescu) stole some of the Delphikis' IVF embryos for modification. One of those embryos became, of course, Bean.
Number Two / Hypercompetent Sidekick: Julian "Bean" Delphiki, by definition: there's a reason the first two book titles are, "Shadow of [Someone Else]". (At least, until the final book, where it is him casting the shadow.)
Pretty Little Headshots: Averted. Many people are shot in the head, and it's a messy affair. Specifically, when Achilles shoots Petra's protector in the head from point-blank range, Petra is covered in blood and brain matter. Later on, the blood spatter is used to analyze the size and rough shape of who was sitting in the back seat and walked out alive (i.e. the missing silhouette).
However, Achilles gets a Moe Greene Special, and it strikes so perfectly that it'd said he looks like he just fell asleep.
Properly Paranoid: Bean. As soon as he starts feeling that he's currently too vulnerable, it probably means there's an airstrike headed in his direction.
Ranked By IQ: A Battle School teacher creates resentment toward young Bean from his classmates by revealing that Bean scored highest among them not just on IQ, but on every aptitude measure but one — that of physical ability, since Bean is much younger and smaller.
It is later revealed that he also scored extremely low in what is arguably one of the most important traits, ambition. Or specifically, the need to dominate and destroy others.
Remember the New Guy: Shows up a fair bit once Shadow of the Hegemon starts, particularly with several of the Battle School graduates. A particular twist is the language: the word "jeesh" is used constantly, as it's the Battle School slang for an army or team, despite the fact that it was never once used in Ender's Game or Ender's Shadow.
Bean's internal monologues from Ender's Game have been replaced with new ones in Ender's Shadow to better fit with his new backstory and characterization. For example, there's a brief scene from Bean's POV where he remembers his mother and father back on earth, whereas in the Shadow series he's been a street urchin since he was an infant. However, any other scenes shared in the two books remain the same.
Also, the same lines of dialogue replace the word "Bugger" with "Formic", likely because of the other meaning of the first word. Though "Bugger" comes up in an early conversation between Bean and Sister Carlotta, it's retconned as a Fantastic Slur (Carlotta corrects Bean when he insists on referring to the aliens by it).
The MD Device (The Little Doctor) is changed as well. In the original, it was described as a beam weapon. In Ender's Shadow, it's housed in a bomb.
Take Over the World: Shadow of the Hegemon and Shadow Puppets are a reconstruction of this trope. They present a well thought-out political scenario where this could actually happen, and a super-genius villain who could probably pull it off.
Unusual Euphemism: Battle School slang allows OSC to get away with swearing in foreign languages.
We Have Reserves: At the time of Shadow of the Hegemon, India has the largest population in the world (over 1.5 billion), and an appropriately large army. So, naturally, their military leaders try to overwhelm their enemies with sheer numbers despite heavy attrition. All the Battle School kids can see how stupid this idea is, and indeed it's being fed to the Indians deliberately in order to make them vulnerable to the more sophisticated Chinese army.
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Peter. With an added bonus that he has been Overshadowed by Awesome Younger Brother by the age of 16, even though he (Peter) had already proved himself at that point to be one of the greatest statesmen in history. This is basically Peter's Freudian Excuse and combines with his sociopathy in interesting ways.
Writers Cannot Do Math: Super genius Bean adds up the number of toon leaders and seconds in an army divided into five toons, adds one for himself (who was in command of a special "part-time" toon) and comes up with nine instead of eleven. Card was apparently still thinking of the four-toon system the armies used before Ender shook things up.
Artistic License - Physics: El Cavador has retro-rockets counteracting the pushing effect of the laser drill during mining operations. If a laser beam encounters a pocket of ice, it quickly cuts through it, and the ship "lurches" forward, as the forces acting on it are now out of balance. The problem is, lasers are not physical objects with which a ship touches the asteroid. The force pushing it back is from the laser firing, not from impacting the asteroid. therefore, it shouldn't matter how fast the laser is cutting through matter. Besides, such force would be negligible, the thrust of the retro-rockets would need to be minimal to compensate.
Also "gamma plasma", gamma radiation is photons, not matter like plasma. Which actually would make it a lot easier to focus into lasers.
Asteroid Miners: Many mining ships prowl the Asteroid Belt and the Kuiper Belt of the Solar System in search of resource-rich asteroids. A good number of them belong to corporations, but some are owned and operated by families of free miners. El Cavador is one such ship, home to a Venezuelan clan.
Despite being a decidedly one-sided battle, the free miners are the ones who put up the longest fight against the Formic ship, and Jukes mining ships were the ones who took down smaller fighters in Earth's orbit. In the Ender's Game audioplay, Graff mentions that the miners have since never let the fleet forget this, which is why the IF keeps all the coolest toys for itself.
Attack Drone: The first successful attack on the Formic mothership is performed using automated Jukes, Ltd., Vanguard prospector drones refitted with gravity lasers. All but one of the drones are shot down by the mothership's turret. The remaining drone takes out the turret and damages the ship but is destroyed by "gamma plasma" emitters.
Each drone costs the company a fortune, and the glasers are even more expensive.
Lem believes from the beginning that the drones will fail. Even worse, if even one glaser misses and hits Earth, there will be an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, as the entire planet will be turned to dust.
Bittersweet Ending: Earth Unaware ends with El Cavador destroyed in the battle with the Buggers with Victor and a group of children as the only survivors. However, Victor manages to transmit the evidence of the Buggers' arrival to the Net, although the rumors of an alien invasion have already started to spread.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The attack on the Formic/Bugger starship by the Asteroid Miners (involving getting men on the surface of the ship and planting mines) is a spectacular failure. The Formic ship is only slightly damaged, while El Cavador is obliterated.
An even better example is the so-called Battle of Cleopatra, where 64 corporate and free miner ships, hastily refitted with additional armor plates make a stand against the Formic ship. The Formic ship is barely damaged as it picks off the human ships one-by-one with its gamma laser turret.
Followed up by a multinational assault spearheaded by the US weaponizing dozens of shuttles and trying to take out the mothership's turrets and shield generator. Even less effective, as the space miners, at least, know how to fight in space.
Deflector Shield: The Formic mothership and the landers are protected by shields impenetrable to conventional arms, although lasers and slow-moving objects are able to pass through it. The landers' shields don't extend underground.
Drill Tank: The Chinese have self-propelled drill sledges that are able to move through solid rock at 25 kph. In fact, they actually move faster through solid rock than through clay or soft soil, as their rate of movement is dependent on the strength of the jet of molten rock that spews out the back. Their range is pretty limited, though, being only about 10 kilometers. Seeking to buy them, the New Zealand SAS sends the newly-promoted Captain Mazer Rackham, as well as his men, to China to teach the Chinese how to pilot Juke-manufactured hover-copters while learning how to pilot the drill sledges. During the Formic invasion of China, these sledges prove invaluable to getting close to the Formic landing craft that otherwise shoots down any aircraft or land force attempting to get near.
Dying Like Animals: The Miners are Boars, dying in vain attempts to stop the Formic ship. Most of the Chinese villagers are initially sheep but once it becomes clear the military is getting stomped they turn chicken. The government are bats up until the Buggers blow up their ambassador's ship. The Jukes are Weasels to some extent, they definitely want to stop the Formics but Lem is taking advantage of the war to further his plan to usurp the company while who knows what his father is up to.
Future Badass: The novel introduces Lieutenant Mazer Rackham. Slightly subverted in that he's already a badass, considering he's in the New Zealand SAS.
It's also a bit of a surprise that he fails the MOPs test by misinterpreting the requirements and sent back to his SAS unit.
Hostile Terraforming: Victor hypothesizes that this is what the Buggers are doing when they defoliate the ground and scoop the dead biomass up, as well as dumping bacteria in the ocean.
Improvised Weapon: The gravity laser (AKA glaser) is a new mining drill developed by Juke, Ltd., to quickly and efficiently break apart asteroids for resources. The engineers claim that the bigger the asteroid, the larger the effect of the directed gravity field. When the Formics attack, none of the weapons in Earth's arsenal prove useful against the shielded Formic ships. Then Ukko Jukes suggests using the glaser, believing that the gravity field will pass right through the shields and break the enemy ships down into molecules. Hmm, maybe it's just what the doctor ordered.
Lem Jukes devises an alternative to make the glaser safer to the firing ship, as the first test against a large asteroid created an expanding field that nearly consumed the ship itself. The alternative involves two glasers being launched bola-style towards the target, attaching themselves at the poles, and firing glasers, which keeps the destructive field limited to the target itself. While the engineer in charge of the project claims that this is not cost effective (both enormously-expensive glasers would be destroyed in the process), Lem reveals that he plans for this to be used as a weapon against the Formics.
Inadequate Inheritor: No matter what Lem Jukes does, it's never good enough for his father Ukko Jukes. The only thing that Lem thinks will impress his old man is if Lem takes over Juke, Ltd., from within. However, even this turns out to be part of Ukko's plan, who wants to turn his son into a hero who personally led the attack on the Formics in the final battle (which is partly true), hand the company over to Lem, and become the first Hegemon.
Kissing Cousins: Earth Unaware starts with Concepción calling Victor into her office and telling him that they're sending his second cousin and good friend Alejandra to live on an Italian miner ship, as all the adults can see that Victor and Alejandra are behaving more than just "good friends" or "good cousins". Victor is initially indignant of the notion that he would be "dogging" (i.e. marrying within the clan) but then realizes that he really did unconsciously love Alejandra. He accepts Concepción's decision for the good of the clan and refuses to see Alejandra off so as not to unintentionally reveal his affection to the Italians.
Mega Corp.: Juke, Ltd., runs most of the mining operations in the Solar System. It's owner and CEO Ukko Jukes realizes that the best weapon against the Formics is his company's latest invention, the gravity laser, designed to quickly cut through asteroids, and seeks to weaponize it.
The Mothership: The First Invasion involves a single huge ship arriving to the Solar System and heading straight for Earth. The ship is armed with a single turret but also has emitters all along its hull that violently expel "gamma plasma" collected with its Ramscoop. The mothership holds a number of landers and hundreds of smaller fighter craft.
Nuke 'Em: A massive nuclear strike fails to reach the Formic mothership, as its point-defense weapons easily pick off the missiles long before they get in range. Instead, dozens of satellites are wiped out, crippling Earth's communication network.
Mazer and two MOPs get a briefcase nuke aboard a Formic lander and blow it up from the inside.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Endemic to the Lunar Trade Department, much to Victor's frustration. Fortunately his caseworker Imala Bootstamp is one of the exceptions.
The STASA captain who declares that any ships that fires at the Formics will be committing an illegal act and prosecuted accordingly. Why? Because he wants to show the aliens that humans are a peaceful race. This is after he has just witnessed the Formic ship easily swatting aside a fleet of 64 corporate and free miner ships at Cleopatra.
Point Defenseless: Averted. All mining ships are equipped with "pebble-killers", lasers designed to take out small rocks that pose a danger to the ship. The Formic mothership's "gamma plasma" laser turrets are very effective, picking off every nuke launched at it. They don't destroy the short-range missiles launched by the multinational assault force, but that's because the turrets are busy destroying the ships. The missiles never get past the shield anyway.
Retcon: In Ender's Game, it's stated that the Formic presense was discovered when astronomers saw the asteroid Eros "blacking out" and sent a ship to investigate. The ship subsequently transmitted a video showing Formics boarding and slaughtering the crew but not touching communications equipment (as they don't understand radio-communication). In the Formic Wars comic and the prequel novels, Eros is not mentioned at all. Instead, the Formics send a mothership that heads straight for Earth, destroying several mining ships and several Space Stations on the way. The final battle between the Formics and the humans isn't even done by an organized military force but by a Mega Corp. using repurposed mining equipment. It's also claimed in Ender's Game that the First and Second Invasions were fought with nuclear missiles. In the prequels, nothing the Earth militaries are throwing at the Formic mothership and the landers has any effect due to Deflector Shields. Only gravity-based weapons developed by Jukes, Ltd., have any effect. These are later repurposed for the newly-created International Fleet.
Also, in Ender's Game, it's specifically mentioned that the Artificial Gravity was Imported Alien Phlebotinum, reverse-engineered from Formic/Bugger technology. However, in Earth Afire, it's stated that Juke Ltd. already has gravity-lensing technology, allowing aircraft to fly using projected gravity fields. It seems that they didn't need the aliens after all.
Space Navy: The International Fleet is formed right after the First Invasion. Nothing of the kind has existed before that. Humanity's only presence in the Solar System mostly consisted of Asteroid Miners, a few Space Stations, and a Moon base.
Even before that, the US and several other countries weaponize 50 shuttles in order to take out the Formic mothership in a concentrated multinational assault. It's a spectacular failure.
Too Dumb to Live: The UN during the initial days of the Formic ship's arrival to Earth's orbit. Despite Ukko Juke's warning about the aliens' clearly hostile nature and the fact that they know about the aliens destroying dozens of mining ships and several space stations on its way to Earth, the UN still thinks that the aliens are probably peaceful and that the miners were the ones who provoked a violent response. Only a few nations urge the creation of a coalition that would start building defenses, but the proposals get shut down in the UN Security Council by the big boys. Essentially, everyone is too worried about politics in the face of an alien invasion. It takes the destruction of the Egyptian ambassador's shuttle to finally get the UN to see the truth.
Weaponized Exhaust: The mothership focuses gamma radiation from its drive into lasers for point defense. It also periodically vents radiation in all directions, much to the hazard of everyone around it.
For a non-space example, there are the Chinese drill sledges. Their propulsion involves the rock that's being crushed by the front-mounted drill being passed through the vehicle to the rear, being melted on the way and spewing out in a superheated jet of lava. Pointing the sledge away from the target seems like a good way to melt pretty much anything. This is used effectively by Mazer and two MOPs to melt a hole in a Formic lander's underside in order to get a nuke inside.
We Have Reserves: The miners are shocked to see the Formics fight in this manner, sacrificing two or three of them to get rid of one miner, exiting their ship without spacesuits.
The Chinese also fight like this when invaded by the Formics, who are using face-melting gas.