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Literature / Ender's Shadow

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"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."

Ender's Shadow is a science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, which retells Ender's Game from the viewpoint of Bean, one of Ender's friends.

It became the first in a series that follows Bean after the end of Ender's Game, and along the way shows what happened to many other supporting characters from the novel. The sequels are Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant, Shadows in Flight and The Last Shadow.

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") than the other sequels (beginning with Speaker for the Dead) that focus on Ender's solo journeys. Shadows in Flight loses the politics and is more contemporary with the Ender sequels, though still a Bean story. A final novel, The Last Shadow, caps off both the Shadow series and the original Ender series.

This series contains examples of:

  • 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.
  • After the End: Of the Formic War, that is.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Used for various stealth tactics.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: How Peter perceives his family.
  • Arc Welding
    • Ender in Exile is described in the afterword as both a "midquel" to Ender's Game and a sequel to Shadow of the Giant.
    • The Last Shadow is a sequel to both Shadows in Flight and Children of the Mind, capping off both sub-series.
  • Artistic License – History: In-universe. Achilles seems to think that Vladimir Lenin made Joseph Stalin into his trusted Dragon, until Stalin turned against him and killed him. In Real Life, Lenin hated Stalin and tried to discourage him from gaining power, only for Stalin to do so after Vladimir's death.
  • Ascended Extra: Bean and Petra, who become the main characters of this series after getting only a few lines in Ender's Game (despite being two of his best friends, thanks to Ender's isolation). Not to mention all the other Battle School graduates that warranted maybe one or two lines in the original book.
  • Babies Ever After: Orson Scott Card's opinion that raising a family is the only true happiness is certainly in full force here. Leads to, among other things, Chickification.
    • Subverted in Shadow Puppets, where John Paul is shown contemplating why and how much he loves his children.
    • Gets impressively creepy by Shadows In Flight with Bean's plan to continue his genetic offshoots.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Bean wants to get bigger. He will. Too big.
  • Becoming the Mask: Peter spends so long pretending to be a benevolent ruler that he eventually does legitimately become one.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: In Shadow Puppets, former ally Suriyawong becomes The Dragon for Achilles, who seeks to conquer the world. Suriyawong knows that Achilles has killed those who gave him help, so he always frames his aid as just giving his boss the tools to solve his own problems, such as a knife to escape his captors. When Achilles is finally confronted by his rival Bean, who's pulled a gun on him, Achilles calls for Suri to save him. Suriyawong just gives him a knife then leaves, having fulfilled his plan to betray Achilles at the very moment he needed help.
  • Beware the Superman: The Battle School graduates are treated as People Of Mass Destruction throughout the series, for increasingly justifiable reasons. And then there's the fear and loathing about Bean.
  • Biblical Motifs: Anton's Key is explicitly likened to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Volescu is compared to the Snake. When first describing the Key, Anton points out that the Book of Genesis mentions a Tree of Life alongside the Tree of Knowledge, and that Adam and Eve's decision to eat from the latter required rejecting the former (choosing knowledge over eternal life); this is exactly the dilemma that children like Bean face when the Key is turned, as it gives them Super-Intelligence at the cost of having a drastically reduced lifespan. Likewise, Sister Carlotta compares Bean's life on the streets—to which he was condemned after escaping from Volescu's lab as a baby—to Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden.
  • 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.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Shadows In Flight reveals that there were Formic queens on old colony ships when their home planet was destroyed.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them
  • Confusion Fu:
    • Achilles's M.O.
    • Adopted by Bean when he kills Achilles.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Hyper-competitive supergeniuses are throwing earth into nonstop war, so Graff gives each of them a planet to rule.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title of Ender's Shadow refers to Bean's role as Ender's overlooked friend, adviser and primary foil, but also to the proverbial shadow cast by Ender's larger-than-life legacy; unlike the direct sequels to Ender's Game, the books in the Shadow Cycle deal with the direct consequences of Ender's actions, as they take place in the immediate aftermath of the Formic War.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Volescu.
  • Fake Defector: Revealed with the Meaningful Echo below.
  • 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").
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Some technology from earlier books would have been useful here;
  • 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.)
  • Garden of Eden: Petra considers Achilles, a brilliant student who wound up a murderous conqueror, and compares it to Eve's temptation by the serpent.
  • 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.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
  • A God Am I: Virlomi
  • Happily Married: The Wiggins and the Delphikis.
  • The Hero Dies: Bean finally succumbs to his condition at the very end of Shadows in Flight.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: subverted, for laughs. (They don't actually kill him.)
    Petra: Please don't kill him, Bean. Please.
    Bean: Remind me why.
    Petra: Because we're good people.
    Volescu: [laughs] You live by murder. How many people have you both killed? And if we add in all the Buggers you slaughtered out in space...
    Petra: Ok, go ahead and kill him.
  • Insufferable Genius: Bean. (Dies down a little once he stops being an emossin' little showoff.)
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Bean is a loner for the most part.
  • Kid Hero All Grown-Up: Bean and Petra, as well as all of the other kids from Ender's Game/Shadow have grown up to be major player in the political field of post-war Earth. Grown Up is also taken somewhat more literally in Bean's case...
  • Long Lost Sibling
  • Manipulative Bastard: Achilles de Flandres.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "I expect you to solve your own problems."
    • Followed by another one. "I serve the Hegemon."
  • Memetic Mutation: invoked by Petra, who starts a meme to send a Message in a Bottle.
  • Moe Greene Special: Achilles.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: multiple Battle School grads, in a row, though most particularly Virlomi. (Deliberately set up by Graff so that he can manipulate them further.)
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job getting Bonso so pissed off he tries to kill/maim Ender, Bean.
  • 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.
  • Not My Driver: Lampshaded by Petra.
  • Nudity Equals Honesty: In Shadow of the Giant, Virlomi, the leader of India, travels to the capital of the Muslim League (a future Middle Eastern alliance) to meet Alai their Caliph. When his guards demand she be checked by security, Virlomi strips naked in front of all of them. It's not as benign as most examples of this trope, though, as she's openly taunting their religion (Islam finds female skin exposure offensive), and because she's also doing it as a threat. Should Alai not agree to her demands, Virlomi threatens to leaves their headquarters naked and let the rest of the world assume sexual assault.
  • 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.)
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: what John Paul and Theresa Wiggin have been displaying to let their kids run mad.
  • The Plan: Even more so than the original novel, now that there are multiple Battle School grads and worthy contenders all trying to outthink, outmaneuver, and outpsych each other for their own ends.
  • Post-Soviet Reunion: In the vague distant future of between 87 and 84 Before Xenocide, Russia created the Second Warsaw Pact, a confederation spanning the entirety of the old Soviet Union, the countries of the first Warsaw Pact, Finland, Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece, by "promising not to be as dreadful an overlord as China".
  • P.O.V. Sequel: Basically the whole point of Ender's Shadow, as it shows the events of Ender's Game from the perspective of Ender's friend and confidant Bean.
  • 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.
  • Prevent the War: Ender's siblings Valentine and Peter pick up evidence of the New Warsaw Pact gearing for war, as the current peace is based solely on fear of the alien Formics, who are about to be defeated. They adopt false identities as the demagogues "Locke" and "Desmothenes" to warn citizens over the nets about the broiling situation in Russia.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Achilles' name is pronounced the French way, "A-SHEEL", not "A-KILL-eez", and the correct pronunciation is brought up a few times. Sister Carlotta is able to infer that someone speaking to her learned Achilles' name by reading it, not hearing it.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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.
  • Ranked by I.Q.: 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.
  • Retcon:
    • 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. 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.
    • Shadows in Flight retcons away a lot of what we were told about the Formics in the Ender books. The Hive Queen that Ender carries assures him she's the last one and behaves like it, but Bean finds a Formic colony ship that not only had a Hive Queen until fairly recently, but was also in contact with Ender's Hive Queen. He's prevented from sending Ender any messages about it, though.
  • Russia Takes Over the World: Exploited but ultimately subverted. Achilles, looking to Take Over the World, sees Russia returning to militarism and allies himself with them promised to make them a great empire. While Russia does increase in power under his command, including forming a New Warsaw Pact, Achilles has his eye on bigger fish, and sells them out to trade himself over to India, and then to China. In the end he's defeated and a global union is formed instead to command the world.
  • Serial Killer: Achilles.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Shadows In Flight retroactively makes a lot of Ender's journey after Ender's Game rather pointless by pointing out the obvious. Namely, the Formics would have to be idiots to keep all the queens in one place for any reason, they'd have to be idiots to trust their last queen to the mercy of a human and they'd have to be idiots to tell him everything about themselves, such as the fact that workers are slaves, not just extensions of themselves. So there are probably a lot of queens still out there, even if the Hive Queen that Bean's group found was dead. This does involve some retcons, though, given that the Hive Queen thought of herself as the last queen in Children of the Mind and behaved as such even though she was in contact with the ship Bean's group found. And Ender did figure part of this out on his own, namely that workers aren't as mindless as they're stated to be, though he underestimates the extent of this.
  • Skip the Anesthetic: Achilles asks for this when his leg is operated on. The doctor puts him under anyway, so he kills her. Although, it's heavily implied that he would have killed her anyway, as he hates anyone seeing him in a position of weakness.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: Bean gets a dose of it in order to fit in in Thailand.
  • 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.
  • There Is Another: It turns out more Formic queens were offworld on old colony ships when their homeworld was destroyed but the only one we see is long dead.
  • Tyke-Bomb: The entire Battle School is set up so innocent kids can be manipulated into perfect commanders. This works a bit too well for them in the sequels, as the kids that return to Earth after Command School go on to vie for world domination before the still-literally psychopathic Peter 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.
  • 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.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess:
    • Peter's bid for permanent world peace and united government.
    • Also Achilles playing the same game, except as a villain.

Alternative Title(s): Shadow Of The Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow Of The Giant, Shadows In Flight