Review: Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card

As you are probably well aware by now, I am a huge fan of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, along with its sequels and its spin-off series, Ender’s Shadow. I enjoy Card’s logical and intelligent way of telling a story. I love the intricate sci-fi world, the wonderfully developed characters, the smart twists and turns of the plot. So when I found out about the newest installment of the Shadow series, Shadows in Flight, I eagerly grabbed it from the library.

The Plot

[Warning: There is no way to summarize any of the plot of this book without spoilers from the Shadow series. If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll want to skip this review until you’re caught up.]

Shadows in Flight picks up five years after the ending of Shadow of the Giant. Or rather, five years for Bean and the three children he and Petra unwillingly doomed to his fate: extraordinarily enhanced intelligence, but at the cost of an early death by giantism. Knowing the only hope for finding a cure for his children within their lifetimes was a lower gravity environment and the relativistic effects of near-light-speed travel, Bean and the children have been traveling on the spaceship Herodotus, searching for a cure, while back on Earth, hundreds of years have passed.

Life on the Herodotus is getting a bit strained for the 6-year-old super-geniuses: Ender, Carlotta and Cincinnatus. Even after hundreds of years of Earth’s scientists researching their condition, they are no closer to a cure. Plus, they live constantly waiting for Bean, who they refer to as “The Giant,” to die. They’re actually surprised he hasn’t already. The only reason he is alive is that he is completely inert — prone and trapped in the cargo bay, still with access to the ship’s computer system, but unable to get up or exert himself in any way.

But their situation abruptly changes when their course takes them near an interesting new planet. Especially when they see what else is there.

My Thoughts

Oh, how I wanted to love this book. I love Bean. I love the Shadow series. But much as it pains me to say it, this latest installment felt a bit…lacking.

First off, it’s very short, almost closer to a novella than a full-length novel. Although the Enderverse is expanded and explained a bit more, as is the case with every book in the series, not much really happens. There’s barely a hint of the action, suspense and strategic thinking under fire that are peppered nicely throughout the rest of the series.

Then we get to the characters. I still love Bean. His scenes were my favorite of the book, mostly because he is still true to the Bean we have come to know throughout the rest of the series, but as with every book in the Shadow series, he has grown (no pun intended). I am a big fan of every time we learn something new about Bean, and in this book, we get to see him as a disabled father. How he handles it is touching and very true to his character.

However, Bean is not the focus of the book. The majority of the book focuses on the children, Ender, Carlotta and Cincinnatus. And here’s my problem with them: they’re essentially Ender, Valentine and Peter.

I love the dynamic between the siblings of the Wiggin family. Always have, and came to love it even more as we got to know them all throughout both the Ender and Shadow series. But I’ve already read about that family dynamic. And this is basically the same one. Yes, they’re smarter than even the Wiggin siblings because of their genetic altering, but their personalities are basically the same. Cincinnatus is basically Peter (the more mellow, adult version of Peter). Carlotta = Valentine. And Ender = Ender.

And when you take that group of personalities and genders and explore the sibling relationship between them for 8 books, and then introduce basically the same thing but with different, new characters and explore it for only one book…it’s bound to come up short. And it did.

It’s not that it wasn’t well-written. It’s not that the characters weren’t interesting, and it’s not that the story wasn’t good. It’s that it felt like a lesser version of its prequels. Maybe if we had learned something monumentally new (there is new information given in this book, but it wasn’t earth-shattering like some of the revelations in previous books), or if there had been some heart-stopping action, or if the stakes had been higher, I could have overlooked the obvious similarities to the Wiggins. But alas, it was not meant to be.

I’d still recommend this book for die-hard Enderverse fans. It’s not a bad book, and if you are itching to find out what happens next in Bean’s story, this answers your questions. But for me, I think I’ll be content with Shadow of the Giant as the last Ender book on my shelf.

Content guide: Contains brief mild violence, brief murderous plotting

Throwback Thursday (June 7) – Ender’s Game

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any book released more than 5 years ago. Adult, YA, Children’s; doesn’t matter. Any great book will do.
2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

For this week, my Throwback is…

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Originally published in 1985, Ender’s Game is the story of Earth following an alien invasion that threatened to wipe out the human race. The humans were victorious — barely — and are now trying to prepare themselves in the event of a future attack. Their strategy? Start training the generals of the future while they are still children, so that when they mature, their military genius will be unrivaled.

Ender Wiggin is one such child. Plucked from his family at the age of 6 to be trained in a Battle School orbiting the Earth, Ender is the military’s best hope for defeating the Formics, should the need arise. Ender’s Game is the story of Ender in Battle School, and a world in which the future of humanity rests on the shoulders of child prodigies.

I have done a full review of Ender’s Game already, so I’ll try to be brief. I love this book mostly because of the way it explores the mind of Ender, and the psychology behind his actions. The sci-fi and alien elements certainly are cool and thrilling, but lots of books are cool and thrilling. I’ve never read another book with characterizations quite like those in Ender’s Game, and maybe that’s because most of the characters in this book are child prodigies. They don’t talk or act a bit like the children in my 6-year-old daughter’s elementary school classroom, but they don’t act entirely like adults or teens either.

Ender’s Game appeals to the part of me that wants a great sci-fi story where things blow up, the part of me that needs suspense and psychological thrills, and the part of me that just enjoys well-written characters. And Ender himself is unlike any other character I’ve ever encountered. If those things also appeal to you, I’d suggest you give it a try.

This is a blog hop! Link up your own Throwback Thursday post below!