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The human race is at war with the Formics, an insect-like alien race. As Earth prepares to defend itself from total destruction at the hands of an inscrutable enemy, all focus is on the development of military geniuses who can fight such a war, and win. The long distances of interstellar space have given hope to the defenders of Earth--they have time to train these future commanders up from childhood, forging them into an irresistible force in the high orbital facility called the Battle School. Andrew "Ender" Wiggin was not the only child in the Battle School; he was just the best of the best. In Ender's Shadow, Card tells the story of another of those precocious generals, the one they called Bean--the one who became Ender's right hand, part of his team, in the final battle against the Formics. Bean's past was a battle just to survive. His success brought him to the attention of the Battle School's recruiters, those people scouring the planet for leaders, tacticians, and generals to save Earth from the threat of alien invasion. Bean was sent into orbit, to the Battle School. And there he met Ender....
Bean was a homeless child living in the hellish streets of Rotterdam after escaping as an infant from an illegal genetic engineering laboratory. Highly intelligent and extremely young, Bean was mainly concerned with his need for food. He joined a large gang of children led by a girl named Poke and set up a system in which they can all receive nourishment at a local soup kitchen. Specifically, the group got a bully, Achilles, to be their protector. However, Achilles was increasingly ruthless, protective, and methodical.
Luckily for Bean, his incredible mind, creativity and determination bought him to the attention of Sister Carlotta, a nun who was recruiting children to fight a war against the Formics. At the training facility, Battle School, Bean's intelligence became apparent. Not only was he smarter than average, he was smarter than any other child at Battle School, including Ender Wiggin. Despite Bean's intelligence, Ender was chosen to save humanity from the Formics. Bean began to uncover secrets and truths about the school and struggled to understand what quality Ender had that he did not, until he was assigned to draw up a "hypothetical" roster for a Battle School Army to be commanded by Ender and added himself to the list. At first, Ender did not appear to recognize Bean's brilliance, but time showed that he was grooming Bean as his tactical support, putting him at the head of an unorthodox platoon challenged to outthink the teachers who designed the game and defeat their attempts to tip the balance of advantages towards Ender's rivals.
He also made friends with an older boy named Nikolai who was drawn to Bean because of their similar looks. It was soon discovered, through Sister Carlotta's research, that the two boys were genetic twins, except for Bean's enhancements. Back in the lab, the scientist Volescu had turned Anton's Key, which meant that Bean's body would never stop growing - including his brain - until a premature death around the age of twenty. Sister Carlotta ensured that Bean would get to live with Nikolai and his parents after the war. At the end of the story, after they defeated the Formics, Bean was united with his real parents and Nikolai.
- "Card has raised to a fine art the creation of suspense by means of ethical dilemmas."
- — Chicago Sun-Times
- "A quarter century ago I was privileged to publish the original 'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card in Analog magazine. That extraordinary story established Scott as a major talent. Now the saga continues, but in a new and unique way, a way that only a writer as gifted as Scott Card could produce. And our enjoyment increases by a quantum jump. Magnificent!"
- — Ben Bova
- Nominated for Locus Award in 2000