by Orson Scott Card



365pp/$25.95/January 2001

Shadow of the Hegemon
Cover by Lisa Flakenstern

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

It quickly becomes apparent that the most recent book in Orson Scott Cardís series about Ender, Shadow of the Hegemon, is not about Ender, but rather a continuation of the story of Bean, begun in Enderís Shadow.  This novel is also the first book in the series to be set entirely on Earth, providing a new look at the political situation which allowed Enderís elder brother, Peter Wiggin, become the Hegemon of Earth.

Shadow of the Hegemon is set directly after the events of Enderís Game and Enderís Shadow.  The triumphant children from the Battle School have been returned to their families, only to be kidnapped by an unknown enemy, apparently for use in their military.  It is up to Bean, who is presumed dead, and Peter Wiggin, who is known to the world under his pseudonyms of Locke and Demosthenes, to rescue the other children and help the world avert a catastrophe.  In essence, Shadow of the Hegemon is two novels.  One of them focuses on the machinations of Peter and Bean, incorporating much philosophical discussion about right and wrong, the uses of power and morality.  The other part of the book focuses on the military aspects of what is occurring.

The moral part of Shadow of the Hegemon is by far the more interesting and seems to be closer to Cardís interest in writing the book than the warfare aspects.  One of the strongest scenes in the novel is when Bean sits down with Ender & Peter Wigginsí mother and tries to understand how and why she raised her three children in the manner she did.  Although Bean comes across as accusatory to both Mrs. Wiggin and the reader, the debate the two characters hold is intrinsic to understanding how people get to be the was they are and why parents donít always appear to act in their childrenís best interest.

Of course, the biggest parent-child relationship is between God and Man, represented throughout Enderís Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon through the debate between Bean, generally representing Man, and Sister Carlotta, the nun who found him on the streets of Rotterdam and now has taken the role of his guardian as he races from Greece to Brazil to the United States.

Cardís story spans four continents, with action taking place in India, Pakistan, China, Armenia, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Russia, and Haiti in addition to the countries mentioned above.  Nevertheless, Card is not simply providing the reader with a ďworld tourĒ experience.  He is letting the story lead him where it needs to be.  This also allows Card to provide subtle clues to the reader about the current world situation, in which the balance of power has changed substantially from the early twenty-first century despite the similarity of national names.

The military sequences of Shadow of the Hegemon are presented quite well, explaining the manner in which strategy and tactics are used.  Bean, and Card, seem to be more intrigued by the theory behind successful warfare than the actuality of the battle, an idea Bean points out when he realizes that the difference between commanding and the Battle School and in real life is that he cannot fail on purpose in real life.

Joe Haldeman recently examined what a society does with its retired war heroes when the war is over in Forever Free.  Card covers much of the same territory in Shadow of the Hegemon, although Cardís veterans are underschooled children who have most of their lives ahead of them and must learn to be adults as well as civilians.  Whether or not they can succeed is an issue which is not concluded in Shadow of the Hegemon.

While the majority of Cardís characters are drawn well, there are two who could have used more depth.  Achilles, Beanís nemesis from his days in Rotterdam, comes across a little too two-dimensional, especially when compared to the other characters in the novel.  Card has proven time and again that he can create characters who are completely despicable.  Unfortunately, Achilles does not have that quality in Shadow of the Hegemon.  The other character who could be fleshed out more is Peter Wiggin, who Card built up as a monster throughout the original sequels to Enderís Game.  Rather than monstrous, he comes across as ambitious and insecure.  It will be interesting to see what Card does with him in future installments.

Although the events of Shadow of the Hegemon are relatively self contained, the ideas Card explores in the novel are not.  A reader who has not read any of the previous novels in the series will be able to enjoy the novel, but will miss many of the themes which Card introduces.  In a few cases, Cardís themes build on ideas he has presented in the earlier novels and a full understanding of what he is saying requires the previous knowledge.

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