Shadow of the Hegemon: Shadow Book 2, Orson Scott Card (TOR Book, 2001)

Grade: Δ — A solid read, but only if you like the genre (or subgenre).

In brief:

Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card is the sequel to Ender’s Shadow, which by itself is as sequel of sorts to Ender’s Game.  While it is an entertaining enough read that answers some of the questions of what happened on Earth after the war with the Buggers (yes I giggle every time), it does not live up to the level of its predecessor and comes no where near the greatness that is the first book in the series. 


Earth in the mid-to-far Future.

In Depth:

Shadow of the Hegemon had really great potential.  The world that Orson Scott Card set up in both Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow had real potential that I was excited to explore.  Unfortunately, instead of fully examining the depth and darkness of the world he created, Shadow of the Hegemon follows along story lines and character arcs that not only erodes some of the fascinating setting and characters Card developed, but also undermines some of the most interesting themes laid out in the first two books. 

In brief, the story follows Bean and many of the other Battleschool graduates in the aftermath of the xenocidal war against the alien threat. Earth has changed, but not all that much.[1]  Bean and the others are now heroes, but the politics that lurked beneath the surface throughout the war now bubbles to the surface.  Deeply entrenched behind all the maneuvering is Peter Wiggins, Ender’s devious and malicious brother. 

This is a tremendous setup for a book: for in essence, this set up could have allowed one to see what would happen if Bean went up against Ender.  Throughout Ender’s Game Peter was shown to be a sociopathic version of Ender; throughout Ender’s Shadow Bean was shown to be a less empathetic but perhaps more intelligent version of Ender.[2]  Considering the name of this book, Shadow of the Hegemon, I thought it likely that this is where we were going, and what a great book it would have been if it was.

Sadly, I was wrong.  Though I was open to the story taking different directions, where it went was quite disappointing.  For one thing, Peter’s diabolical genius that so tormented the young Ender in the beginning of Ender’s Game was severely.  Indeed, at the end he came off more as a misunderstood child than as the sociopathic genius who positioned himself to take over the world in the first book.  Additionally, his sophisticated use of bulletin boards[3] to manipulate global politics and opinions is considerably watered down,  Instead his plotting comes across as amateur and childish, which both strains the believability in his rise to the position of Hegemon, and undermines the underlying theme about the sophistication of children that was one of the most appealing and important elements of the first two books.

This message is even further destroyed by the developments[4] of Bean’s story arc. By the end of Ender’s Shadow Bean has served as Second in Command of the force defending the Earth against extinction and has begun to face the horrible realities of his own origins.  Yet, rather than rising and moving on to face the next challenge, Bean is returned to the place where we first met him: fighting an old rival from his street urchin childhood.  Thus, as a whole, the book suggests that one must forever war against the issues of one’s childhood. 

This saddened me greatly because it is the very opposite message put forward in the first two books.  Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow spoke to me because they suggested that triumph of the individual over one’s circumstances.  To that end, the Shadow series was set up to create an archetype that could have been brilliant. 

  • Book 1: Child overcomes issues of one’s birth and rises to greatness through help of mentor(s).[5]
  • Book 2 (this one): Child/Young adult confronts the archetypal representation of his mentor figure and in so defeating evil version of mentor, Child/Young Adult becomes fully self-realized.[6]
  • Book 3: Child/Young Man goes on to confront self and/or society, and thus either becomes tyrant or avoids becoming tyrant.[7]  Etc. etc. etc.

Instead, we end up with Bean eternally fighting the circumstances of his birth and his childhood, and Peter going from being a sociopathic child genius to being a misunderstood child who just needs love and cuddles.  Quite the opposite of where this series started. 

I don’t think this change in theme was intentional, but the result was the same.  The book was mechanically well written and possessed story elements that did keep me turning the pages, but did more damage to my enjoyment of its predecessors than it did to build on the wonderful themes and ideas that Orson Scott Card presented in Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow.

[1] Indeed, in this tale the interesting future Earth Card created is transformed into little more than a linear development of modern day Earthly politics, with a slightly heavy handed political commentary from the author.

[2] Actually, neither of these characterizations is fair because each is really their own character, but from a literary archetype point-of-view, this is a short hand way of noting how the character arcs and storylines interact… if you see what I mean. 

[3] Yes… yes I know they aren’t called bulletin boards in the book, and some people equate them to blogs, but really they are a development of those now historic early web forms of communication.

[4] Or indeed, lack of developments.

[5] In this case, a series of mentors ending with Ender, who in some ways he surpasses in the book.

[6] In this case, Peter Wiggins in the form of the Hegemon, the evil version of Ender.

[7] This is NOT the case of the next book… sadly.

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Chronicle, Cycle, Identity, Military Science Fiction, Political Drama, Ripping Yarn, Saga, Science Fiction, Serial, Series, Uncategorized, World and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shadow of the Hegemon: Shadow Book 2, Orson Scott Card (TOR Book, 2001)

  1. I read Enders Game and the sequel, but kind of lost interest after that. I like hearing what became of the series, and knowing that it didn’t really go on to great things is in itself a kind of relief 😉

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