I had no idea what this book was going to be like so I was quite excited coming into it, and once I started my excitement built, and I was very pleased with the book. In an interesting move we return to the Battle School, but instead of following Ender we follow Bean. And more importantly we get his curious backstory.
Once I knew this was an alternative/parallel novel I really was excited to see what Card would do. A parallel novel is a tricky thing to get right, after all you have to ensure you’re not just retelling the exact same story, and you also have to try to avoid the dreaded plot hole. The outcome was unexpected. Bean is a lot more interesting than you would think, and we’re given his full back story.
We find out that Bean was living on the street as a child, and he became quite influential in changing the culture of the children gangs that roamed the streets. Until he came along, the big kids, the ‘bullies’ were the ones who were let into the soup kitchens, if you were small you were pushed away. Bean, after convincing a group to take him in, further convinced them to rope in one of these bullies, and use them for protection. Great idea, and it meant the younger kids eventually could go to the soup kitchens, and things improved. So he was showing his genius from the start. Eventually, of course, he gets up to the Battle School, but not without some drama.
I definitely didn’t see the genetic alteration coming. Certainly made things interesting to try to see whether he was or wasn’t genetically human, and who was responsible. I did not at all understand how a baby could fit in a cistern, unless they’re much larger overseas, that just can’t work. Or unless he’s a tiny baby, which might explain it. The reveal of course about his true parents, well, it wasn’t that surprising given other information, but this is a kids book, so we needed a happy ending.
It was interesting to see that Bean was Ender’s replacement/the backup, and how the two adult commanders were fighting to try and convince the higher ups that it was their kid which was ‘the one’, and just how close Bean came to being ‘the xenocide’. And it was somewhat surprising to see just how much Bean avoided and even disliked Ender.
I really enjoyed this book, and it returned to the ‘fun’ of Ender’s Game, which is what Card intended, he noticed that schools frequently used Ender’s Game, but his sequels were ignored (and for a good reason, they aren’t a ‘kids’ book), so he wanted to do something similar. The alternate perspective didn’t feel that it was rehashing the exact material of Ender’s Game, it was exciting. Even though you know what happens through Ender’s eyes, through Bean’s it’s quite different. I think because there’s so much story away from Ender, which means that Bean’s story can work because you haven’t seen it all before. The alternative perspective definitely was interesting, considering we only saw the school from the eyes of Ender, who was the prodigy and hope for the world. And we get to see the aftermath of a few things we otherwise didn’t. Especially around the Battle School, we got to see a whole lot more of it than we did with Ender which was exciting. Ender certainly never thought about the ventilation system, and wouldn’t dream to try to explore further areas, including the teacher’s quarters, which Bean deduced the locations of.
So I was pleasantly surprised. Have you read any parallel novels? Do you think they have worth, or just a clever marketing ploy to get more sales?