One of the most celebrated science-fiction writers in history continues a popular series with a novel that stands out among past successes.
Orson Scott Card, who earned international recognition in the late ’80s for his sci-fi classic Ender’s Game (Tor Books) and three subsequent books in the series, was in town Sunday promoting his new book, Shadow of the Hegemon.
Speaking to a large group of fans at Borders Books in Bailey’s Crossroads, Va., Card made clear that his new novel stands as a supplement to others in the Ender series but can be read independently.
“You can pick up Shadow of the Hegemon without having read anything else by me and it will make sense,” Card said.
Shadow of the Hegemon reenters the world of his classic character Ender Wiggin. The book expands on the future Earth that Card created in Ender’s Game and follows the lives of the characters introduced in his previous work.
Indeed, Shadow of the Hegemon does stand on its own as an interesting novel. As the book begins, Earth forces have just defeated a threatening alien race in a bloody space invasion. This task is primarily performed by a small group of gifted and specially trained children led by Ender. Without the threat of alien invasion, previous alliances created to maintain solidarity against the aliens dissolve, leaving the planet in turmoil and on the brink of a world war.
As a preemptive measure facing the possibility of war, Russia kidnaps some of Ender’s generals to keep them from leading enemy countries. The only member that escapes capture is Bean, Ender’s former right-hand man. The bulk of the story follows Bean’s struggle to free his friends and destroy the plans of Achilles, the child mastermind behind the kidnappings. As Bean works to free his comrades, he finds the kidnappings were part of a much more complicated plot to control international politics.
Most of the book’s main characters are children, a common thread in Card’s works. The fact that main characters are young does not hamper the believability of the story. In fact, the young characters enhance the emotional impact of the book.
Card said many of his characters are children because his books recognize childhood as an important stage in life.
“I spend time on childhood in my books, not because I’m writing about children, but because I’m writing about people,” Card said. “People start as children.”
Shadow of the Hegemon is appealing to more than just sci-fi fans. The book is set primarily on Earth and centers on the emotions of its characters. Despite the futuristic setting of the book, the humanity of its characters remains realistic throughout the interesting plot line.
The new release follows Card’s 1999 New York Times bestseller Ender’s Shadow (Tor Books). Card said he is working on a number of other projects, including a movie based on Ender’s Game . He said he has worked on the film’s script for a number of years but has not gained much studio support.
Card does not speak positively about the movie industry. He spent a substantial period during during his Borders appearance taking shots at the industry.
“We have to find a way to make Ender’s Game work emotionally in the screenplay and on the screen,” Card said.
Regardless of his troubles garnering support in Hollywood, Card may have another hit with Shadow of the Hegemon, which brings together a number of beloved characters from the Ender series in a gripping story full of wild plot twists and unforeseen betrayals. Shadow of the Hegemon shows Card at his best. The author said he plans to follow up with two more novels in the near future.
No stranger to the science fiction writing, Card has authored more than 20 books, countless short stories and a number of plays. He is the first writer in history to receive both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the most coveted sci-fi awards, two years in a row.
Card’s work has even received recognition in the academic arena. Many middle school and high school literature classes around the country study Ender’s Game. Although Card is pleased to see the book’s acceptance in academia, he said he is unhappy with analytical approaches to studying his work.
“When you read a book that is meant to be decoded, it can’t change your life,” Card said. “All it can do is leave you with the satisfaction of having decoded it.”
No decoding is needed to know that Shadow of the Hegemon will be a success.
This article appeared in the January 18, 2001 issue of the Hatchet.