Title: Shadow of the Hegemon
Author: Orson Scott Card
Series: Ender's Shadow, #2
Ender's Shadow was fine, if not great. This book is bad and should feel wrong. Orson Scott Card decides to get weirdly preachy and weird moments, he keeps emphasizing how nothing but children matter, he's incredibly offensive to people with genetic disorders (cough ME), and he seriously says at the end that Guns, Germs, and Steel laid the ground rules for him. And everyone should read it. Makes sense. Oh, and he can't write women. Spoilers everywhere.
Wow! That was a lot to pack into a summary. This book really was awful!
So yeah, Ender's Shadow was a lot preachier than the Ender series, but I was able to manage it. This time, I was having to get through pages of the Wiggins' mother whining about how hard it is to be religious and how they had to hide it from their children and their colleagues or no one would take them seriously. Mostly her diatribes make me feel like she was just a bad parent.
Now, here's the thing. I have no specific issue with any religion. But it's actually not that hard to be religious and not be oppressed. You probably can't try to shove it in everyone's faces, but you can't shove a kink relationship in non-consenting faces either. Besides, in my experience, religion is personal. It's not really something you should be bringing up with your colleagues anyway. But whatever. Maybe that's just me.
Maybe things are hella different in this future. But I'm given no real reason in the writing to believe so.
I can deal with a bit of preachiness, but once he starts going on (repeatedly) about how children are really the only path to true happiness, I'm just done. It's one of those things where yeah, I'm sure that it's true for some people, but probably not as many people as it comes up for and it's just a weird fixation.
I guess they feel like weird fixations because see, these are things Bean is supposed to come to appreciate. He's supposed to find God because the nun died and because Petra suddenly has the hots for him and he's going to die early, he should want to leave his mark.
Oh right, Petra having the hots for him.
So, apparently Petra wanted nothing more the entire time at Battle School to have babies with Ender because he needs to show her womanly side now that he's shown her tough and snarky side. But see, Ender's gone away to the colonies so instead she wants to have Bean's babies. None of this was in Petra's character in any of the other books.
So, speaking of Bean. Bean finds out that his genetics have been altered so that his brain will never stop growing (which somehow makes him super smart) but he'll never stop growing either. So they had to tweak both those parts of his genetics. And the nun says:
There are those who have said that because of this small genetic difference, you are not human. That because Anton's key requires two changes in the genome, not one, it could never have happened randomly, and therefore you represent a new species, created in the laboratory.
There are, in fact, genetic disorders that require two genetic changes. Also, since when does something like that define a new species? Biologists have defined what makes a new species pretty clearly. Can Bean have Petra's babies? Well, you know what I mean.
Anyway, the only reason I can think of for Petra's sudden character reveal that was not hinted at in any of the other books is that she needs to further the theme of "babies are the only path to true happiness" but he didn't know where else to find a woman. In fact, he has to create one to sympathize with Petra because only another woman could possibly care about her plight.
Also, I just never found Petra so angsty as she is in this book. I don't even feel like she's the same character.
But perhaps the biggest problem is that he's trying to write smart characters, but everything seems like a stupid game of RISK because he's not smart enough to write smart characters manipulating and trying to outwit other smart characters. It's really, really hard to do. It was easier to do in Ender's Game because the adults held the upper hand. But now the super smart kids are the ones who are running the game (of the world's armies) and ... it just is yawn worthy. I like political intrigue. This is awful.
And then I just get all of this icky feeling about his adoration of Jared Diamond. He's not really anti-racist and his science is just bad. Which also sums up Shadow of the Hegemon.