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What was I thinking?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? I just finished reading SHADOW OF THE GIANT by Orson Scott Card, which forced me to perform this little bit of introspection.

What the heck was I thinking? (I sometimes repeat myself. For emphasis, it’s not a memory malfunction.)

Why have I denied myself?

Over the last few years, I’ve limited my reading mainly to thriller, action, and mystery stories. My early love of SciFi and horror was consigned to a mental cryogenic sleep capsule, right next to my expectations of the Dallas Cowboys winning another Super Bowl. I’m writing thrillers and mysteries, so that’s what I’ve been listening to and reading. Makes sense, right?

Maybe not.

I recently renewed my interest in Orson Scott Card’s work. I last read a Card novel a few years ago, deviating from my reading norms by devouring PASTWATCH. I loved it. When I noticed earlier this year he was going to release another Ender related novel, SHADOWS IN FLIGHT, I decided that I should give it a read.

As I waited for SHADOW IN FLIGHT, I got impatient. As my impatience grew, stepping back in time became my only recourse. SHADOW OF THE GIANT is the precursor to SHADOWS IN FLLIGHT, so I used another of my Audible credits and downloaded the MP3 version.

It didn’t take long before I realized I how much I missed by not reading this before. Thus, the “What was I thinking?” question. SHADOW OF THE GIANT is wonderful. Card is superb here, both in story development and style. Listening to it was a delight.

SHADOW OF THE GIANT tells the story of Julian Delphiki (Bean), his wife Petra, and other “Battle School” students and rejects.  Battle School was created by the International Fleet (IF) to counter an alien (Bugger / Formic) invasion. Battle School acquired the brightest young minds on earth, developed their tactical and strategic genius, then taught them to play the “game” of war.

Ender Wiggins became the child commander of the IF forces, and with the aid of eleven other child prodigies from Battle School, know as Ender’s “Jeesh,” finally defeated the Buggers and destroyed them as a species. With the war over, the world had to decide what to do with this cadre of child strategists. The Jeesh members all came from different countries around the world. As they returned home, their governments decided to exploit their intellect and experience for nationalistic or expansionistic endeavors.

SHADOW OF THE GIANT begins as Jeesh member Han Tzu gains control of a weakened China in an attempt to save his homeland from ultimate destruction. The Chinese government ignored Han Tzu’s advice and suffered defeat. Alai, another Jeesh member had become Caliph, the figurehead leader of the Muslim world. Alai’s genius had enabled Islamic forces to conquer India and most of China, and then to assume control of the Arab world. Now, occupied India’s only hope for freedom from Muslim occupation rests with Virlomi, a Battle School graduate but not a Jeesh member, who fashions herself into a goddess in order to consolidate and inspire India resistance.

At the same time, battle school reject Peter Wiggins (Ender Wiggin’s unlikable older brother), decides the only way to stop the world from tearing itself apart is to become the ultimate ruler of planet earth. Peter is Hegemon, leader of the Free People of Earth movement, established to unify the world under a single democratic government. Peter’s main tools in this campaign are Bean and his wife Petra, in addition to his own keen mind and need to excel.

Time is a problem, since the genetic mutation which makes Bean the greatest military mind in the history of military minds, will also kill him in a matter of years, if not months. The IF has developed an advanced interstellar scout ship, and will use it’s faster than light capabilities to send Bean into space at speeds that will extend his live in relative time, enabling scientists on earth centuries to find a cure. (The story in SHADOW IN FLIGHT) However, Bean must wait until the last possible moment to leave, so that he can help Peter unify the world.

SHADOW OF THE GIANT is a wonderfully intricate story. Card weaves a myriad of tantalizing details and story threads into a rich and fulfilling chronicle. The writing itself is excellent. It perfectly tells the tale, while never once detracting from the telling itself.

Card is unique, special. I’ve read many of the Ender books, and most of the Alvin series. I’ve read PASTWATCH (as already mentioned), along with Empire, Homecoming, and even Space Boy.  I am now compelled to go back and fill in the gaps with the Shadow series, at least. Orson Scott Card is a master of both the story and the presentation. I can’t wait for SHADOWS IN FLIGHT.

What was I thinking? (Did I already say that?) Why didn’t I read this before?

On a technical note, I found the audio production distracting. There were multiple readers, who at times alternated selections, and at other times seemed to narrate a specific character. There were male readers reading female parts, and a female reader reading male parts. This didn’t work for me.

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