A friend, who shall rename nameless, once told me that she’d been recommended to read Ender’s Shadow, by Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Shadow is a ‘spinoff’ book that occurs during the events of the classic Ender’s Game novel, but from the perspective of Bean. If you haven’t read Ender’s Game, please read it now – otherwise you may get some minor spoilers.
When I heard this, I told her that she should not, under any circumstances whatsoever, read Ender’s Shadow before Ender’s Game. It simply spoils the plot and the impact of Ender’s Game, which most people agree is far superior to Ender’s Shadow. That’s not to say that Ender’s Shadow is a bad book, by any means – I certainly enjoyed reading it. However, Ender’s Game is a classic, and it just isn’t as enjoyable to read if done after Ender’s Shadow. If we were being strictly utilitarian about the whole thing, I would say that the enjoyment gained by reading Ender’s Game first is undeniably more than otherwise.
I know that Orson Scott Card says in the introduction to Ender’s Shadow that you can read either first, but let’s be brutally honest here – of course he’s going to say that. He wants to make money. And you can read either first and they’ll still make sense, it’s just not as fun. For one thing, Ender’s Shadow revises his earlier story for the worse. It makes Ender seem far less important, less intelligent and slower than he really is, and indeed Ender is (perhaps ironically) overshadowed by Bean, who apparently in reality was some sort of superhuman. I would go so far as to call Bean something of a Mary Sue; that is, a character who has incredible intelligence, does everything right and always has the best lines to say. This kind of revisionism or retconning really irritates me.
So kids, the moral of today’s story, if you hadn’t already figured it out, is that you should read Ender’s Game, and then read Ender’s Shadow, and thank the fates that you read this post in time.