One of the new things we’re doing at FMP is talking about books we’re reading. No, we’re not just giving another book review. Book reviews will happen from time to time, but the why is more important than the what…
Any reading I do needs to have a purpose. In this series, I’ll talk about books I’m reading and why I’m reading them. What did I hope to get out of them? And am I getting it? (So, it is a book review, but it’s a purposeful, targeted review instead of an “I’m a book arse” review or a “this is my 5th grade book report” review)
That said, let’s get to it, dear reader!
Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card is the first book of a companion series to the Ender’s Game series. It’s top shelf sci fi by a top shelf author. But, I’m not (just) reading it because I like science fiction.
In my current writing, I’ve got some parallel perspective and parallel story telling going on. As I’ve said previously (link), there’s a parallel book to the one I started last November (link) that needs to be written. So, I’m doing myself a favor and looking at how one of the best does it.
Ender’s Shadow tells part of the same story as Ender’s Game, but it’s a story of its own. It follows Bean, friend to Ender Wiggin, and tells Bean’s story with the story of Ender and the war against the Buggers as a backdrop.
If you liked Ender’s Game, you’ll probably like Ender’s Shadow. It’s not just a retelling of the same story. It has its own storyline, and turns that hold suspense, even though we know parts of the story already. It has its own payoff, even though we know the kids will win the war.
What I’m getting out of it
I’m reading the book, and will compare it side by side with Enders Game, as part of learning and improving my parallel storytelling. The first thing I’ve gotten out of Ender’s Shadow is a firm appreciation for Card’s world and abilities as he tells a second story in the same place and time without tripping over things. It’s an individual story that can stand on its own. It proves that it can be done and shines light on how to do it.
I’m also learning more about how to make a story have real stakes in speculative fiction, without having the world ending cataclysm or ancient magical super widget front and center in the story. Having read Ender’s Game, I already know the big revelation at the end of that story. In this one, Card’s telling the story of a kid growing up and facing real stakes challenges with the world-ender as a backdrop, not the main tension line of the story (it’s still a component of the plot but not the part that really drives the story).
What I’m doing next
I mentioned it already, but the next step is doing a side-by-side comparison. Reading about the same events from Bean and Ender’s perspectives. Hopefully this helps my study of perspective for things within book and between books (I’m a polyphonic sort of writer…).
Yeah, there are challenges. It’s not just a “sit down and read a book” sort of reading. It’s not just a “read and make notes in the margins” sort of reading either. It’s not simple reading, but there’s a payoff. I’m learning craft from one of the best.
After that, after Ender and Bean have had their victory? I’m still working on my book and working on perspective and storytelling. I’ll also be doing more reading. Pray for me dear reader, next I’m going old school with The Great Gatsby!
Writing is a craft. It’s something that takes effort and study. Part of that study is reading.
Take the time to read, dear reader. Read the good books and the bad. You can learn from both if you try. And, I’ll see you next post.