Decades ago, the Formics almost wiped out humanity. The invading army was destroyed, but, convinced that the Formics will attack again, the human race has been preparing an offensive mission. Part of that preparation involves gathering gifted children to train in Battle School, an orbiting military academy. Ender Wiggin has been chosen as the best leader to fight the next war, but he’s not the only one whose talents will be needed.
Bean has been living on the streets almost as long as he can remember. He’s malnourished, undersized…and brilliant. At the age of four, Bean manages to orchestrate an overhaul of the social structure of the Rotterdam street children simply by planting a few ideas in the right minds. When Sister Carlotta, a self-recruited scout for children who possess the intelligence and personality to do well in Battle School, encounters him in the midst of this new system, she’s sure that Battle School is precisely where Bean belongs. But while Ender has a gift for gaining others’ trust, Bean’s experiences on the streets have left him wary and abrasive — hardly the sort to inspire trust in other soldiers. Then Bean discovers a secret about his origins, and he begins to wonder whether he can even trust himself.
Ender’s Game has become a classic of science fiction and of YA fiction, and its parallel novel, Ender’s Shadow, has gained significant popularity as well. Both books are excellent, and are followed by several high-quality sequels, so that a positive experience with one book offers up a string of other promising reads. That said, the books (and their respective sequels) are quite different. Where Ender’s series is heavily psychological and occasionally rather mystical, Bean’s series is much more pragmatic, and frequently political. I often recommend the series’ in their entirety (though I actually like Bean best of the two protagonists), but with the Ender’s Game movie coming out this year, and rumours that the story is a blend of both Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, now is a great time to check out the first two, at least.