Book03: "Shadow of the Giant" by Orson Scott Card
"Giant" picks up where "Puppets" left off (of course): multiple powers in the world are in disarray because their leadership and heads of state decided to ignore the warnings of their Battle School military geniuses and instead play into the hands of the twisted Achilles, who received a deserving death at the hands of Bean. With Achilles no longer a threat, the most ambitious of the Battle School graduates take grasp of true positions of power, and play against each other with ruling the world being the top prize. All the graduates happily "compete" (through military strategy and war, of course), except for two. Bean and Petra have only one mission in mind: the retrieval of all their stolen children. Graff offers to help them find their offspring, if Bean will help Peter Wiggin achieve his goal of peacefully uniting all the world's people under his hegemony. Now Bean is faced of a multitude of choices, and must make his move quickly, before he dies.
Whew. Going through all those plot lines is like going through a freaking soap opera. Except that "Giant" deals with war, military strategy, and the shaping of the world at the hand of military and political geniuses. Of course, with as many players as Card has, and the world quite literally being the stage, it's completely necessary for Card to guide us through each subplot, as if we were watching an entire season of "Lost" in 367 pages. But as he's done in the past, Card weaves his story beautifully, with each subplot and each character playing it's part until the very end where all merge for the grand finale, and you finally see the big picture when all is revealed.
"Giant" plays like Act III of a Shakespearean play (..and IV, and V..), when all the players are in place, and all that's left is the climax (that's what she said). After three books of showing us how brilliant these children (now "adults" in their late teens/early twenties) are, they have finally reached the stage where they answer to no one (sort of) and it all rests upon their shoulders. And what do they do? They become human. Card shows the fears and worries and vulnerabilities of each character, exposing them as fallible despite their genius. It's a bit ironic that now that so much responsibility rests solely on Alai and Virlomi and Hot Soup and Peter's shoulders, that they suddenly fall prey to humanity, whether it be frustration with an impossible task, blind arrogance, realizing what's necessary for your people, or going facing your demons and becoming the man you need to be. Bean and Petra already showed some of their "human side" in "Puppets", but it becomes even more apparent with their parenthood, and all the emotions and difficult decisions they must now make for the sake of their family. The praised genius children of the world have now grown up, and have inherited the Earth, good and bad.
In the end, the world does what it always does: grows old, and the players with it. I know that Card is working on the final book of the his "Ender" series which is supposed to tie the "Shadow" strand and the "Ender" strand together once again, but "Giant" does the job already. Without trying to say too much, "Giant" puts a great little bow on this great futuristic epic that Card has created, as if it were the end of an era.