Book02: "Shadow Puppets" by Orson Scott Card
As you can imagine, "Shadow Puppets" continues the story left off by "Shadow of the Hegemon". In this fictional future of our planet, China has invaded and conquered India and Southeast Asia, led by the insane antagonist, Achilles (aH-Sheel). Bean, Petra, Suriyawong, and the Hegemon, Peter Wiggin, have all moved to Brazil with their families in an attempt to establish the office of the Hegemon and to do whatever good they can for the world. Of course, this new life is not one of "happily ever afters", and they all find themselves on the run and fearing their lives as Achilles rises to power yet again. It will take everything they have in their power to maneuver through this world broiled in political and military turmoil to survive and hopefully come out on top.
Yet again, Card brings a superb story wrapped in military and political suspense to the masses who have been eagerly awaiting new novels since "Ender's Game" first hit the shelves some 25 years ago. However, Card takes a different spin on his characters in "Puppets". These Battle School graduates, now teenagers, were born and bred geniuses. They are the cream of the crop in military strategists and leaders. But they are still human, and that's what Card explores in "Puppets". Bean, thought by his peers to be cold and detached, examines his human emotions, and finds himself in new HUMAN relationships that he had never experienced before, or had previously denied himself. Peter Wiggin, trying to make a name for himself to get out from under Ender's shadow, has to face the truth that he does make mistakes, and must answer for them to his parents like a rebellious teenager, despite holding one of the most respected and powerful (though maybe only in title) political positions in the world, proving yet again that "Mother (and Father) knows best". Card also re-introduces secondary characters from Battle School, who have risen to positions of power in their countries, and must deal with the religious, political, military, and personal ethics that engulf those new positions.
Reading the Acknowledgments section in the back of the book, I saw that Card mentioned one of the problems he ran into while writing "Puppets" was that he wrote it during the war in Afghanistan between the United States and its allies against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces ("Puppets" was published in 2002). Card states that since he was writing about the future state of relations between the Muslim world and the Western world, he had to "predict" how our world's current situation would be resolved. Being a military service member currently serving in Afghanistan, this afterthought intrigued me. In the novel, war was delivered between countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. It didn't surprise me that the war took place between these nations. Looking at the major "hot spots" for potential or current military conflict in the world today, you'll find that they are the same regions Card uses for war in his story. What DID surprise me was the fact that the United States and Western Europe were not involved with Card's war, and in fact, were barely mentioned in the story. How were we able to keep ourselves out of the rest of the world's business??? I received no answers from Card's book (not that I was looking for one), but it was an interesting take on the world's future.