So I posted this at my Star Wars website, and I just can't get enough of a discussion going on the topic. I'm posting it almost word-for-word, with some alteration for clarity (mostly with relation to popular abbreviations). Just be aware that the culture of that forum is part of my comment, so portions of that post reveal that Star Wars fans were the intended audience. Forgive the style, and it isn't meant to be harsh or critical of anyone else's opinion. It's just my take.
"So as I mentioned elsewhere, I've been reading the Ender's Game series again. I finished Game for the fourth time, the short story precursor to the novel for the second time, I read A War of Gifts for the first time, and now I'm about halfway through Ender's Shadow [for the third time]. Here are my thoughts on the latter, and it will make sense why I posted it in this thread in the end instead of the "What are you reading?" thread.
*Warning, there are spoilers ahead: proceed at your own peril*
Orson Scott Card did an excellent job blending this story into the mesh of the other. He wrote Ender's Game in 1985, and Ender's Shadow, a parallel story in 1999. Shadow centered around mostly the same events and the same timeframe, but from a different character's perspective. The reader is supposed to be able to read either story first or second and gain just as much enjoyment either way, as they are independent tales, and his experiment worked! I can't imagine the limits one imposes on oneself when writing stories in this manner. We see how it limited [George Lucas] when creating the Star Wars [Prequel Trilogy]. But Card deftly pulled the whole thing off.
And while it's a good story, I have to hold it to a lower level of canonicity in my mind, much as I do with [Star Wars Expanded Universe] lore. You see, I read Ender's Game in 2000, and I'd heard of Shadow, but instead followed the Ender storyline (which admittedly got pretty weird by the third and fourth books). I loved Ender's character, as is obvious by my handle. I was much younger then, and I related well to Ender, who is an extremely intelligent boy, far brighter than the other characters, and of the sort I hoped to be (I now find myself falling only slightly short of that mark
. During that story, there is a character named Bean, and if you read only that story, you gain a perception of Bean, even with two brief portions where the third-person narrative follows his train of thought, though only briefly. But the glimpse you get of him is that he is bright, similar to Ender, but not quite as bright. He tells Ender, "You're the best." He reveals that he is still a child, though the story puts children in very adult situations... He gets excited about things in a childlike manner. He gets emotional in parts. He shows some shortcomings in his estimation and perception. He shows limits to his creativity.
In 2002 I read Ender's Shadow for the first time. Suddenly, Bean is actually smarter than Ender, though it turns out he's been genetically manipulated to achieve this. In fact, he blows Ender's superhuman abilities away. Ender, who was manipulated by adults into doing things he did not wish to, who revealed self-perceptions of doubt and weakness, who felt the torture of adult-imposed social isolation, who did not even hold any ambition for greatness, but only the good of humanity, is topped by Bean who is calculating, limited in emotion (clearly not emotionless, but more controlled), rather being led by more pure logic, embracing social isolation, holding few weakness and therefore few self-doubts, and is actually ambitious to an extreme. Though perhaps his motives are also for the good of humanity, he aggressively sets out for leadership. Many of Ender's manipulations by the adults, it turns out in the end are manipulations by Bean. Many of Bean's comments of supposed adulation such as, "You're the best," turn out to be patronizing, as Bean knows he's the best. Much of the perspective we get of Bean before feels out of character, such as the childish side of Bean. And Bean's intelligence completely undercuts Ender's, as Ender foolishly believes Bean when he says, "You're the best," instead of recognizing that Bean is a faker. He recognizes Bean's creativity (which is actually de-emphasized, IMO, in favor of his calculative abilities in Shadow), but doesn't see him as hyperintelligent. He misses out on all of Bean's manipulations, and in the end, if you accept that version of Ender, you don't really believe he is so smart after all.
In the beginning Ender was selected because of his emotion, his ability to empathize, along with his mental capabilities. He is approximately equal in intelligence to his brother and sister, but his brother lacked the empathy to relate to his enemies and therefore was cruel, while his sister was too empathetic and therefore too soft. Those who recruited Ender found him to be the perfect medium. OSC missed the mark, I think, in Shadow, because at the end of the book, Bean admits that Ender is the right man (boy, really) for the job of Bombad General because of his empathy, his ability to persuade and create loyalty, his ability to truly lead, which Bean lacked. He had the brains, but not the leadership. But Ender's Game made a particular point to mention that Ender was also selected because his empathy allowed him to reach into the hearts of his enemies and anticipate their moves. Bean lacks this ability, but apparently, if memory serves (remember, I'm only halfway through and going just by my last reading on this point) doesn't recognize its value in Ender's perceptiveness. I guess I just feel that Card made a very intelligent character, and then made him look kinda dim in another book.
Characters who are vulnerable are most interesting. Bean is too invulnerable. He is too smart. Throughout the whole book, I want Ender to still prove that in some ways at least he is smarter than Bean, much as we hope that our Kasparovs of the world will outsmart the Deep Blues in spite of the superior processing power [of the latter]. More intuition. More empathy. More something. Ender is now weak. And I don't buy it. I read Ender's Shadow, enjoy in for its own story, and continue to call myself darth_ender, knowing that Ender is really the smartest and Bean is just a smart but obnoxious turd in the "real" Ender universe.
What does this all have to do with the film? OSC has apparently pushed for Bean's inclusion as much as possible in the actual film. The movie Ender's Game is actually somewhat of a hybrid, drawing some elements of Ender's Shadow into the script. I don't want Bean to undercut Ender. Ender is the better character, the vulnerable character, the character you want to win, but who really faces the overwhelming odds and still manages to come out on top. I hope there is moderation in this, as there are good qualities to the expanded Bean story, but if Bean starts making Ender look like a twit, I swear I'm gonna...start pulling weeds in my front yard or something.
Anyway, that's my rant. Go Ender!"
So that was my original post. I wanted to add to the original, but I forgot to mention that Bean has a more prominent role in the short story version of Ender's Game as Ender's confidant, somewhat in place of Alai. Though I know this isn't the canonical version of the story, it again reveals a weaker, more childlike Bean, gives you a sample of a different character. I know Shadow was written much later with a different version in mind, but considering what was revealed to us already, I don't feel the new Bean is the same guy as the old one. Retcons aren't always a bad thing, but in this case I do prefer the original perception better. That's not to say that Ender's Shadow is a bad story. On the contrary, in many ways it's better, considering the more mature style of writing, and the story is very interesting and surprisingly unique given it's nature as a parallax. But I prefer the view of the characters from the original story.
Sorry so long. Hope it's an enjoyable read for it's own merits.