Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ender's Shadow, chapters seven and eight, in which Bean confirms that the author is right about everything

(Content: bullying, justification of genocide.  Fun content: Mallory Ortberg's brilliance, Amy Pond's scorn, and marquesses.  Marqueese?)

Ender's Shadow: p. 101--136

Chapter six ends with Carlotta viewing the very same plastic-lidded toilet tank that Bean hid within, and confirming his story with the janitor, Pablo de Noches.  In case we forgot, he is a not-very-bright unpretentious blue-collar sort of man, who saved Bean because "I thought God was the baby. Jesus say, if you do it to this little one, you do it to me."  Card never seems to have room in this series for people who are neither supergeniuses nor hapless oafs.  (Pablo seems to struggle with speaking Common, but he and Carlotta only slip into Spanish for one line each, and separately.  Card's insistence on shoving bits of Spanish in and making his character fumble through English the rest of the time is especially weird in a novel where it's so easy to just say "Carlotta asked him in Spanish", but then we wouldn't get the awkward sentence structure that Card prefers in order to showcase ethnicity.)

Carlotta works her way through various theological thoughts about the beast of Revelation ("the Bugger, the Formic monster") and the false prophet, and how wonderful and impossible Bean is, and returns home to start researching genetic engineering and to seal up all of Bean's clothes and bedding for DNA evidence.  She figures he's either the saviour or the antichrist and either way she wants to know, so, high-five to her.

Chapter Seven: Exploration

We open with the teachers discussing their student tracking data, which has picked up Bean's twenty-one minute post-lunch tour from last chapter, but the data in question is hilariously, implausibly bad.  Just so we're clear:
"Tracking the uniforms that departed from the mess hall and the uniforms that entered the barracks, we come up with an aggregate of twenty-one minutes. That could be twenty-one children loitering for exactly one minute, or one child for twenty-one minutes. [....They arrived] spaced out in groups of two or three, a few solos. Just the way they left the mess hall."
These folks are running uniform-tracking software that knows who's wearing what suit (as soon as they palm into the system for lunch) and tracks how long uniforms aren't where they're supposed to be, but somehow it was overbudget for them to actually track which uniform goes where when.  But if they know what the arrival pattern back in the barracks was, they must be tracking that somehow--I am struggling to imagine any kind of tracking system that would allow them to collect only the 'aggregate' without actively throwing out more information that had been given to them freely.

Atrocious security is kind of a theme in this chapter: Dimak arrives to teach them all how to palm into their desks, and because there's an empty bunk available, Bean takes the opportunity to use his left hand to palm into that bunk's system as well, so he has two computer accounts.  The computer keeps a tally of how many accounts there should be, and so one other kid is locked out of the system until Dimak overrides it.  Bean concludes that they know what he's done, and so he will use his second account to keep a secret diary of secrets that will distract the teachers while he does all of his actual private work with his main account.  I'd like to think that the Battle School teachers are prepared for 'look over there, a distraction!', but this is Bean, so probably not.  He also instantly sees through the reverse-psychology that Dimak uses to encourage them to play the Mind Game, by telling them they're only allowed a few minutes after their homework is done.

More touring, the gym, the arcade, and Bean waxes philosophical about the existence of bullies, no longer fighting over food and survival, but still enforcing a social order by shoving little kids out of the way as soon as their mandated turn is over.  Bean observes and complies dispassionately:
No point in getting emotional about anything. Being emotional didn't help with survival. What mattered was to learn everything, analyze the situation, choose a course of action, and then move boldly. Know, think, choose, do. There was no place in that list for "feel." Not that Bean didn't have feelings. He simply refused to think about them or dwell on them or let them influence his decisions, when anything important was at stake.

This is it.  This is peak Objective Man.  I CHOOSE NOT TO BE AFFECTED BY EMOTIONS, says the five-year-old knot of fear and ambition.  I can't adequately respond to this myself, so I'm just going to ask Mallory Ortberg to tell four minutes of male novelist jokes while I compose myself.

(Fun aside: my brother, a former reservist officer, was taught to follow the OUDA Loop to avoid locking up in field situations: Observe, Understand, Decide, Act.  That's basically identical to Bean's process, making it possibly the most accurate bit of military theory in this whole series.)

Ender isn't in the arcade, of course, but Bonzo is, and he attracts Bean's attention by being the only one who hates Ender.  Bean investigates, first learning that random passers-by think Bonzo is "contemptible", and then directly asking Bonzo to tell him the truth about Ender, "because you won't lie to me".  Bean, of course, secretly believes that Bonzo will do nothing but lie, and so is thoroughly prepared when Bonzo recaps Ender's time in Salamander, how Ender navigated the teachers into getting him his own practice time in the battleroom (which Bean thinks is an impressive solution) and adds interjections like "I'm not stupid!" (which Bean thinks is a guarantee of stupidity).  Bonzo insists that Ender's disloyalty means no commander in the school wants him, but at this point Ender is either the best soldier in Rat Army or the second-in-command under Petra Arkanian's Phoenix Army, so presumably that's not true either.

Bonzo moves on, having made his plans to violence Ender clear, and Bean silently concludes "If they leave you in command of an army for another day, it's just so that the other students can learn how to make the best of taking orders from a higher-ranking idiot", which... is that true?  Bean's word is gospel, generally, but we never really have resolved the mystery of how Bonzo got to be a commander, not just briefly, but for five nonlinear years when the Battle School structure allows at most a single-digit percentage of students to ever get any time in command.  I'm sure in some prior post I theorised this very thing, that Graff keeps Bonzo around specifically to play the villain to Graff's Chosen One(s), but I so did not expect that to become canon.

Back in his room, Bean writes a fake diary entry, in which he pretends he's planning to assemble his own street gang and model himself off Achilles, and then tries to fall asleep at the designated lights-out.  He overhears other children crying, homesick, and mulls how much he's not like them.  He doesn't have feelings.  He just plans his ascension to command and thinks about how silly empathy is even if it makes Ender strong because it also makes people stupid like how it got Poke killed and then what are these tears on his pillow that is ridiculous.

Back on Earth, Graff emails Carlotta to ask who Achilles is, and they power-play at each other a bit until Graff skypes with her.  Carlotta plays ignorant, talking about the mythical Achilles until she finally corrects Graff that the bully's name is pronounced "ah-SHEEL. French."  She instantly sees through Bean's diary ruse, counsels Graff on not underestimating Bean, and lets on that Achilles is probably a murderer.  (As someone who runs a tabletop RPG, I reach helplessly at the book, trying to stop Carlotta from telling Graff that this new upstart protagonist has a ready-made villain to face in dramatic conflict to further his character arc at the end of Act Two.)  Carlotta asks in return for information on illegal human genome projects from the last decade:
"I think you're going to end up relying on this boy, betting all our lives on him, and I think you need to know what's going on in his genes."
Author's genetic inevitability and evo-psych fetish: sated.  I didn't really notice this bit when I first read the book, but after the obsession with genetics in Speaker for the Dead, I wonder if they don't literally mean that Bean's psychology is going to be determined more by the consequences of genetic engineering than it is by the environments and unaware, unmodified people he's growing up with.

Chapter Eight: Good Student

Three months later, Bean is getting perfect scores on every test and the teachers think he's spending all his free time reading seventeenth-century treatises on military fortifications.  He is, of course, actually hacking their system (slowly, in a refreshing burst of omniscience) and just making it look like he's reading the works of Vauban and Frederick the Great.  He manages to assemble, out of emergency maps, a rough schematic of the entire Battle School, seven times larger than most students believe it is (nine decks per wheel, not four, and three wheels, not one), and makes plans to go spying through the air ducts as soon as possible.

Dimak pulls him aside to ask Bean how he's doing, socially, and comment on his lack of friendships.  Bean attempts to bluff his way through obediently, but trips up, which I like in the same way that I always feel relief when Our Heroes actually screw up:
"And don't think we haven't picked up on the way you obsess about Wiggin." 
"Obsess?" Bean hadn't asked about him after that first day. Never joined in discussions about the standings. Never visited the battleroom during Ender's practice sessions. 
Oh. What an obvious mistake.
This of course also neatly explains why Ender's never heard of everyone's favourite bunny-muppet when they do finally meet in Dragon Army.

Dimak also confronts Bean about his search history library use, and what Vauban has to do with space war.  Bean starts bluffing, improvising off the top of his head what he could learn from Vauban's fortifications, how impossible it is to create 'walls' when fighting in three dimensions to protect an entire planet, and from there leaps to the conclusion that the only defence is a faster offence.  So, in the space of a page, Bean takes us from "fortifications are impossible in space" to:
"So we build a fleet as quickly as possible and launch it against their home world immediately. That way the news of their defeat reaches them at the same time as our devastating counterattack." [....] it dawned on him that he was right about everything "That fleet was already sent. Before anybody on this station was born, that fleet was launched."
Bean also found a copy of Ender's Game in the library.

Now, that's a neat conclusion, sure, but I'm not sold on it being the only conclusion.  Like: Bean notes that the larger their 'fortification' is, the more they get stretched out, so protecting the entire solar system is impossible, but he also notes that the only thing they need to protect is Earth, so I'm not sure why we should care that we can't protect the whole system.  He notes that only one ship needs to get through in order to devastate the planet, as they saw with the famous Scouring of China, but if they had the resources to create an invasion fleet immediately after the Second Invasion, could they honestly not construct an adequate planetary defence in another seventy years?  (What are all their ships doing, if the supposed big defence fleet out in the Belt doesn't exist?  How many people know the truth about the fleet and how has no one else figured it out?)  They have the Ecstatic Shield installed in enough places around Earth to prevent nuclear weapons from ever being used effectively, and if you can stop a nuke in flight, you can stop a ship as well.  What kinds of assaults might Earth not be safe from?  I can think of two options:

  1. Relativistic bombardment.  Ramp a ship up to near-lightspeed, aim it at Earth from light-years away, and go.  It doesn't even need to be a ship; it can just be the heaviest rock you can strap engines to.  This technique is not, to our knowledge, used by the humans or the formics in any war, which suggests to me that it's impossible or there's some easy defence they've already figured out, like Star Wars interdictor fields that kill warp drives and make said projectiles easy catches.
  2. Doctor Device.  Humanity has no reason to think the formics know how this works, since we came up with it on our own, but anyone smart enough to invent such a thing would have to realise that it's the greatest planet-buster imaginable.  (I forgot how great that comment thread about the Doctor Device was; if you're a physics nerd you should go read it again.)  So, while it's certainly terrifying to think that they could invent one and bring it to Earth, we've got an ultimate weapon against them, we know how their queens work, and we would leave behind no evidence that they could use to reverse-engineer it if we dusted their incoming fleet.
I mean to say, it's one thing when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, and another if you give an entire planetary fleet an unstoppable force to swing, an immovable object to hide behind, and exactly one thing to protect.  They thought this was a worse plan than their desperation xenocide fleet?

Anyway, Dimak brushes this off and leaves, but Bean saw him sweat, and spends some time mulling why the Fleet would bother hiding this Obvious Truth from everyone.  He's also read enough of human military history now that he can make all the references to old wars that people kept spewing in Ender's Game, and he concludes, like Dink Meeker, that the Fleet exists instead to keep Earth from imploding into a vortex of global war and to keep the child-geniuses out of nationalistic hands.  He's sure this plan is doomed to fail, and thus he needs to make friends with his classmates, the future warlords of Earth.

A kid named Nikolai apologises to Bean for telling Dimak that Bean stole his password, and asks what Bean was doing rummaging in the station maps.
Until this moment, Bean would have blown off the question--and the boy.
And you have no idea how hard I'm resisting the obvious military-school-queer-subtext jokes, but (spoilers) Nikolai is actually Bean's twin brother, so I'm not going there.

Instead, Bean shares his discover of the other two wheels and five decks, and Nikolai suggests that those parts were never actually built, but the maps remain because bureaucrats never throw anything away.
"I never thought of that," said Bean. He knew, given his reputation for brilliance, that he could pay Nikolai no higher compliment. As indeed the reaction of the other kids in nearby bunks showed. No one had ever had such a conversation with Bean before. No one had ever thought of something that Bean hadn't obviously though of first. Nikolai was blushing with pride.
Ye gods, Bean is supposed to be the one no one really likes; why is Nikolai blushing already?  But they start talking and socialising like real people, including one girl who is named here Corn Moon and then never mentioned again, ever, in this or any other book, quality representation, well done.

Next week: the only kind of acceptable gay man in Card's world is one who has been punished, tamed, and speaks only of regret for his forays into forbidden knowledge.


  1. Card's world building hurts my brain. This book feels less over the top than the two Ender ones (or maybe it's just that Bean's horrible beginnings are just possibly in the realm of reality is unrealistic, making it hard to comment on the implausibility of, oh, everything), but it's just as bad or worse when it comes to my ability to suspend disbelief.

    The tracking data is beyond ridiculous, and Bean's stunt with the empty bunk is right up there, too. If it's an ambidextrous security system, wouldn't it have scans of both hands, preventing Bean using his left hand as a separate person? Why would the empty bunk even have an active system? This is a space station, right? Why would they waste power that way? Bean's belief that they'll ignore his real account if he makes a secret account is also nonsense.

    I'm irritated by the obsessing with Ender scene, because the idea that if you ignore someone, you're obsessed with them is such a crock of shit. (Granted, it's one usually leveled at women and female characters, but still.) Yes, in Bean's case, it's apparently true. (Though, from your recap, it sounds like he's far more interested in exploring the station than anything.) Doesn't make it any less irritating.

    "So we build a fleet as quickly as possible and launch it against their home world immediately. That way the news of their defeat reaches them at the same time as our devastating counterattack."

    Can someone who is more up on space science explain how this works? Because, from where I'm standing, it would appear to be impossible - unless they have Instant Space Fleet, Just Add Water. Building a fleet is going to take time, meaning that the news of the defeat will arrive ahead of the retaliation fleet by exactly how long it takes to build said fleet.

  2. in which Bean confirms that the author is right about everything

    oh goody because he was always so vague about that in every other flipping chapter ever :-D

  3. "could pay Nikolai no higher compliment" "No one had ever thought of something that Bean hadn't obviously though of first."
    *Beep Beep* ambient Mary Suism is at dangerous levels! *Beep Beep* Warning! Story may implode!

  4. "So we build a fleet as quickly as possible and launch it against
    their home world immediately. That way the news of their defeat reaches
    them at the same time as our devastating counterattack."
    Yes, I'm sure an 99-planet attackling, empire-destroying starfleet is something you can throw together in a year or two.

  5. Ok, so why does the janitor speak Spanish? Are we still in Rotterdam?

  6. I didn't read the book so I'm not sure if this matches the stated facts, but the logic would work if (a) the humans didn't know about the ansible yet and (b) they destroyed the entire Formic fleet. Then they would figure that since there was no Formic ship to take news of the defeat back home, the Formics wouldn't know about it until human ships showed up on their radar.

    ... but come to think of it, that still wouldn't make sense, because the Formic fleet would surely have sent back news of victory. The lack of news is itself a warning.

  7. Exactly! That's why it's such a brilliant plan. The Formics will never expect us to do something as stupid as that. We'll catch them totally off guard!

  8. If we aren't, I want to know how in hell an infant-toddler-very young child-whatever Bean's supposed to be got there.

    But then, I can't figure out how Bean survived from his escape to the opening of the book.

  9. According to the first book, the Formics don’t need the ansible; they communicate telepathically and instantaneously. The ansible is what resulted when humans (somehow) reverse-engineered the Formics’ natural mode of communication.

  10. Three months later, Bean is getting perfect scores on every test and the teachers think he's spending all his free time reading seventeenth-century treatises on military fortifications. He is, of course, actually hacking their system (slowly, in a refreshing burst of omniscience) and just making it look like he's reading the works of Vauban and Frederick the Great.

    Wait wait wait... Bean is allowed to read about military history? Then the whole thing with Ender brilliantly revolutionizing Battle School with techniques from the 19th century wasn't because Battle School forbade learning history, but instead because nobody else bothered to check books out of the library?

    Bean starts bluffing, improvising off the top of his head what he could learn from Vauban's fortifications, how impossible it is to create 'walls' when fighting in three dimensions to protect an entire planet

    I'm... not sure why this is supposed to be impossible? Your ships can move in three dimensions, so you can create formations in three dimensions around your planet. Is it supposed to be that planets are large, and you could not possibly create enough spaceships to protect every square inch of the atmosphere? Granted, but by the same token the enemy could not possibly have enough ships to simultaneously attack every square inch of the planet. You'd need a formation capable of responding to and intercepting enemy ships from whichever direction they come, which hardly seems impossible in three dimensions.

    "So we build a fleet as quickly as possible and launch it against their home world immediately. That way the news of their defeat reaches them at the same time as our devastating counterattack." [....] it dawned on him that he was right about everything "That fleet was already sent. Before anybody on this station was born, that fleet was launched."

    Except that the people who made the decision to do that already knew about the Formics' philotic communication, and knew about their defeat the moment it happened. Well, at least Bean hasn't magically figured that out... yet.

  11. So what exactly is the point of Bean finding out all this junk about the floorplan of battle school, other than letting OSC point and say, "Look, he's smarter than all the adults! He's the bestest best in the universe except Ender!"
    I mean, why does he care? What is he trying to accomplish? Why is he spending a huge amount of time and effort on this? He's not trying to escape, so if he learns battle school is a lot bigger than he thought, or exactly where every single shuttle bay is, or exactly how many powerplants run this place... so what?

  12. That makes the whole thing worse, because by the time the humans are figuring out and reverse-engineering the ansible, the Formics have known about their defeat for some time. And the humans know this.

    Either people at Battle School somehow don't know the timeline of events - and I would think the reverse engineering bit would come up in Ansible 101, or at the very least when the ansible was invented - or Bean will next be talking about the brilliance of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

    If the Formics were really intent on destroying Earth, they'd have invented their own super weapon and launched their own retaliatory fleet in the meantime. Given that there's an actual battle when the human fleet arrives, they can't have intended to just let the humans wipe them out. But they also don't seem to have made any preparations that might have ruined the human's plans. (Space mines, their own retaliatory fleet, their own super weapon, whatever.) What in hell were the Formics doing???

    I'd probably cut Card more slack if these weren't serious real award winning science fiction about super geniuses, but I think the events of your average magic science space adventure story make far more sense than this.

  13. He doesn't trust adults. He's trying to know exactly what they're plotting so he can figure out how to manipulate events to his advantage. What he thinks he's going to be able to do as a kid trapped on the station is unclear.

  14. The janitor speaks Spanish because he's a janitor. Didn't you know that menial labor may only be done by illegal immigrants who speak Spanish? Just like cabs may only be driven by people from whatever other racist stereotype Card subscribes to.

  15. This is last is rather the reason some basic knowledge of military history might be useful. IIRC, most of the humans' fleet was wiped out and it was only Mazer Rackham's brilliant use of a single ship that saved the day?

    In all of human history, I am certain no group has ever lost a huge percentage of its offensive capabilities (at least in one theater of battle) and then had to rebuild quickly, followed by going after the enemy and winning. So there aren't multiple lessons that would be so very, very relevant for the next generation of soldiers who are dealing with that issue. Certainly not in the living memory of the generation that probably parented Card.

    I'm giving him a pass on older history because that would just be too much work, I mean Egypt and Rome did this so long ago it couldn't possibly be relevant, plus they weren't building advanced weapons. Oh wait, the Egyptians were faced with a horrifying, advanced weapon they had no experience with until it trampled them. And then they took it, used it to take back most of their country, plus they improved it until it was the world's first high-performance vehicle. Nope, no relevance whatsoever, because after all, it isn't laser tag in space.

  16. Yeah... I guess if the Netherlands is now an international refugee zone then any language is plausible here, but picking Spanish really makes it seem like Card never thought about it.

  17. I think the fact that the janitor speaks Spanish is deliberate on Card's part. Centuries ago the Netherlands was under Spanish rule, and I think Card is envisioning a time in which (de facto) that's the case again. (Which is what happens when you let the foreigners/refugees in, etc.) The fact that people are once again speaking Spanish on the streets of Rotterdam in the broad light of day is no doubt intended as a signal of the Netherlands' decline. I believe there is an "illegal immigrant" subtext here: maybe what Card has is mind is not a reconquista of Holland by Spain from above but a "reoccupation" from below. As in: centuries ago the Dutch threw the Spanish out but the rascals came creeping back in under the guise of harmless menial workers, but the Dutch should have known better, because as we can see their country has gone all to heck. (Though other reasons are offered for that.) To my mind the whole thing has a Gates of Vienna flavor, but perhaps I'm being uncharitable.

  18. Because he's magic. How else?

  19. The Formics are waiting for Fate (or humanity) to catch up to them. The intention of the Formics are made clear to Ender at the end of Ender's Game by means of the nascent Queen but they're made clear to the reader throughout the book by means of a series of anvil-dropped hints. And what the hints elucidate is that Dink Meeker was oh, so right. The Formics may or may not have the ansible but they don't need the ansible because their hive-mindedness already plugs them into the philotic web. They do know about Rackham's defeat of their fleet and if they were interested in retaliation they would have launched their own Payback Armada at the earliest opportunity (or they might have taken some time out to devise a philotic weapon which would make the MD Device look like child's play or they might already have been sitting on such a weapon because the Sol system wasn't challenging enough for them to have had to haul it out of storage). But they don't do any of this because they're devastated by the discovery that humans — not just some humans but all humans — are intelligent. In effect, as they would view the matter, they've been destroying large hives made up solely of queens. This is a realization they can't live with and they are determined to atone, so what they decide to do is sit tight in their own territories and allow themselves to be overrun in the event that the humans decide that such is the price of their blunder. In other words, they leave it to the humans to draw the same set of inferences they've drawn and to come to the same conclusions ("they're intelligent and so it would be a sin to demolish them completely").

    What a mistake.

  20. Then why fight back at all when the human fleet shows up? Wouldn't the biggest hint that they know they did wrong be to do nothing in response to the attack? Especially if all dying is a consequence they're okay with.

  21. --...including one girl who is named here Corn Moon...--

    I just re-read ES this weekend for the first time in 10+ years, and the lack of female characters was especially jarring. Aside from Petra (who gets less screen time than she did in EG), I am getting bupkis for the female quotient in the Battle School. As for Mother Superior Carlotta, -She is not a girl who misses much-, as the philosopher Lennon noted. Too bad that most of what she says about Achilles is ignored by the powers that be.

  22. Which is weird, right, because it's so clear that Card decided to back down on the blatant "women are evolutionarily predisposed not to be useful" thing from Ender's Game: Bean always describes every large group (his shuttle, his classes, the kids in the arcade) as 'boys and girls', there's no mention of how few girls there might be, he keeps throwing in these one-offs like Corn Moon and Wu, and most of what Petra does show up for in this book is meant to make her actions in Ender's Game look better. I was going to comment on how it might have helped if Bean actually had more than one friend (Nikolai), and then I remembered that Card believes having an entire family of characters in Speaker was a herculean task that most authors would not dare to take on.

  23. Well, there's no reason the Formics can't give the humans a good tussle once they've been kind enough to come calling, is there? Though I think possibly the real, narrative reason is that the last stage of the video game has to be harrowing enough to show off the wonderfulness of Ender. Again.

  24. Yet another problem with the "we're pretending to be gearing up to defend ourselves while actually counting on an attack force sent decades ago" thing.
    Is or is not a huge portion of Earth's industrial capability devoted to producing ever more and more advanced starships for planetary defense? If there is, what in the blue hell are they doing with them? If there isn't, is there some kind of pretext they're using for why not or is the entirety of humanity too stupid to realize that when you're preparing for a desperate defense of your homeworld you, uh, might want to build something to defend it with?

  25. Probably for similar reasons as the citizens under Stalin didn't ask (out loud) why there was still no food after agricultural productivity went up 500%.

  26. I can't say if I read this somewhere or if I'm imagining it, but I think new ships being built are better than the older ships so for a while after the initial fleet left it was being augmented by newer ships built and launched later, with better propulsion. So the public might be told the ships are being built for defense when really they were being sent off to the war as soon as they were complete.

  27. Though that raises new questions about the Locke and Demosthenes business. Card's future is a really weird mess - mostly because he doesn't seem to have actually thought it out and just has whatever works for the plot happen.

  28. This is about right--the fleet was not launched en masse, but ships were sent first to the homeworld and then to other formic planets as they were identified, meaning that (basically to make things harder for Ender) the least-important targets were hit with the newest ships. But given the travel time they're looking at, they have to have stopped sending ships years ago, if not decades, so there's still some question about what they've been doing with their shipyards since then.

  29. According to Card he could have survived by licking pre-licked garbage wrappings, and hoovering up whatever literal crumbs fell when other people ate. I think it was Poke who thought that he should have been doing that, and she should have had a clearer notion than most of what it takes to survive as a homeless young child there. Card seems to have a very strange opinion of the dietary needs of children.

  30. Mhmm. It's established in his character to find out everything he can in a situation. He was starving to death and putting his energy into learning languages and reading when he was, what, 4? 5? I don't remember how old he was at the beginning. First get all the info he can, then he can come up with a use for that info as things happen.

  31. I assume it's Card's weird genetics fetish again. A creature can't just accept death! Even when they've already accepted it and think the deserve it, I guess? They can't betray their loyalty to their genetic line even if they wanted to.

  32. ha ha magic bean. Hey, is there a Jack in this book? (ender murders the giant)

  33. Bean is is the bean, the stalk, and the giant. He starts out very small but he's destined to get very large, or very tall, at least. In his early youth while he's still small he climbs to a house in the sky, like Jack in the story, and, like Jack in the story he has adventures there. And, like Jack in the story, he eventually clambers back down to Earth, though unlike Jack he grows to giant size himself, in the sense that he gains great height, and thus ends up "stalky." (He's "stalky" in another sense: he "stalks" a bunch of characters in this book and in the books which follow it.) And he has magic powers: he can pass through walls like the magical parachildren in this book and into and out of rooms whose doors are closed to him.

    Of course this is "realistically" explained by the author to the extent that it can be, but it's still kind of suspicious that onboard a hypersecure space station whose dimensions must be very strictly controlled so as to make use of the existing volume and where so many things are a dead secret, little Bean can find air ducts just large enough to accommodate not only him tiny as he is — but larger boys like Achilles. That strains credulity. The simpler explanation is that Bean is enchanted and has Powers, which he can share with other kids at will but which the other kids don't possess in themselves. They can only attain the between-walls realm when introduced to it by Bean.

    Poke's raisins could be interpreted as magic beans; they'd be about the same shape and size.