Manfully resisting the temptation to rewrite his successful 1985 child-warrior saga, Ender’s Game, Card instead offers a parallel yarn, told from the point of view of Ender Wiggin’s lieutenant, Bean. As a two-year-old starving on the streets of Rotterdam, supergenius Bean survives by civilizing the merciless street gangs and bullies around him, but he can—t prevent his greatest enemy, Achilles, from murdering his only friend, Poke. Recognizing Bean’s extraordinary abilities, recruiter Sister Carlotta sends him to Battle School. Here, aboard an orbiting space station, exceptional children like Bean learn the military skills necessary to fight the insect-like alien Buggers. Handicapped by his doll-like stature, Bean nevertheless excels in the war games, though he doesn’t understand the legendary Ender Wiggin’s ability to inspire loyalty and devotion. Carlotta, meanwhile, discovers that Bean’s extraordinary intellect is the result of illegal genetic manipulation; the tradeoff for intelligence is that he’ll keep growing until he dies—at the age of 25. Bean, unimpressed with his teachers and their selection methods, puts together his own team of rejects and misfits; commanded by Ender, they’re invincible. But the pressure steadily increases on the children, with ever more frequent battle-games and increasingly complex scenarios. Bean alone figures out that these battles aren’t computer simulations but the real thing, conducted by instantaneous communicator. If they lose, the human species will perish. Card is always at his best, as here, when he’s writing about children: an absorbing, near-flawless performance that, while fully intelligible, should send everyone scurrying to reread the original.