B: Best Sequel Ever
I’m trying my level best not to be frightened by that superlative. The best sequel I can think of (at present) is not, in the strict sense, a sequel at all: that is, it is not a plot which takes place, in its entirety, after the events of an earlier book.
But it does follow it. It follows right along, the captain to a major. Or lieutenant-general to his general, as the case may be.
Whatever rank might be appropriate, I mean Ender’s Shadow. This is a parallax, or parallel story, following the setting of Ender’s Game: an alien invasion is headed for Earth, children all over are tested to see whether they can be trained into commanders at the off-planet Battle School, and the closer the invasion gets, the faster the training schedule. But rather than fixing on Ender Wiggin (boy soldier, innate commander, deadly victor), it focuses on Bean (starving orphan, genetically improbable, genius).
It could be said that Bean follows in Ender’s wake; it could also be said that Ender’s path would not have gone where it did unless Bean followed him, directing certain aspects of Ender’s years in and after Battle School: a most ingenious paradox. Bean’s place among Ender’s crew, in turn, came about because of events well before Ender’s Game began.
The thing is, Ender’s Shadow is not the only story following Ender’s Game. Both books are followed (chronologically and entirely) by a series, and in each series – the Ender Saga and the Shadow Saga – Card takes the world he’s designed and carries it to its logical conclusion. The political storm brewing in Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow is carried out on Earth in the Shadow Saga: when the Battle School students are returned to Earth, they are immediately used as strategists for the political powers-that-be there. The Ender Saga runs a different direction: traveling at relativistic speeds makes for a story that continues 3 millenia later.
Certainly the trappings of the story – instant interstellar communication, faster-than-light travel, genetic manipulation, non-human intelligences, etc. – help make it fascinating. But the extraordinary thing about these stories is the philosophical questions they raise, and how they plumb the depths of understanding, sacrifice, friendship, love, and life.