Overall I found this book engaging and entertaining. My only criticism of this book is a production note, and this is true for most of OSC's books. Why must they put crappy synth muzak in between the chapters do us all a favor and skip the music in the future.
I've very much enjoyed the Ender series, however, this book takes a detour from the fun and entertaining geopolitical/psychological/science fiction of Ender's Game and mopes along through a whiny, melodramatic love story that turns into a thinly veiled homophobic screed. At first I dismissed the homophobia angle, thinking, "What does gay marriage have to do with the aftermath of Ender's war with the buggers?" Much to my chagrin--and despite the clear answer being "nothing"-- there it was though. It only took a quick google search to note that I was far from the first to notice this unfortunate bent (and that the author Card is on the board of a rather gnarly anti-gay propaganda group to boot).
Thus, I'm afraid the Ender series has been a bit tainted for me. I will admit that I have moved on to Shadow of the Giant (and noticed so far at least a brief continuation of the same anti-gay storyline), but I suspect it will be my last Ender book. Up until now, I had rather enjoyed the Ender-verse as a pleasant summer distraction. Though the series had gone down hill a bit since the original Ender's Game, I have to say that I'm very disappointed to have had an otherwise fun series marred by such an irksome blemish.
This is my seventh book in the Ender saga (Speaker for the Dead is my favorite) and although I haven't loved all of them, this book is by far the worst. I don't believe in judging works based on the author's belief but this book just seems like a platform for Orson Scott Card to advertise the Mormon Church. He so vehemently argues that marriage is only between a man and a women and that having children is the most important thing in life. Shadow Puppets does not fit gracefully into the series and this book is barely sci-fiction. Card is an activist for the prevention of same-sex marriage. There would be no reason for me to know that if his writing in this book didn't prompt me to look it up.
Some other reviewers touched on it already but this is the weakest of the Ender/Bean series by far. The story is boring and the characters as young adults are acting like they would if they were "normal" 5 year olds. There is no person that wins your favor like Ender did. I found the narration whiny but that is largely because the characters are written that way.
All that said, it is important to read this to understand the next book in the series which is a vast improvement.
I really enjoyed "Ender's Game" - there seemed to be a number of fresh ideas, and I enjoyed getting to know Ender so thoroughly. I couldn't wait to read more of the Ender series. But this felt like a whole different story, even by a different writer. Lots of familiar names, but no familiar feel - they were all strangers. And by the end of the book I was still waiting for something intriguing to happen - it just never did.
I had some high hopes for this book considering how good the previous two were. This was a very difficult book to finish and had a decent last 1/8 or so. The writing was just plain bad. I really do not know how else to say it. The momentum of the last book is completely gone, Ender's parents are not written well, and Bean and Petra spend the book having silly gradeschool type arguments. The battles at the end are well done and perhaps worth the wait if you are a hard core fan. One more thing: Do not forget to "make babies."
I found the story to be somewhat 'long-winded' at times - not enough action, which certainly can't be said for Ender's Game. The characters, for example, seemed to spend far too much time pondering and worrying about what Achilles had done, was doing, was going to do. At other times, certain events seem particularly unbelievable - Bean and Petra, supposedly the brightest strategists on Earth, can't even keep their precious embryos safeguarded. Why? Because the guard they hired was bought off. Duuuhhhh! Think I'll go read Ender's Game again...
After Ender's game and Ender's shadow, I wanted to try another book from Orson Scott. I barely finished "Shadow Puppets" because I could not connect to the main characters. The main reason was that these characters grew and became dumb. The "Peter" Character was so clever in Ander's game that in this novel it was shocking to see him committing major blunders. The "Petra" character became a pregnant teenager without much clue except the will to protect her husband and the "Bean" character - the husband - was so focused on the embryos that he forgot to use his brain throughout the book.
The second reason why I could not connect to the story is that there was a "script priority issue." The main story was about some embryos that were stolen, while the back story was about the world politics and fights that were involving China, Muslims and whatever. The embryos story looked so futile compared to the "world events" that it was impossible for me to get involved in the story. On the other hand, the world event story was treated as a second rate story to the point that the author's analysis looked childish and full of stereotypes.
I am sure that if Orson Scott had written this novel as his first novel, he would have failed as a writer. However, I have to concede that I found both the first and the final chapter of the book enjoyable. The rest could have been summarized in ten minutes.
As a conclusion, I feel that the real Puppet of the book is the reader.
I will remember Orson Scott for his excellent Ender's Game novel.