Sunday, August 8, 2010

Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
Ender Wiggin Series #2
Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
Tom Doherty Associates, 1986
Introduction, 1994
ISBN-13: 9780812550757
very highly recommended

From the Publisher
Three thousand years have passed.... Ender remains young, traveling the stars at the speed of relativity, but a hundred years or more might pass on Earth while he experiences a month-long voyage. In three thousand years, Ender’s books The Hive Queen and The Hegemon, written under a pseudonym, have become holy writ, while the name of Ender itself has become anathema....
The only [sapient race], that is, until the planet called Lusitania was discovered and colonized. The discovery was seen as a gift to humanity, a chance to redeem the destruction of the Buggers. This time, the Starways Congress vowed, there would be no tragic misunderstanding leading to war. But once again men die, killed by the aliens in a rite no one understands. Ender, now known only as the Speaker for the Dead, comes to speak for those who have died and discovers that in order to tell the truth about them, he must unravel the secrets of Lusitania.
My Thoughts:

It is three thousand years in the future and Andrew Wiggins, Ender, is now a Speaker for the Dead. The alien race known as piggies have apparently murdered a xenologer studying them on the Catholic planet of Lusitania. Ender receives a request for a Speaker of the Dead and sets out on the long journey to answer the request, find some understanding of the act, and, perhaps, atone for his actions in the extermination of the bugger race. The theme is atonement. The question asked is: What is a community?

Speaker for the Dead is also both a Hugo and Nebula Award winner. It really is a rich novel with fine character development and a very satisfying plot. The slowly revealed explanation for the actions of various characters, human and alien, is very believable and consistent with the universe Card has created. Card has dropped the simple style he used in writing Ender's Game and has revealed the true capacity of his talent and ability in Speaker for the Dead. It is a more complex novel in every way.

Once again I also quite enjoyed Card's introduction to my copy of Speaker for the Dead. We may just be at the beginning of an Orson Scott Card reading frenzy here, but it's difficult to imagine that the next book can live up to the very high expectations set by Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Both of them are very different books when compared to each other but both are also excellent. Both Wonder Boy and I agree that Speaker for the Dead is not just a good science fiction story, but it is an excellent novel across the board, compared to any book, any genre.
Very Highly Recommended


Not only did they have no parents, few science fiction heroes seemed to marry and have kids. In short, the heroes of most science fiction novels were perpetual adolescents, lone rangers who wandered the universe avoiding commitments. pg. xvi, introduction

For the first time since the Xenocide of the Buggers by the monstrous Ender, humans had found intelligent alien life. The piggies were technologically primitive, but they used tools and built houses and spoke a language. pg xxix, prologue

Rooter was at once the most difficult and the most helpful of the pequeninos. He was always there whenever Pipo visited their clearing, and did his best to answer the questions Pipo was forbidden by law to come right out and ask. Pipo depended on him—too much, probably—yet though Rooter clowned and played like the irresponsible youngling that he was, he also watched, probed, tested. Pipo always had to beware of the traps that Rooter set for him. pg. 1

“I know. You have no friends, you have no intimate associates, you go to mass but you never go to confession, you are so completely detached that as far as possible you don’t touch the life of this colony, you don’t touch the life of the human race at any point. From all the evidence, you live in complete isolation.”
Novinha wasn’t prepared for this. He was naming the underlying pain of her life, and she didn’t have a strategy devised to cope with it. pg. 14

“You can take the test.”
The words hung in the air.
“When?” she whispered.
“Tonight. Tomorrow. Begin when you like. I’ll stop my work to take you through the tests as quickly as you like.”
“Thank you! Thank you, I—”
“Become the Speaker for the Dead. I’ll help you all I can. The law forbids me to take anyone but my apprentice, my son Libo, out to meet the pequeninos. But we’ll open our notes to you. Everything we learn, we’ll show you. All our guesses and speculation. In return, you also show us all your work, what you find out about the genetic patterns of this world that might help us understand the pequeninos. And when we’ve learned enough, together, you can write your book, you can become the Speaker. But this time not the Speaker for the Dead. The pequeninos aren’t dead.” pg. 18

“But I meant—with the body—what should we do?”
“Nothing,” said Pipo. “The pequeninos have done what pequeninos do, for whatever reason pequeninos do it.” He helped Libo to his feet.
Libo had trouble standing for a moment; he leaned on both of them for his first few steps. “What did I say?” he whispered. “I don’t even know what it is I said that killed him.”
“It wasn’t you,” said Pipo. “It was me.”
“What, do you think you own them?” demanded Novinha. “Do you think their world revolves around you? As you said, the piggies did it, for whatever reason they have. It’s plain enough this isn’t the first time—they were too deft at the vivisection for this to be the first time.” pg. 27

They found him all too soon. His body was already cooling in the snow. The piggies hadn’t even planted a tree in him. pg. 30

"There is our dilemma. There is the problem. Was the act evil, or was it, somehow, to the piggies' understanding at least, good?" pg. 36

For he loved her, as you can only love someone who is and echo of yourself at your time of deepest sorrow. pg. 83

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