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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Speaker for the Dead

****½ Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. Science fiction.

Now that my 13-year-old is reading
Ender's Game (#42), I figured I'd better get to this one before he nabs it.

I had been warned that even though Speaker for the Dead continues the story of Ender's life, and is set in the same universe, that it's not that much of a sequel--that is, it's not the same kind of book. Which was a relief to me, to tell you the truth. Ender's Game was a complete story, and I'd been dreading the kind of sequel that would be Ender vs. a different kind of alien, which would just spoil the whole thing.

Instead, it's set 3000 years later, but due to a whole lot of light-speed travel, Ender's only in his 30s (I think--I'm not positive, and I'm not going to search for it. It's not that important. At any rate, he's an adult, in his prime.). He's become a Speaker for the Dead, the original Speaker for the Dead, but nobody realizes that. His purpose is to learn all about someone's life--not just the good things, like in a eulogy, but everything--their hopes, dreams, fears, and failings--and then Speak for them. It's what he did for the Buggers after destroying them, then published the book, earning for himself instead of the accolades he'd received, the title of "Ender the Xenocide," and his name is now reviled.

Humanity has learned a lesson, and now contact with alien races is strictly limited. On the planet Lusitania is the only other sentient race humanity has dicovered: nicknamed the Piggies. The humans are required to stay within their fences and observe only, not give any information to the Piggies. But the Piggies learn anyway, from the questions they're asked, and then the anthropologist studying them is brutally slaughtered, and nobody knows why.

Ender is summoned to speak a death on the planet, and ends up bringing pain and healing. And, well, here's the whole point of the book:

that truly knowing a person, or an alien race, understanding them completely, is to love or at least care for them. The message got a little heavy-handed for me by the end, hence the half-star reduction.

Otherwise, the story was interesting, the characters compelling, the mystery intriguing. I'll be reading more. I've already got Xenocide in my TBR pile.


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