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Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
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Speaker for the Dead (1986)

by Orson Scott Card

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ender's Game (2), Ender's Game: Extended (2)

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11,617151232 (3.98)188
  1. 21
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also about first contact with an alien civilization that humans cannot understand.
  2. 10
    City of Pearl by Karen Traviss (saltmanz)
    saltmanz: These two books have quite a lot in common: first contact, a Christian human colony, a group of scientists, moral dilemmas, sharply drawn characters, and even more that I won't get into for fear of spoilers. Both fantastic books.
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English (142)  Hungarian (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (149)
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Great follow up to Ender's Game. It was difficult for me to keep up w the male Portuguese names, because they sounded familiar. It is an interesting spin on the 'no inteference' rule of space travel and newly discovered worlds.

I am not familiar w the rest of the series yet, but Jane should have her own book. ( )
  delta351 | Apr 24, 2016 |
Speaker for the Dead, the sequel to Ender’s Game, both of which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best Science Fiction novel in back to back years for Orson Scott Card, the first time that achievement has ever happened, is a masterpiece of literature. Notice I said literature, not science fiction. That’s because I believe this to be a serious work of literature and not just science fiction. It crosses standard sci fi boundaries early and often and keeps the reader engaged in numerous areas they may or may not be comfortable with. This book explores not only standard hard sci fi fare, but religion, mysticism, politics, biodiversity, ecology, genetics, space travel, anthropology, xenophobia, technology, what makes a species sentient, can an advanced AI be sentient, cultural elitism, our reasons and means of studying other species, the ideals of upholding or abandoning our ethical principles, political rebellion, the knowledge we have of those around us, what we believe about them, the truth behind those beliefs, and much, much more. It’s a heavily philosophical novel, as well as at times, a psychological novel, and it is so much more than just a standard science fiction novel. For those of you who read and enjoyed Ender’s Game and expected more of the same, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed. I read several reviews by people expressing this viewpoint. But as this has a 4.0+ rating on Goodreads, most people appreciate its broad scope, what it attempts to do and what it succeeds at doing, and I think this book stretches the mind and soul in ways not normally stretched by most any book you’ll ever encounter.

It’s been 3,000 years since Ender Wiggin was tricked into committing xenocide by destroying the “buggers” as commander of Earth’s fleet. Unknown to the world, he became Speaker for the Dead, which is a sort of humanist priest who learns about those who have died and speaks the truth of their lives, good and bad, their hopes, fears, intentions, virtues, and vices, and he traveled the known worlds with his sister, Valentine, writing several key works in which he brought the beauty of the buggers to life as well as his brother Peter, the Hegemon, to the forefront of civilization. Sprint forward 3,000 years and “Andrew” Wiggin is a Speaker for the Dead living on a Scandinavian planet with his sister Valentine. They have survived all of these years through the miracle of space travel and how it slows the system and aging down markedly, so that while he destroyed the buggers at age 12, he is now the equivalent of age 36. However, now all this time later, Ender’s name means the Xenocide and he is reviled throughout the universe.

We’re introduced to a planet called Lusitania some 40 years away, but two weeks by space travel, where he has been called to speak the death of a beloved xenologer. In this, he gets excited because he has been carrying the bugger Hive Queen with him this whole time, looking for a suitable place to allow her to create a new world for herself and her race. They think this may be the place. He’s also excited because this world is a world where humans have encountered their second alien race, the stupidly named “piggies.” Unfortunately, it’s the piggies who have killed this xenologer. The woman who called him to speak the man’s death is like his daughter and Ender is taken with her.

When he gets to Lusitania 40 years later their time, he discovers the Catholic-dominated culture they’re led by their Bishop has been instructed to avoid talking to him because he is Satanic. The young woman who called for him no longer wants him. She was married to a man who beat her, has six children and the family is excessively dysfunctional, and the original xenologer’s son and the woman’s friend and colleague was also killed in a similar manner by the piggies. Two of her children have also called for a speaker and a power struggle ensues. Wiggin stays to do his speaking, against all odds. He also meets the piggies and many mysteries are answered while more are brought up.

There’s a lot that goes on in this book. Two of the young scientists disobey the law to teach the piggies some things to make them more self sufficient. They know that if they get caught, if could mean the end of the colony. And they are caught and Starways Congress sentences them to transport to the nearest planet decades away for trial and a probable prison sentence. Even if they get off, they’ll likely never see their families again, as they’ll probably be dead by the time they return home. Meanwhile, Andrew proves to be a healing presence in Novinha’s family and life (the woman who originally called him and no longer wants him there), even against her will. She’s now a bitter, unhappy woman. She’s frankly an unpleasant character. But Ender sees something in her. Progress is made.

Another character who is really cool is Jane, some form of advanced AI, which is really an understatement, with near-godlike powers. She lives in the wires of the universal networks and has been there for thousands of years. She knows all, or nearly all, and is Ender’s best friend. Something major happens, though, and another character is introduced to Jane and things change. Jane goes on to play an increasingly significant role in the rest of the Ender books in the series, so if you’re reading the whole series, pay attention.

The overall premise of the book, then, is excellent – mankind’s dark history with the buggers, their potential for redemption with the piggies, the mysterious evil Descolada virus, the precautions taken to protect xenobiology, etc. But it’s the characters who are the stars. They make the book what it is, truly excellent. Ender, who is the epitome of humanity in his genius, wisdom, tenacity, and ruthlessness, is the killer seeking redemption, and the last Hive Queen, of course Jane, the insecure sentient AI, Ender’s brilliant sister, Valentine, bitter Novinho, the brilliant but angry xenobiologist who Ender is determined to make accept his love, and her dysfunctional family, and then there are the piggies themselves, an alien race who rank up there with some of the better alien species we’ve seen in science fiction. And don’t forget the buggers, who make their fearsome appearance at the very end of the novel. The characters carry this novel.

Perhaps one of my favorite scenes in the novel is Ender’s speaking the death of Marcão, Novinha’s late husband. It’s a brilliant scene and a bit of a show stopper. You know some of the things that are coming, but even then, you’re still surprised by some of it. And the reactions of the crowd are priceless. It’s truly an emotional scene and epitomizes Wiggin’s role in the world as he lives it these days.

Speaker for the Dead isn’t a perfect book. But it’s damn close. I was so impressed with it that I immediately moved it into my list of top five books of all time. Not sci fi books. All works of literature. I think it’s that good. It covers just about anything you want it to cover. It’s all encompassing. It’s heavy on the philosophy and I like that. It makes you think. It’s so much more than the average sci fi book where you see a space/warship or alien, shoot, and go bang. This is a thinking man’s sci fi, and again, I’d argue it’s literature or literary fiction, not merely sci fi. It’s the second book in a four book series. I’ve already finished the series, so I know what I think of the next two books. I think this is the best of the bunch. It’s most definitely possible to read this as a standalone book, if you want to do that. A strong five stars. Most strongly recommended book possible! ( )
  scottcholstad | Apr 9, 2016 |
Ender Wiggins is 3,000 years old, as Earthlings count time, but only 35 years old in terms of actual 'lived' time, if that makes sense. He's spent a lot of 'time' in interstellar faster-than-light-speed travel, hopped from planet to planet like a water skeeter traverses a lake's surface, and thus hasn't 'aged' in the same way other people age. As I understand it, Ender, though 3,000 Earth-years old, is only 35 his-own-years old; "his own years" being the actual seconds and 'days' and 'years' -- i.e., elapsed 'Ender' time -- that constitute conscious, sentient life. So, in effect, it's not like he's gained 3,000 years of experience, so to speak, he's just stepped out of Earth's time system at point "0 years" and then stepped back at point "3,000 Earth years later."

Ender Wiggins is a Speaker for the Dead. He travels from planet to planet 'speaking' the deaths of anyone whose survivors request EW's services. A Speaker for the Dead gives what are in effect highly, uncomfortably, HD funeral talks. A Speaker of the Dead speaks the totality of any given subject's life. The good, the bad, the pretty, the ugly, etc. A Speaker for the Dead's funeral talk is a 3rd-person omniscient narrative of a subjective life.

For example, if a SFtD were to 'speak' Adolf Hitler's life, we would learn about not only all the atrocities Hitler committed, but also about the quiet, human moments, too. We'd learn, for e.g., about Helga his loyal, two-legged Dachshund who met Adolf every night when he came home from Hitler Jugend pep rallies or Reichstag building firebuggery or whatever evil deed doing he happened to be in the middle of that day, but quitting time's quitting time, and you've got to get home to Ava and Helga, etc.; little Helga perking up when she hears the car come up the drive, dragging her small, ovoid canine body all the way across the large entrance's polished parquet floor, barking teutonically between asthmatic wheezes, drooling freely, 'rushing' to greet her own, private Haus-Fuehrer, Adolf opening and closing the door, shouting, "Hallo! Ich bin's," dropping his briefcase and to his knees, smacking both thighs with flat hands, the open, vaulted entrance resounding with the repeated, meaty smacking of a fuehrer thighs for his beloved schatz-Hund Helga, the small dog's loud panting and the metal collar's clink-a-clink, etc.

And notice: the Dachshund's large, round paranoiac eyes are the very same, in shape, texture, color and size as the Fuehrer's own, burning, bulgy eyes. That Hitlerian hortatory crazy-eye, so intense and frightening to behold on the man, is somewhat risible and charming to behold on the dog.

And now the audience is picturing either Hitler's face on a dog, replete with that iconic tiny 'brush-stache,' along with swart, hanging dog ears, or the dog's face on the man. And this ridiculous picture, while not necessarily endearing or heart-warming, does at least humanize the guy a tad. And so on, ad infinitum.

I got a little carried away, but that's the basic gist of what a Speaker for the Dead does.

Speaker for the Dead, the novel, is about the planet Lucitania and its inhabitants. There are the indigenous peoples, the so-called "Piggies" or "Little Ones," small and furry creatures that I imagined as Ewoks, and there is the walled-off community of humans, who've come to study the Piggies. Only a xenologist is allowed to directly contact the Piggies. Ender is called into action when the planet's only two xenologists are brutally slaughtered by the Piggies. What Ender discovers on Lucitania and the events he sets into motion culminate in the inhabitants of Lucitantia rebelling against the entire human race, cutting off contact with the other 99 worlds that constitute the Federation of Humans on 100 Worlds (my words but the novel's concept), and setting the stage for an all-out Xenocide (the last Xenocide was when young little Ender unwittingly destroyed the 'Bugger' civilization). ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
I found it interesting that in the introduction, the author confesses that *this* is the story he really had in mind when he first started writing the Ender books, but that it turned out that the kind of backstory he created for this story actually became the first book in the series, [b:Ender's Game|375802|Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)|Orson Scott Card|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1214413570s/375802.jpg|2422333], and this the sequel even though it was conceptualized first.

It seemed more adult to me than Ender's Game. Where the subjects of that book were children and computer games (though against a backdrop of war, and with some serious political/philosophical threads), the subjects of this book are adults and anthropology and biology, in the context of studying an alien species. I think that changes the whole tone of the story.

Also, some of the characters occasionally lapse into their "native" Portuguese, and although most of the Portuguese phrases are translated, not all of them are, and some of the names are Portuguese as well. The introduction in my edition talked about this and offered some pronunciation tips so you could try to work out the characters' names in your head, but I didn't want to flip back to the intro every time I came across a Portuguese word, so I probably made up my own [very wrong:] pronunciations. I sortof thought that detracted, or at least distracted, from the story somewhat.

In the end though, maybe because of my background in anthropology, I found the central problems of the book -- how to interpret the actions of an alien species, how to explore a unfamiliar culture without contaminating it, and whether there are different levels of alienness (other-ness) that carry correspondingly different levels of responsibility in our behaviors towards them -- to be extremely fascinating. So, four stars. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Lusitania
It is as a Speaker that Andrew Wiggin comes to Lusitania. Once sentient life is discovered, the colony is turned into a virtual prison, with its expansion severely limited and its whole existence centering, essentially, around the work of the xenologers. The piggies, who live in the forests and worship the trees around them, are highly intelligent, and facile at linguistics, but study and cultural interchange is hampered by a strict policy of non-interference.[3] One interesting cultural characteristic emerges quickly: at one point, a male piggy is found flayed and staked to the ground with a tree growing out of him.[4] Lusitania itself is remarkably lacking in biodiversity, featuring thousands of unfilled ecological niches. The other outstanding feature of Lusitania is the Descolada, a native virus which almost wipes out the colony, until husband-and-wife biologists Gusta and Cida succeed in developing counters. Unfortunately, as described in the book, they didn't find the cure soon enough to save themselves, leaving orphaned daughter Novinha to strike out for herself...[5]


[edit] Novinha
At the age of thirteen, Novinha, a cold and distant girl, successfully petitions to be made the official biologist of the colony (roughly the equivalent of a master's degree); from then on, she contributes to the work of father-and-son xenologists (alien anthropology) Pipo and Libo, and for a short time there is family and camaraderie. One day, however, she makes a discovery about the descolada—that it's in every native lifeform—and Pipo rushes out to talk to the piggies about the discovery without telling her or Libo why it's important. They can't figure it out on their own, and never learn—a few hours later, Pipo is found vivisected in the grass; his corpse does not even have the benefit of a tree (The symbol of honor placed among all great piggies). Novinha erases all the lab work, but cannot delete the information itself due to regulations; Libo demands to see it, but even their love for each other will not make her let him see it—it appears to be a secret the piggies will kill to keep. Now Novinha is determined to ensure they never marry, the way they always planned to: for if they do, Libo will have access to those locked files and, Novinha fears, will share the same fate as his father. In anguish, Novinha calls for a Speaker for the Dead, hoping beyond hope that perhaps the original Speaker may arrive, to make sense of Pipo's death—and maybe of her life.


[edit] Ender/Andrew Wiggin
Andrew Wiggin doesn't dare let himself be known as Ender anymore; the name is practically an expletive. Ender decides to leave his sister Valentine behind (she is married and pregnant) after traveling with her for many years. He leaves as soon as possible. He arrives on Lusitania after twenty-two years in transit (only a week or so to him) to discover that Novinha has canceled her call, or rather tried to, as a call for a speaker cannot legally be canceled after the speaker has begun the journey. However, two others have called, making Ender's trip not entirely in vain: they are Novinha's eldest son Miro, calling for someone to speak the death of Libo, who was killed the same way his father was; and Novinha's eldest daughter Ela, calling for someone to speak the death of Novinha's husband Marcos Ribeira, who died not six weeks ago from a terminal disease. Besides attempting to unravel the question of why Novinha married Marcão when she really loved Libo (Marcão was sterile, and a quick genetic scan on Jane's part reveals that Novinha's children are all, in fact, Libo's), Ender also takes responsibility for attempting to heal the Ribeira family, and manages to adopt (or perhaps is adopted by) most of the children within their first meeting. He also takes a strong interest in the pequeninos, and eventually (in direct violation of Starways Congress law) meets with them in person. The Hive Queen has also managed to make contact with the pequeninos philotically, and has told them a number of things—including the fact that "Andrew Wiggin" is not only the original Speaker for the Dead, but the original Xenocide as well, which romantically involved Zenadors (a shortened form of the word xenologists) Miro and Ouanda do not believe. The Hive Queen very emphatically wants to be revived and freed on Lusitania. Finally, in an effort to help Ender, Jane deliberately reveals to Starways Congress that Miro and Ouanda, continuing the legacy of Ouanda's dead father Libo, have been deliberately introducing new technology into the piggy lifestyle. Both Zenadors are called away to the nearest world for trial (a journey that would take twenty-two years), the colony's charter is revoked, and all humans are ordered to evacuate posthaste, leaving no sign of ever having been there.


[edit] The Speaking
Ender holds a public speaking for Marcão, Novinha's late husband. However, Ender cannot but help reveal secrets from the lives of Libo, Pipo, and even Novinha herself as their lives were all so delicately bound together by guilt, deception, and love. The Speaker explains how Novinha blames herself for Pipo's death, and underwent a life of suffering and deception—marrying Marcão so that they could both avoid the stigma of singlehood in a Catholic colony, but secretly trysting with Libo—because their love for each other never truly died. The meaning of Pipo's and Libo's murders come out as well: the trees are the "third stage" in the life of the piggies. Trees grown from piggies killed normally become brothertrees, but the ritually dissected ones are done so in order to make them fathertrees—sentient, living trees that are, unlike animal pequeninos, capable of reproduction (the descolada is proved to be instrumental in these transformations). Finally, the Speaker for the Dead is able to work out a treaty with the piggies, so that humans and pequeninos might live in peace. Unfortunately, it is not without cost: Miro, distraught to learn that Ouanda, his girlfriend in secret, is actually his sister, attempts to cross the fence, which separates the humans from the piggies, and suffers significant neurological damage. With no other way to save him, the colony declares itself in rebellion, Jane shuts off outside ansible contact, Miro is rescued, and Ender enters the forest to negotiate the aforementioned treaty. He signs it "Ender Wiggin," and for the first time in his life, someone (Novinha) is prepared to receive the Xenocide with compassion instead of revulsion.

Valentine and her family plan to come to Lusitania to help out in the rebellion, aided by Jane; Miro, with his crippled body, is sent into space to meet them; the Hive Queen is released, ready to begin the continuation of her species; and Ender marries Novinha.


[edit] Meaning of the term "Speaker for the Dead"
In this novel's precursor, Ender's Game, the last surviving member of the 'the Buggers' contacts the lead character (Ender Wiggin), who had unwittingly wiped out the rest of the species. Ender tells the story of the Buggers as it is related to him, and publishes it as The Hive Queen under the pseudonym "Speaker for the Dead." The audience of The Hive Queen is not aware of the identity of the author (or that the work is factual and not speculative). However, Hegemon Peter Wiggin (Ender's brother) recognized the writing and requested that Ender also act as 'his' "Speaker". Ender complies with the request by writing a second book titled The Hegemon, giving a parallel, but uniquely human, perspective to the ideas and lessons of "The Hive Queen".

The two books become classics and inspire the rise of a movement of Speakers for the Dead. The movement is not a religion, although Speakers are treated with the respect accorded to a priest or cleric. Any citizen has the legal right to summon a Speaker (or a priest of any faith, which Speakers are legally considered) to mark the death of a family member. Speakers research the dead person's life and give a speech that attempts to speak for them, describing the person's life as he or she tried to live it. This speech is not given in order to persuade the audience to condemn or forgive the deceased, but rather a way to understand the person as a whole, including any flaws or misdeeds.

The novel begins 3,081 years after the events of the first book, by which time the works of The Hive Queen and The Hegemon have caused the human race to let go of its hatred of the Buggers and instead revile Ender as "The Xenocide", who exterminated an entire species. Ender himself, now using his real name of Andrew Wiggin, is still alive due to relativistic space travel, and still acting as a Speaker for the Dead. No one connects "Andrew Wiggin" with "Ender Wiggin", nor do they connect him (as "Andrew" or "Ender") with the original Speaker for the Dead.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orson Scott Cardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Birney, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DiFate, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lemoine, DanielTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rudnicki, StefanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stuyter, M.K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Gregg Keizer who already knew how
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Since we are not yet fully comfortable with the idea that people from the next village are as human as ourselves, it is presumptuous in the extreme to suppose we could ever look at sociable, tool-making creatures who arose from other evolutionary paths and see not beasts but brothers, not rivals but fellow pilgrims journeying to the shrine of intelligence.
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Only one rabbi dared to expect of us such a perfect balance that we could preserve the law and still forgive the deviation. So, of course, we killed him.
No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one’s life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.
Order and disorder, they each have their beauty.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812532570, Mass Market Paperback)

Ender Wiggin, the hero and scapegoat of mass alien destruction in Ender's Game, receives a chance at redemption in this novel. Ender, who proclaimed as a mistake his success in wiping out an alien race, wins the opportunity to cope better with a second race, discovered by Portuguese colonists on the planet Lusitania. Orson Scott Card infuses this long, ambitious tale with intellect by casting his characters in social, religious and cultural contexts. Like its predecessor, this book won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker of the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War. Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens' ways are strange and frightening, again, humans die. And it is only the speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery, and the truth. -Back cover.… (more)

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