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Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
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Speaker for the Dead (original 1986; edition 1987)

by Orson Scott Card

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11,758152225 (3.98)192
Member:AHS-Wolfy
Title:Speaker for the Dead
Authors:Orson Scott Card
Info:Orbit (1987), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Sci-Fi, Ender, 1010CC

Work details

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card (1986)

Recently added byjohnzie, Orangez, private library, cinstatelibrary, peterach, LydiaMathis, randomarbitrary, Liiiv, Linds0, mooninautumn
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding
  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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» See also 192 mentions

English (144)  Hungarian (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
Predictable mystery, annoying characters, the book was a dissapointment
The characters just wallow too much in their imaginary guilts and aren't nearly as smart as Card insists they are

The alien races were interesting, many great ideas in the story, I just feel it could have been written better
( )
  LauraM77 | Jun 28, 2016 |
I enjoyed this much more than Ender's Game. How can alien species live together? A very interesting consideration of this question. ( )
  kale.dyer | Jun 4, 2016 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

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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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)

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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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