Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Title: Speaker for the Dead
Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor Books, August 15, 1994
(first published in 1986)
Pages: Paperback, 382
Series: Ender’s Saga #2
Buy it on Amazon.com

From Goodreads: Three thousand planet-bound years have fled since Ender Wiggin won humanity’s war with the Buggers by totally destroying them. Ender remains young-travelling the stars at relativistic speeds, a hundred years or more might pass while he experiences a month-long voyage. In three thousand years, his books The Hive Queen and The Hegemon have become holy writ, and the name of Ender anathema; he is the Xenocide, the one who killed an entire race of thinking, feeling beings, the only other sapient race humankind had found in all the galaxy. The only ones, that is, until the planet called Lusitania was discovered and colonized.

On Lusitania humans found another race of ramen … a young race, beings just beginning to lift their eyes to the stars and wonder what might be out there. The discovery was seen as a gift to humanity, a chance to redeem the destruction of the Buggers. And so the Pequininos, as they were named by the Portuguese-speaking settlers, the “Piggies,” were placed off-limits to the colony. The only humans allowed to meet them and speak with them are trained xenobiologists, and then only two at a time. This time, there will be no tragic misunderstandings leading to war. This time…

This time, again, men die-bizarrely killed by the Piggies. Andrew Wiggin is called to Lusitania to Speak the deaths of the two xenobiologists, and walks into a maelstrom of fear and hatred. To Speak for these dead, he must first unravel the web of secrets surrounding the lives of the Piggies and those who study them. He must Speak not only for the dead, but for a living alien race.

My Rating: (5/5)

Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead is quite a different story from Ender’s Game, but it’s a great one. The setting is new, the characters are mostly all new and Ender is 3,000 years older (sort of). Unlike the first book, my favorite parts of this book have almost nothing to do with Ender. Rather, I’m all about the aliens in this one.

Much of this story takes place before Ender even arrives, which gives the reader a great chance to acclimate to the new surroundings. We are now on the planet Lusitania and we’re even further in the future. There are so many new and wonderful human characters in this book and each has their own separate identity; I both loved and hated most of them. (I think I also picked up a bit of Portuguese from reading this book!)

The alien characters, aka the “Piggies” are extremely complex and mysterious while at the same time very lovable. Never could I have imagined reading a book in which I care so much about the aliens (maybe more than the people!). Perhaps the best thing about this book is that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure out the twist at the end so it was a real and unpredictable surprise ending which I love.

I really loved this book – it’s one of those books you wish didn’t have to end. If you’ve read Ender’s Game and loved it, I think you”ll love this one, too.

[Side note: I have read the next two in the series, but my advice is that if you want to remember the good times, stop after Speaker for the Dead and that way you can always think of Ender fondly.]

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