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Speaker for the Dead (The Ender Quintet) Paperback – August 15, 1992
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A Reading Guide for Ender's Game.
THE ENDER UNIVERSE
Ender's Series: Ender Wiggin: The finest general the world could hope to find or breed.
Ender's Shadow Series: Parallel storylines to Ender’s Game from Bean: Ender’s right hand, his strategist, and his friend.
The First Formic War Series: One hundred years before Ender's Game, the aliens arrived on Earth with fire and death. These are the stories of the First Formic War.
The Authorized Ender Companion: A complete and in-depth encyclopedia of all the persons, places, things, and events in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Universe.
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.
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Since mankind destroyed the only other sentient race mankind ever came into contact with, 3000 years ago, the protection and respect for alien life has become something of a religion, with Andrew Wiggin as the devil that snuffed out an entire race in a mad dash towards the buggers homeworld, laying waste to them whereever he encountered their fleets, and finally turning their world and their entire population into a veritable hell by means of the "Little Doctor" device. Killing everyone and everything, and making mankind lonely among the stars again. A huge misunderstanding, as it became clear, years after the deed was done.
The piggies of Lusitania, an alien race able to communicate and interact verbally with humans, appear as primitives to be protected by decree of Starways Congress, the ruling body of the interstellar human civilisation. Never again will the human race perpetrate xenocide. But Lusitania, the piggies and the plague that nearly wiped out the small human colony, hold secrets that may challenge that resolve. When some of the truly alien aspects of the piggie way of life become apparent, along with the threath the descolada virus of Lusitania poses, 3000 years of religious condemnation of the very concept of xenocide is shaken to the core.
Ender Wiggin, the original speaker for the dead and keeper of the last living bugger queen, seeks redemption, a new world for the buggers, and attempts to bridge the gap between the increasingly scary piggies and the humans of Lusitania, as he searches for the "why" of it all.
One of the things I like about Ender Scott Cards books is that he doesn`t gett bogged up in the technology. We get spaceflight, but that`s just a way of travel. Instant communication from anywhere in the universe to anywhere else is just the kind of phone mankind will need if they are to build a civilisation among the stars. This series of books are so totally storydriven that, like Star Trek, they could be made into a series of films with precious little tech involved.
Is it truly possible for an individual to meet an alien as some sort of equal? Can the minds touch, can the two truly understand each other? What about a colony, or an entire civilisation? Enderson Scott Card is not very optimistic on behalf of the human race.
The story starts with a grissly murder on one of the human colonists by one or more of the piggies. The first time I read this book, I read it more as a crime novel rather than a story about xenophobia, otherness and secrets. And more than a little condescending attitude towards the primitives. Is it wrong to give the primitives coca cola and zippo lighters and mess with their traditions, or should we go all the way and opt for masters degrees to all?
The long gap in Enders life between the end of Enders Game and this one is also a minor drawback, although it gets filled in with the last book in the series and on a need to know basis in this one, so it did not bother me that much. And I thought it hard to understand a scientist hiding the truth from another scientist that she had close ties to, in order to protect him, and not recognizing that knowledge is the best safeguard in that situation.
In "Ender's Game," most of the book is devoted to Ender's time in the Battle School. What we read about there is Ender's transition from little boy on Earth, a Third who experiences a difficult life on a planet experiencing societal difficulties, going off to train in the business of war. While it is an arduous physical journey for Ender, and he does have some difficulty with psychological issues such as separation from family, learning how to compromise his ethics in order to survive, and learning how to lead other people, those psychological issues seemed secondary for much of the book. Only at the end of the first story are we introduced with the psychological significance of what Ender was compelled to do.
That is why I do not understand the apparent lack of people making the transition over to this, the follow-up. All of the big questions seemed to hang out there, dangling like a teaser at the end. How could anyone not continue on to see how Ender would cope with his xenocide, especially since it is revealed at the end of that book that a hive queen survived and was communicating with Ender? How could they not continue on to see how his colony had turned out, how humanity had turned out after moving forward from the society Peter had left behind?
All of these important questions are explored in "Speaker for the Dead," and they are handled really well. The concept of a Speaker for the Dead is fascinating, especially in the context of Ender's story. Here is a boy who was essentially tricked into killing off an entire intelligent species, just to find that he had an opportunity for redemption. First Ender writes the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, turning his own name into an epithet. The humanity that once loved him as their savior has turned their back on him, casting him off as the personification of evil. Later this redemption continues as Ender takes on the role of Speaker, teaching people that, as is explained in the book, good and evil both exist in the same heart. He essentially primes people for understanding what he did, his actions and his motivations, hoping that one day he would earn his redemption. "Here is the good, here is the bad. No judgement. Just the truth."
At first the fast forward three thousand years into the future seems ridiculous, but as the book continues it begins to make more sense. We get to see a society that seems to have taken Ender's lessons in the Hive Queen and the Hegemon to heart, but as we learn in the book humanity only seems to have learned that lesson because it was convenient. The true test comes when they encounter another sentient species. Ender has changed, but has humanity really changed, even after three thousand years?
In this book humanity gets another chance, this time with the benefit of hindsight. Will they repeat their mistakes, or learn from them and handle things better this time around? That is one of the central questions that is answered in this book. The answer is made clear by the end of this book, so I will not spoil it in my review.
The concept of the Hierarchy of Foreignness is also fascinating. Anyone who has spent any time considering interaction with other species will be compelled by this story. I know people of my generation have seen Cosmos, and likely remember the scene where Carl Sagan discusses the problems we would face when interacting with alien intelligent life. To paraphrase: "We can't even interact with the other intelligent life on our own planet." And then closer to today we have Stephen Hawking's speculation on how alien races would treat us if they encountered us first. Anyone who has seen these things and engaged in any thought experiment will be compelled by this story as they read about individuals and a society struggle with determining where the piggies and buggers fall on this hierarchy.
Maybe because we live in a time with no space operas on television, young people are not drawn to these ethical questions as much as those of us who grew up on shows like Star Trek. We watched stories about humanity struggling against its worst impulses to be the people that they wanted to be. So reading such a story seems pretty natural, and darn entertaining. That is why I find "Speaker for the Dead" so much more compelling than "Ender's Game." It is also why I find the reviews bemoaning the lack of "action" of the first book. Ender does not need to cave a Bonzo's nose into his brain in every book in order for significant, compelling action to have taken place. "Speaker for the Dead" has actions in spades, as complex characters evolve and change in response to the events that they encounter. You should not be disappointed by this book.
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Can't wait to read the rest!