Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

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Author’s website
Publication date – August 15, 1994

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The direct sequel to the classic Ender’s Game from Orson Scott Card, winner of the Nebula and Hugo Awards. In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War. Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered by Portuguese colonists on the planet Lusitania. 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. Orson Scott Card infuses this tale with intellect by casting his characters in social, religious and cultural contexts.

Thoughts: Some argue that this book was superior in all ways to Ender’s Game. I agree that the story was wonderful, detailed, mysterious, and well-researched, and overall I’d say it was a very powerful novel. Stylistically, this one’s superior.

I still enjoyed reading Ender’s Game more, though.

Don’t get me wrong. Speaker for the Dead is a wonderful novel, and I’m glad to have read it. The book before it just appealed to my interests more. That being said, though, it’s interesting to see just how Ender grew up, how he became a different person and yet still showed signs of the killer-child he used to be.

I’m still a sucker for cultural relativism, though, and this book had that in spades. What might be appalling to us is perfectly normal, even respected within other cultures, and learning to see past ourselves is very often the key to solving the mystery and understanding others. The way Card handled the killings of the humans by the piggies was wonderful to read, and trying to solve it kept me amused through the book. (“Is this why they did it? Or maybe because of this?”)

I applaud the man for the research that he put into the writing of this novel, in linguistics and anthropology and biology. The little details made everything so believable, so realistic, that when his smooth writing style drew me in, I forgot everything around me.

——————————

If anything about this bothered me, it was from an outside perspective, where I kept thinking to myself, “Good lord, you missed the point of your own novel.” Orson Scott Card’s views on homosexuality are… ignorant, to say the least. I recall him saying on his blog that if gay marriage was legalized in the United States, he’d storm the White House himself, because homosexuals are just plain wrong and should fix their sorry selves.

And so I couldn’t help but look at everything he says in Speaker for the Dead, about the varying degrees of humanity in creatures that aren’t biologically human, about how just because something seems alien doesn’t mean it’s bad, about how we should understand things from the perspective of the other side before we make our judgments… And I felt sad and disgusted. Whether he had a change of heart between writing the admirable sentiments expressed in the novel and between ranting about the evil gay dangers of the world, or whether he didn’t believe a word of those admirable sentiments when he wrote them, in the end, comparing the two things, he just made himself seem like a prat.

As I said in my review for Ender’s Game, I like the man’s work, but I don’t like the man personally. Too much that he says rubs me raw, and this was certainly one of them.

2 comments on “Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

  1. O.S. Card certainly does weave a magic tapestry between his own social/political/religious beliefs and those that seem to come across in many of his novels, like the Ender Series. Of course, in some of his books, like Empire he comes across as every bit the right-wing bigot. :)

    It makes me sick, but I can't help liking his books. I never buy them first-hand, though – I refuse to support him financially, so I wait until I find the books at a resale shop.

  2. Pingback: Will you or won’t you? | Bibliotropic

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