14 October 2012

Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1986 Hugo Award Winner
Got it from: Public Library
14 h 0 m

When Speaker for the dead resumes Ender’s story, it is 3000 years later and he has continued to fill the role of speaker for the dead that he began at the conclusion of Ender’s Game.  Flitting about the Hundred Worlds at near relativistic speeds, he hasn’t aged much and he still struggles to atone for the monstrous act he committed against the Buggers.  But now, on the world of Lusitania, Ender may have found the perfect planet – the only planet really – where he can release the Hive Queen.  But before he can do that, he’ll have to deal with yet another sentient alien race, the “Piggies”.

“This is the real book”
According to the author himself, this is the book that Orson Scott Card wanted to write.  After a fairly successful running of Ender’s Game as a novelette, he was given the opportunity to write a sequel of sorts.  In the afterwards to the audiobooks for both Ender and Speaker, he said that while he was happy with the success of Ender’s Game, he never intended to write it (as a full length novel).  In fact, he said that when he sat down to write what would have essentially been the sequel to the Ender novelette, that it was the longer novel version that came out instead, and thus did one book become two.  Well, obviously Ender-the-novel received even greater success than the novelette, but according to Card, it wasn’t until he finally got around to Speaker for the Dead that he was able to write the novel that he had always intended.

Apparently, after an experience while on a mission in Brazil, he had come up with the idea to write a story about what it would be like if we actually told the truth about really bad people when they died.  Thence, he tells us, came Speaker for the Dead.

While Speaker was ostensibly a continuation of Ender’s story, Card’s writing was anything but a continuation of what he began in Ender’s Game.  In Speaker, Card’s style feels/reads a lot more like one of Asimov’s Foundation novels with its excruciatingly twisted plot which is only uncovered piece by piece by copious philosophical, deliberative and wonderfully intense dialogue.

As different as the writing, story and characters were, and as much time as has transpired between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, they really shouldn’t have been two novels.  I found it funny that Card would take the time to explain, twice, that “this is the real book”, when in fact it’s not so different from Ender’s Game.  It felt like the Red Delicious Apple syndrome.  If you have to tell people it’s great, is it…really?  I mean, I readily admit that it was Ender’s struggle with his two selves and humanity’s regret and remorse after having exterminated the Buggers that most fascinated me, and that I still enjoyed Speaker for the Dead quite thoroughly.  I just feel like he should have written it as one (longer) book because it didn’t really cover much ground that wasn’t begun in Ender’s Game.  Given that trying to write speaker, Card accidentally wrote a longer version of Ender’s Game, it seems like his writing brain might have agreed with me.

This is a funny book when considered along with Ender’s Game.  As great as it was, I also feel kind of…meh…about it.  Yes, there were some great moments, but as a stand-alone novel, I’m not sure that it works.  Much of the Ender’s tension relies heavily on events from the first novel and although the Piggies were an interesting attempt to give this novel a life of its own, it seems to me that it would only work for those who really want a “deep set” (ahh!  Cyteen is still controlling my brain!) on Ender’s moral and psychological journey.  But then, apparently many people did as it won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus SF Awards!


Universe 4/5
Social/Political Climate 4/5
Dialogue 5/5
Scientific Wonders 4/5
Characters 3/5

Overall 20/25

I am currently reading Startide Rising by David Brin.

Next week’s book is The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge which I am also…currently…reading J


  1. I think this was the last of these books that I finished. I was reading Xenocide and wasn't terribly into it, so when it came due at the library, I just took it back and didn't look back.

    1. I was pretty into Card when I was like twelve, so I didn't have anything else particularly to occupy my time. If I tried to read the series again today, I wonder if I'd be as bored by Xenocide as I was then.

      Speaker I thought had some interesting moments in it, but I think some of its more adult moments kind of skimmed over my twelve-year old head. It wasn't as overt about cool action scenes and kid interactions as Ender's Game. And there's a little more horror, and a little more heartbreak in it. I should give it another shot and see what my adult self thinks of.

    2. Hi, Neal. [waves]

      I came a little late to Card (late teens) and wonder if I'd have been more into it if I'd started younger?

      As an adult, I think it's kind of too late for me to try to enjoy his work anew. Right now I'm fully aware that my opinion of Orson Scott Card as a person will taint my view of Orson Scott Card as an author.

  2. It really was a striking departure of style and energy compared to Ender's Game. I'm not sure that I would ever feel motivated enough to try Xenocide.

    1. I'm inclined to tell you to just not bother. ;)

    2. JEREMY! Why, oh why is this post such a spam magnet? I laugh every time I get an email!

    3. Holy cow, I know. It has been bad lately. I guess I should deal with it. They are pretty funny sometimes though - one told me that I may have been a road block to my father's success. Yikes!

      Sorry for all the crap emails!

    4. HAHAHAHA! Okay, so - it may be the wine laughing, but I don't think so.

      Also - TENTATIVELY planning a drinkalong for early next month with The Stand miniseries (possibly split up into two or three pieces). You in?

    5. And the thing is, when I read it, I thought "yeah, I probably was. Jesus, sorry Dad." I'm not sure how I feel about my spam cutting so deep!

      I'm definitely in for a drinkalong. This particular drinkalong would require me to watch an adaptation of a book I haven't read. Um, I think I could get away with it for my first drinkalong?

    6. Awww, man...self-realization through spam. THEY JUST WANT YOU TO HAVE A BETTER LIFE!

      I totally considered pressuring you to try to read it in the next two weeks, not gonna lie. But I AM HOLDING BACK.

      The miniseries is not terrible but is in places very unintentionally funny. If you're not planning on reading it soonish, I'd say you could be okay.

      Plus, really - how much of it are you going to remember? Hey-o!

    7. Oh...I am laughing at every line.

      Thank you for holding back. I'm sure it was difficult.

      So then, as long as your rules are structured in such a way that it ensures I don't remember it and I promise not to read it until some distant time in the future, we would have a deal?

      Also I'm calling March 8th off limits. Do not do it then. That would be the worst thing ever.

    8. I can PROBABLY schedule it for the 1st and 15th? I will get back to you.

  3. I like "Speaker" a lot. Perhaps even a tad more than "Ender's Game" itself, as sacrilegious this my appear. I enjoyed the alieness of Piggy culture and the horrific even if innocent consequences cultural misunderstandings brought about. It is subtle indictment of colonialism and the missionary impetus of the old colonial powers. The weakest part of the story is Jane, even though the pivotal moment in which the Speaker 'disconnects' her and the ensuing developments were very well crafted. The omnipresent artificial sentience did not fit very well and often felt contrived, like a very convenient plot device. Nonetheless, I was still somewhat blown away by it.

    1. That's how I thought you land on this one. I can't say I disagree with any of your observations. This was a much more emotional journey than Ender's Game and I did like the colonialism theme as you did. I guess I still feel like they should have been one super-uber-mega-book though. Maybe I need to get over it and just know that it's an interesting and very cohesive continuation of the story?

      Did you read any more from this series?

  4. Have to say that I don't feel the same about this one. I found it to be fantastic. Better than Ender's Game, which I liked very much but did think Speaker was a better story. I was admittedly pretty sucked in by both of them though and was blown away by both of them. I need to get on with reading the series. I've heard that the rest of them are not as good these two but I'm still interested in giving them a try at some point.

    1. You know, as much as I enjoyed griping about this and Ender's Game not being one book, it still occupies my thoughts quite frequently some weeks later! That probably says a lot right there. And it's even harder to forget about this one because my 3-year old daughter loves to look for "piggies" whenever we go for walks outdoors!

      If she only knew what I was really thinking about when she asks me "I wonder why the piggies don't come out Daddy?"

  5. Yes, that would freak her out!

    I respect your opinions on the book, I just didn't have that experience. But I know these two books in particular seem to generate a lot of opinions all over the spectrum. Like any book, we all have our own tastes.

    1. I know! But telling me you think I'm wrong wouldn't get you on my bad side anyway :)

  6. Well, in that case... LOL! Perhaps if you were to say Winnie the Pooh was the worse children's book ever written I would say "You're wrong!", but not with Card.


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