Speaker for the Dead

After ‘Ender’s Game’ I read ‘Speaker for the Dead’ by Orson Scott Card. Since this is part of the same quartet, I’m still considering it in the same category, so no more updates on the book list!

I have to say, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite series of all time. This book continues Ender’s story as he travels throughout space with his sister Valentine. Mankind has found a new species of alien and have a colony on the same planet to be able to monitor the ‘pequeninos’ or ‘piggies’. When a scientist is murdered by the piggies, Ender is called to speak his death. In the time that it takes him to travel between planets (about 20 years), another scientist has been murdered and another man died of disease. While he was in flight, he has been called to speak for these deaths as well.

I love the idea of speaking for the dead. As Ender prepares to speak their deaths (their funerals having been many years in the past now), he gathers whatever information he can from the people closest to them. He unveils their secrets, uncovers their motives, and soon figures out exactly why or how they had to die. He doesn’t do it to appease the gossipers, or to air dirty laundry. He makes the audience deal with the death in a healthy and constructive way. I love the solid truth that comes from the speaking. The honest and emotional back-story to everything that happened to them. Reading the foreword, Orson Scott Card commented that he has had many requests to ‘speak’ at funerals, which is not a bad idea.

Another part of the story I loved is when Ender and the piggies finally start to communicate about what has and should happen with their two species. The piggies had ‘murdered’ two scientists while working with them. They flayed open their bodies on the ground in a truly grotesque fashion. Ender finds out that the piggies have to do that to their dead to move them on to the ‘third life.’ When a piggy makes a discovery or an intellectual revelation, they are given the honor of passing on the the ‘third life.’ They flay their bodies on the ground and a seed is planted and grows into a ‘fathertree.’ It is the highest honor that a piggy can have. Ender reveals that the scientists had discovered something with the piggies about their way of life, or given them something that helped their culture progress. The piggies gave them the choice of sending a piggy to the third life or having the piggy prepare their body for the third life. The scientists didn’t realize that it wasn’t murder in their culture so they always opted to sacrifice themselves rather than ‘kill’ a friend. When Ender discovers this, he cries. The piggies are confused by this and ask another human what it means, and they explain it is when a human experiences sadness or grief that they cry. All the piggies explode into distress, because they saw tears on the faces of the dying scientists and didn’t understand it. They loved those scientists and didn’t realize what they were doing to their human bodies. I cried.

Well, I’m not going too into detail, because it is too much of a story, and I have finished the other two books as well, and need to review those! I really hope anyone who reads this is compelled to read the books as well. They are incredible, and I plan on trying more Orson Scott Card in the future.


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