Thousands of years have passed since Ender destroyed the buggers. Humans have grown to regret their decision in attacking the buggers, labeling Ender not as a war hero, but one of history's greatest villains. When a new alien race is discovered, humanity sees a way to redeem themselves, and begin a colony with the purpose of studying the “piggies” as they are called. Only the ways of the piggies are strange and confusing. When they kill a man, people begin not to see them as possible allies, but deadly enemies. And the only one who can save them is Ender Wiggin, the Xenocide.
There's no denying that the resolution of Ender's Game is powerful. Ender, thinking he is taking his final exam for the military, defeats a computer simulation against an entire planet of enemies. Once he is victorious, it is revealed that what he witnessed was not a simulation at all, but a real war and Ender has killed off every last one of the buggers, save for one. When Ender discovers a fertilized queen, he decides to dedicate his life to finding a new planet to rebuild the buggers. When Speaker for the Dead opens, thousand of years have past but Ender is barely more than twenty years older due to the impact star travel has on time. No one has any idea that he is not just a Speaker for the Dead, but one of the most hated men in history. It's a fascinating concept that sucked me in right away.. Ender remains a powerful lead, and I found myself falling in love for him all over again, as he makes strides to make up for the sin he didn't even know he was committing at eleven years old.
With the exception of Valentine, who is present for only a couple of scenes, Speaker for the Dead has an entire new cast of characters. My favorite would have to be Jane, a super-intelligent computer who at times seems quite amoral, but is always very likable. Speaker for the Dead continues Ender's Game's tradition of having gifted children pushed into adult responsibilities at at impossibly young age, but it feels less traumatic this time around. Another one of the themes discussed in this book is the effect of belief, whether by the means of religious faith or otherwise. Ender, as Speaker for the Dead, plays a role of advocate and storyteller for those who have died but lack religious faith, filling in the role that a priest might play. I found it interesting to watch how the primarily Catholic community acted around Ender, who is, for the most part, a nonbeliver.
Speaker for the Dead is a fascinating companion book to Ender's Game. At first, the books appear to have little in common. While Ender's Game is about War, Speaker for the Dead is about the struggle for peace. While Ender's Game is about cruelty, this novel is about love. Ender's Game is written in an almost painfully direct manner, while Speaker feels more nuanced. The books feel like two sides to the same coin, both dealing with the same subject (encountering an alien race) but in a completely different way. Although I did not enjoy the novel as consistently as I did Ender's Game (there are many layers to this novel, and some did not sit as well as others), I found that I liked it a lot, and do plan on continuing the series further.
Rating: four and a half stars
Length: 415 pages
Challenge: This book is not part of any challenges
Similar Books: For other books I've enjoyed about encountering alien races, try Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman (my review), Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause, and The Host by Stephenie Meyer (who, conincidentally enough is a huge fan of Card) (my review)
Other books I've read by this author: Ender's Game (my review)
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