Sunday, September 16, 2007

Becky's Review of Speaker for the Dead


Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card.

Speaker for the Dead is the sequel to Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. But in many ways, it is even more instrumental than Ender's Game. You see, Ender's Game started out as a story--a short story. Orson Scott Card was working on ideas for a new novel, and the basic premise of Speaker for the Dead came to him. Although, at the time the Speaker was a Singer. He thought and worked and thought and worked. And then it came to him, what if the Speaker was Ender! What if he used one of his *old* characters, and gave him a new story. There was one problem. The story needed to be fleshed out before this new novel could work. And it needed more "fleshing" than just a simple prologue or chapter could do. What he needed was to turn his original story into a novel all its own. This is when the characters (we know and love) came into existence. This is when Andrew/Ender was "born."

Speaker for the Dead is a sequel, but it didn't begin life that way--and you don't have to read it that way, either. It was my intention all along for Speaker to be able to stand alone, for it to make sense whether you have read Ender's Game or not. Indeed, in my mind this was the "real" book; if I hadn't been trying to write Speaker for the Dead back in 1983, there would never have been a novel version of Ender's Game at all.
How did Speaker for the Dead come to be? As with all my stories, this one began with more than one idea. The concept of a "speaker for the dead" arose from my experiences with death and funerals. I have written of this at greater length elsewhere; suffice it to say that I grew dissatisfied with the way that we use our funerals to revise the life of the dead, to give the dead a story so different from their actual life that, in effect, we kill them all over again. No, that is too strong. Let me just say that we erase them, we edit them, we make them into a person much easier to live with than the person who actually lived.
I rejected that idea. . . No, to understand who a person really was, what his or her life really meant, the speaker for the dead would have to explain their self-story--what they meant to do, what they actually did, what they regretted, what they rejoiced in. That's the story that we never know, the story that we never can know--and yet, at the time of death, it's the only story truly worth telling.
Speaker for the Dead is the story of a planet, a colony, in need. Lusitania. Home of colonists, Catholic colonists who speak Portuguese and Stark, and home of the "Piggies", pequeninos, "Little Ones." It has been three thousand years since the close of Ender's Game. Humans have supposedly learned much since the xenocide. They have come to regret the destruction of the Hive Queen and the "buggers" and have a new policy when dealing with alien species. This policy plays an important role in Speaker for the Dead. The pequeninos are different--very different from the human colonists. Their is a fence separating the two. Only xenologists--one or two at a time--could visit the pequeninos. Only for a few hours each day. And their were strict guidelines as to how much they could ask and tell. Pipo and Libo are the xenologists. One master, one apprentice. Novinha is the (young) xenobiologist. The three work together closely, but when tragedy strikes--Pipo's murdered by the Piggies--lives are destroyed and things are set into motion that can't be undone.

Andrew Wiggin is THE Speaker for the Dead, though only a few know it. (There are many who have that title of "speaker" but only one is the original. The author of The Hive Queen and the Hegemon.) When he receives the call to 'speak' the death of Pipo, he begins his journey to Lusitania...little knowing that it will forever change his life and determine his destiny.

There are many things I loved about Speaker. I love how Ender has matured into Andrew. I loved seeing how much he's grown...changed. He is wise. But his wisdom doesn't make him less human, it makes him more human. I love how this novel is about taking broken things, messy things, ugly things--and making them whole, making sense of the chaos, making them beautiful. In some ways, it is more philosophical than Ender's Game. Again, it is the characters that make Speaker for the Dead such an outstanding novel. His characters aren't perfect--far from it--but they're real.

Sickness and healing are in every heart. Death and deliverance are in every hand. (240)

Of all of the humans, he is the one who will understand us. (347)

When you really know someone, you can't hate them. (370)

Once you understand what people really want, you can't hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can't hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart. (370)

1 comment:

Chris said...

What a beautiful review Becky...you gave me goosebumps :) You know my thoughts on this books. I think it's one of the greatest accomplishments in the modern written form. I didn't know the story behind the writing of this novel! Thanks for sharing that..how cool! It definitely works as a stand alone novel, though I like it as a follow up to Ender's Game. Like you said, I enjoy seeing the change from Ender to Andrew. I have to read this one again soon...I never tire of it.