Sunday, April 13, 2008

Speaker for the Dead

I don't know what to say about this book, because it's so good, so wonderful, so human, in ways I don't know how to articulate. But I'll try.

Speaker for the Dead begins about 3,000 years after the end of Ender's Game. It takes place on the small colony world of Lusitania, whose only human inhabitants are a small village of Brazilian-Portuguese Catholics. However, Lusitania is also home to the first sentient alien species humanity has encountered in the Bugger Wars three millenia earlier. Due to the time dilation effect of faster-than-light travel, Andrew Wiggin is still only 35 years old. When the call goes out for a speaker for the dead, he can't resist travelling to Lusitania.

That's a really inadequate summary, and it only touches on the plot, which, although excellent, isn't at the core of the book. It's the people and ideas that make Speaker for the Dead so special, that set it apart from other science fiction. OSC manages to explore some really compelling xenology and xenobiology (i.e. alien anthropology and biology), without sacrificing character development. Not all the people in Speaker for the Dead are human, but they are all interesting and complex and very, very real, because Card never takes the easy way out.

A good example of this is Bishop Pelegrino, the religious leader of the community. At first, he seems like the reactionary, righteous, slightly stupid Catholic priest recognizable from many other books, but Card is a better writer than to stop there. Although he does have these traits to some degree, they are far outweighed by his ability to be flexible, by his caring for his community, and by his compassion.

I love the world Card creates on Lusitania, because it's just so interesting. The Piggies, of course, and the mystery of their society, but especially the human community of Milagre. I look forward to seeing more of both in the third book in the series, Xenocide. When I started this book, I didn't think any sequel could come close to being as good as Ender's Game, but I was wrong. As amazing as that book was, Speaker for the Dead somehow manages to live up to it. I can now number Orson Scott Card among my very favourite writers.


Becky said...

I'm so happy you enjoyed this one. It is wonderful, isn't it!!

poodlerat said...

I wish I had Xenocide to read right away!