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Speaker for the Dead is the sort-of sequel to the #1 book on this list, Ender’s Game, although the books share very little in terms of themes, setting and characters, except for the main character. And while this follow up is not as instantly memorable or revelatory as its predecessor, it is still a fascinating story in its own right and a worthy follow up to one of the most celebrated science fiction novels of all time. Judging solely by the cover of the book, you’d think that it would include as many high speed space fights and action packed adventures as the first book. In reality, the book leans much more towards the philosophical and contemplative. Most of the characters, including Ender, are psychologically damaged and dealing with extreme sadness and guilt. The events in the novel are fueled by the characters’ desires to make up for past failures and regain their own humanity. This is not a light read by any sense of the imagination, but it is one that I recommend nonetheless.
Speaker for the Dead Summary: Set nearly 3,000 years after the events of the first novel, ‘Speaker’ continues the story of Andrew Wiggin (still only 30 years old due to relativistic space travel) as he assumes the role of “Speaker for the Dead,” a quasi-religious figure who travels around the galaxy performing eulogies for people who have died in the hopes of illuminating the “Truth” of their lives. Ender is summoned to a planet called Lusitania to “Speak” for the xenologer (alien anthropologist) Pipo who died at the hands of the Pequeninos, a race of sentient beings that are the only other intelligent species that mankind has come into contact with since their disastrous encounter with the Formics thousands of years prior. While Pipo’s death is particularly gruesome, the alien nature of the Pequeninos (along with the lessons learned from the xenocide of the Buggers) indicates that the murder may not have been as malicious as it seemed.
As Ender begins to collect information for The Speaking, he starts to learn more (and become more interested in the Pequeninos), eventually making contact with them in violation of the law. After learning more about the killing of Pipo and the reason behind his vivisection, he attempts to form a treaty with them so that they might live in peace with the humans. When the Starways Congress finds out about the breach of security, they immediately recall all humans from the planet, causing them to form a united rebellion.
Speaker for the Dead Review: Readers hoping for a continuation of the story told in Ender’s Game will be severely disappointed by Speaker (for that, see Ender’s Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon). But those who are interested in following Card to the logical conclusions and consequences of the first novel will be rewarded with a richly imagined story that serves as a form of redemption and release for Ender as he is finally able to rid himself of the burden of his xenocide. In essence, he is being given a second chance at establishing a relationship with an alien species built through trust and understanding rather than fear and violence. Card himself has said that Ender’s Game was written mainly as a prologue to Speaker, and even though that novel received much more critical acclaim, I can see where he might of thought of it as a prelude to the real themes he wanted to discuss in the second novel. Either way, you can’t go wrong with any of the books in this series in my opinion.