Speaker for the Dead shows Card's true might. Review by Violet Kane

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In Print
While often overshadowed by its predecessor, Ender's Game, this novel—as Card explains in his brief afterword—is the one he originally set out to write. I must agree, Speaker for the Dead shows the range of Card's talent that was only hinted at in Ender's Game.

Three thousand years after the events of Ender's Game, Ender Wiggin is still only thirty five due to the effects of relativity on space travel—journeys that take weeks for Ender take decades for the outside world. Much has changed in those millennia. Thanks to Ender's books, The Hive Queen and The Hegemon published anonymously under the name "Speaker for the Dead", humankind has come to regret the eradication of the Bugger race, and has villainized Ender throughout ensuing history for having killed them. So many years later, however, no one suspects that professor and Speaker for the Dead, Andrew Wiggin, is in fact the man who committed xenocide so many centuries before. Neither do they suspect that he was, in fact, the original Speaker who wrote the famous texts, which spurred a movement for similar speakings after the deaths of ordinary people. Ender is living on an Icelandic-like planet with his sister Valentine at the opening of the novel. Valentine is about to give birth to her first child when Ender is called away to a distant planet colony to speak a newsworthy death—a xenologist has been killed by the first race of non-human sentient beings found in the universe since the death of the Buggers. Ender is powerfully drawn to speak this death because of the circumstances, fearing that this new race is acting out of cultural misunderstanding, just as the Buggers had. Moreover, the presence of this non-human race on that particular planet has created a series of regulations limiting human habitation to a small area—Ender hopes that he can find a safe place on this new planet for the Hive Queen, whom he has been carrying around for all these years in search of a new home for her race.

Book Cover

On Audio
The above description of this novel's premise touches only on Ender's opening conflicts. To give a taste for the true complexity of this novel would be impossible in so small a space. While Ender's aims guide this narrative, the cast of characters is much larger and quite complex. Card has a beautiful talent for telling a highly complex story, with rich characters interwoven with fascinating speculative concepts, in a style that seems straightforward and simple. Despite the fame of Ender's Game, Card is vastly underappreciated among the canon of science fiction authors, likely because he is comparatively new—though, 25 years (since Ender's Game) of acclaim is no small feat. While Card certainly has earned a great deal of praise and a number of fans from his first novel, Speaker of the Dead proves that he is a cut above most of the concept-heavy masters of science fiction literature. In most of the classics, characters serve to explore the concepts—in Card's work, the concepts serve to explore and challenge the characters. Card's work—Speaker of the Dead being a foremost example—is what science fiction should look like. Unfortunately, it does not manifest this way often enough (Octavia Butler is a notable exception). Card's work is only enhanced by the recent audiobook productions. Again, Stefan Rudnicki as producer and the voice of Ender leads a cast of many of the best audiobook performers of our day.

Either way you read this book, be it in print or in audio, make it a priority on your reading list. Speaker of the Dead is the sort of rare gem that makes the science fiction reader bemoan the lack of more such genius in our genre.

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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