Ender’s Game was the book that made me fall in love with Science Fiction. I read it in 8th grade and wasted no time plowing into its sequel, Speaker for the Dead. It was so different from Ender’s Game. Though the universe was bigger, the story was smaller. We were focused on a little colony, a biological threat, and one messed up family. If you were looking for the excellent military science fiction we saw in Ender’s Game, you may have been disappointed. I wasn’t. Speaker for the Dead was close to perfect.
There is so much going on in Speaker for the Dead. Ender is looking for a home for the Hive Queen. Novinha is trying to save her family from a danger she doesn’t understand and from biological threat she understands quite well. A catholic colony is in charge of relations with a primitive alien species called Pequeninos, who populates most of the planet. However, the restrictions on how they can study the Pequeninos make understanding them nearly impossible. And Ender is brought to the planet to also speak the death of a family’s alcoholic, abusive father.
Ender’s arrival on Lusitania is a constant disruption. He is respective of conventions, but he also ignores many of them. His purposeful disruption stirs the colony, the family, and relations with the primitive aliens. Ender’s compassion and brilliance come through on the page in nearly every scene. He has come such a long way since Ender’s Game, still living with the pain of who he is, but using his understanding of humanity for the better. He is an open mind, seeking to open the minds of others.
Ender’s line to the Pequenino, Human, regarding how humans think, quite literally became a cornerstone in how I see the world. “Human’s question all our beliefs, except the ones we truly believe, and those we never think to question.” I often challenge myself now, asking why I think the way I do. At the time I was a Christian because I was raised Christian in a mostly Christian community. I was a conservative/libertarian child for the same reason. Were those beliefs really driven by evidence? I constantly question why I believe certain things even today.
Ender and this kind of profound, empathetic, point of view coming from an author who has gone on the traffic in too much hate, with little empathy for many, has complicated my feelings on the author and his work. But in the end, I can’t shake the joy I had reading Speaker for the Dead and the life lessons I took away from the novel. It’s funny, it’s touching, it has interesting ideas, a great premise, and delivers on so many levels. It remains one of my all-time favorite books.