Speaker for the Dead – Ender’s Quartet #2

No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one’s life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.

Ooh I love this one.
Although Ender’s Game is about children, and is sold as YA, I guess I’m maybe stretching it a little bit with the sequels. That said, my love for this series well makes up for that painful stretch. Word of warning: as I am now starting discussion of the sequels to Ender’s Game, there will most probably be spoilers to the original!

This book is set 3000 years after the first one, (mostly) on a planet called Lusitania – which we could also call planet Brazil. This is one of many human colonies, but the only one with another sapient species: the pequeninos, or piggies. To avoid a situation that could cause another xenocide, the humans have adopted a passive observant policy and are not allowed to share any information with the piggies. The main family observing them is that of Pipo, his son Libo, and outcast Novinha. Novinha discovers information that gets Pipo vivesected by the piggies, and to protect her lover Libo, she vows never to marry him so he cannot get that information. She calls for a Speaker for the Dead, and Ender picks up the request. Years later, when he arrives (space travel takes a looong time), he finds that he is not wanted anymore, and Novinha is a bitter woman with a dysfunctional family.

Valentine, Ender’s sister, after travelling with him for 3000 years, married a man on planet Norway and started a family. She is a professor of philosophy, but most importantly she is Demosthenes. In the first book she used this pseudonym to help their brother Peter to become Hegemon of the human race, since then she used it to support Ender and write histories, biographies and critiques of every world they land on. She’s totally badass. When Brazil is in trouble, she moves her whole family over there to help out, knowing they can never return. Although they are a bit too close for my comfort, the sibling love between Valentine and Ender is very touching. They’ve been together for over 3000 years and know each other through and through, respect each other, and know when to let go. When Ender leaves planet Norway, and Valentine with it, it’s hard not to get teary-eyed.

Before I move on to the spoiler section, I need to talk about Jane. Jane is a ..being..? – an entity who lives in the ansible computer network (more on that next week). She can communicate with Ender at all times and has access to all computers everywhere, at any time. Her existence raises very intersting and difficult questions: what does it mean to be human? Do you have to have a body to qualify? The existence of the piggies raises constant questions as well: what defines intelligence in a species? How do you interact with different species? Can you ever understand each other? Is it possible to live in peace with a species you cannot understand? Could you be friends? Is it ever right to destroy a sapient, possibly intelligent species to defend yourself?
These constant questions press on the back of your mind when you’re reading this book, which makes it quite the philosophical exercise. And I love it!

Now for the spoilers (the picture marks the safe spot)!


Novinha could not save Libo. He, too, got vivesected, and the whole planet of Brazil lives in fear of the seemingly violent piggies. Tensions are rising towards xenocide. On top of that, it is revealed that Miro and Ouanda, the current researchers and Novinha’s son and Libo’s daughter, broke the law and taught the piggies human technology and culture – a big deal, sure, as they are called to be sent to court, the travel alone taking decades. That said, the bigger reveal to come up in Ender’s investigation is that Novinha’s children are Libo’s as well, even though she married someone else! Miro and Ouanda are siblings!
The inhabitants of Brazil choose not to send them to trial. When Libo triest to join the piggies on the other side of the electric fence and gets brain damaged there, Brazil shuts off the fence, cuts of their connection with the rest of the world, and goes into rebellion.

The piggies and humans explain their different cultures and ways of life to each other, revealing that when the piggies vivesected Pipo and Libo they didn’t know they were killing them – they thought they were bestowing great honour to them by letting them become trees (as the piggies do). They are truly sorry for this misunderstanding and sign a treaty, because of which humans, piggies and buggers can live on Brazil in peace (in theory).

Did I say buggers? Yes I did! Ender has been carrying the hive queen from his last xenocide around for over 3000 years to find her a new home, and has established telekinetic conversation with her. At the very end of the novel he “plants” the queen and her eggs on planet Brazil, as a last chance for him to be redeemed from his massive sins. Ender and Novinha marry and everybody is happy – except for the impending punishment for their rebellion, and of course crippled, brain damaged Miro. But he’ll get his chance later!


 

Speaker

This book is where the series really starts taking shape. (It’s actually my favourite entry in the series.) It’s clever in how it makes you question preheld beliefs about everything, in its worldbuilding, in the wide array of compelling characters it presents so well. The universe gets expanded, epicafied, and fits perfectly with the original. I agree with what Lindsay Ellis said in her funny review of the series; that Ender’s Game is sci-fi’s answer to The Hobbit, and the three sequels to The Lord of the Rings (she also talks about Orson Scott Card’s self inflicted negative image and its impact on his readership).

A small, but very interesting detail I just want to highlight really quick is that Ender’s name has become a curse word, he is Ender the Xenocide. The original Speaker for the Dead, however, has a saint-like status, and nobody suspects that these two could be (and in fact are) the same person. It seems to be a reflection of Ender’s philosophy that every person, no matter how bad, has at least one thing that redeems them. Only in his case nobody knows. Does it then still count?


Whenever I ponder the universe (even though space scares me like nothing else does), I calm my brain with a soothing green tea. Although this book has some excrutiating violence, and is a very suspenseful read, it is mostly intruiging in the philosophical department. Therefore, I chose to match it with a soothing Lotus Green Tea. It’s very fresh in it’s smell and taste, with some light floral hints in a perfectly smooth blend. As always with green tea, be careful not to put boiling water with it (the best temperature is about 80 degrees Celsius) and do not let it infuse for more than 2 minutes – otherwise it will get too bitter and the delicate nature of the tea will be lost! I picked this one up in a Chinese supermarket in Antwerpen, so I don’t have a lot more information about it I’m afraid!

Lotus Tea

This book you guys, it’s so good. Get yourself comfortable, make a nice, sweet cuppa soothing green tea, and get ready to get your mind blown as you ponder the universe.

 

 

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