Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead (1986) is a science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card and a sequel to the novel Ender's Game. This book takes place around the year 5270, some 3,000 years after the events in Ender's Game. However, due to relativistic space travel Ender himself (who now goes by his real name Andrew Wiggin or by his title "Speaker for the Dead") is only about 35 years old.

Like Ender's Game, the book won the Hugo Award (1987) and Nebula Award (1986) for outstanding science fiction novel, making Card the first author in history to win both these awards in two consecutive years. Speaker for the Dead was published in a slightly revised edition in 1991. It was followed by Xenocide and Children of the Mind.

Plot Summary


It is as a Speaker that Andrew Wiggin comes to Lusitania. Once sentient life is discovered, the colony is turned into a virtual prison, with its expansion severely limited and its whole existence centering, essentially, around the work of the xenologers. The piggies, who live in the forests and worship the trees around them, are highly intelligent, and facile at linguistics, but study and cultural interchange is hampered by a strict policy of non-interference. One interesting cultural characteristic emerges quickly: at one point, a male piggy is found flayed and staked to the ground with a tree growing out of him. Lusitania itself is remarkably lacking in biodiversity, featuring thousands of unfilled ecological niches. The other outstanding feature of Lusitania is the descolada, a native virus which almost wipes out the colony, until husband-and-wife biologists Gusta and Cida succeed in developing counters. Unfortunately, as described in the book, they didn't find the cure soon enough to save themselves, leaving orphaned daughter Novinha to strike out for herself.


At the age of thirteen, Novinha, a cold and distant girl, successfully petitions to be made the official biologist of the colony (roughly the equivalent of a master's degree); from then on, she contributes to the work of father-and-son xenologists (alien anthropology) Pipo and Libo, and for a short time there is family and camaraderie. One day, however, she makes a discovery about the descolada—that it's in every native lifeform—and Pipo rushes out to talk to the piggies about the discovery without telling her or Libo why it's important. They can't figure it out on their own, and never learn—a few hours later, Pipo is found vivisected in the grass; his corpse does not even have the benefit of a tree (The symbol of honor placed among all great piggies). Novinha erases all the lab work, but cannot delete the information itself due to regulations; Libo demands to see it, but even their love for each other will not make her let him see it—it appears to be a secret the piggies will kill to keep. Now Novinha is determined to ensure they never marry, the way they always planned to: for if they do, Libo will have access to those locked files and, Novinha fears, will share the same fate as his father. In anguish, Novinha calls for a Speaker for the Dead, hoping beyond hope that perhaps the original Speaker may arrive, to make sense of Pipo's death—and maybe of her life.

Enter Ender

Andrew Wiggin doesn't dare let himself be known as Ender anymore; the name is practically an expletive. Ender decides to leave his sister Valentine behind (she is married and pregnant) after traveling with her for many years. He leaves as soon as possible. He arrives on Lusitania after twenty-two years in transit (only a week or so to him) to discover that Novinha has canceled her call, or rather tried to, as a call for a speaker cannot legally be cancelled. However, two others have called, making Ender's trip not entirely in vain: they are Novinha's eldest son Miro, calling for someone to speak the death of Libo, who was killed the same way his father was; and Novinha's eldest daughter Ela, calling for someone to speak the death of Novinha's husband Marcos Ribeira, who died not six weeks ago from a terminal disease. Besides attempting to unravel the question of why Novinha married Marcão when she really loved Libo (Marcão was sterile, and a quick genetic scan on Jane's part reveals that Novinha's children are all, in fact, Libo's), Ender also takes responsibility for attempting to heal the Ribeira family, and manages to adopt (or perhaps is adopted by) most of the children within their first meeting. He also takes a strong interest in the pequeninos, and eventually (in direct violation of Starways Congress law) meets with them in person. The Hive Queen has also managed to make contact with the pequeninos philotically, and has told them a number of things—including the fact that "Andrew Wiggin" is not only the original Speaker for the Dead, but the original Xenocide as well, which romantically involved Zenadors (a shortened form of the word xenologists) Miro and Ouanda do not believe. The Hive Queen very emphatically wants to be revived and freed on Lusitania. Finally, in an effort to help Ender, Jane deliberately reveals to Starways Congress that Miro and Ouanda, continuing the legacy of Ouanda's dead father Libo, have been deliberately introducing new technology into the piggy lifestyle. Both Zenadors are called away to the nearest world for trial (a journey that would take twenty-two years), the colony's charter is revoked, and all humans are ordered to evacuate posthaste, leaving no sign of ever having been there.

The Speaking

Ender holds a public speaking for Marcão, Novinha's late husband; However, Ender cannot but help reveal secrets from the lives of Libo, Pipo, and even Novinha herself as their lives were all so delicately bound together by guilt, deception, and love. The Speaker explains how Novinha blames herself for Pipo's death, and underwent a life of suffering and deception—marrying Marcão so that they could both avoid the stigma of singlehood in a Catholic colony, but secretly trysting with Libo—because their love for each other never truly died. The meaning of Pipo's and Libo's murders come out as well: the trees are the "third stage" in the life of the piggies. Trees grown from piggies killed normally become brothertrees, but the ritually dissected ones are done so in order to make them fathertrees—sentient, living trees that are, unlike animal pequeninos, capable of reproduction (the descolada is proved to be instrumental in these transformations). Finally, the Speaker for the Dead is able to work out a treaty with the piggies, so that humans and pequeninos might live in peace. Unfortunately, it is not without cost: Miro, distraught to learn that Ouanda, his girlfriend in secret, is actually his sister, attempts to cross the fence, which separates the humans from the piggies, and suffers significant neurological damage. With no other way to save him, the colony declares itself in rebellion, Jane shuts off outside ansible contact, Miro is rescued, and Ender enters the forest to negotiate the aforementioned treaty. He signs it "Ender Wiggin," and for the first time in his life, someone (Novinha) is prepared to receive the Xenocide with compassion instead of revulsion.

Valentine and her family plan to come to Lusitania to help out in the rebellion, aided by Jane; Miro, with his crippled body, is sent into space to meet them; the Hive Queen is released, ready to begin the continuation of her species; and Ender marries Novinha.

Meaning of the term "Speaker for the Dead"

In this novel's precursor, Ender's Game, the last surviving member of the 'the Buggers' contacts the lead character (Ender Wiggin), who had unwittingly wiped out the rest of the species. Ender tells the story of the Buggers as it is related to him, and publishes it as The Hive Queen under the pseudonym "Speaker for the Dead." The audience of The Hive Queen is not aware of the identity of the author (or that the work is factual and not speculative), although Hegemon Peter Wiggin (Ender's brother) recognized the writing and requested that Ender also act as 'his' "Speaker", which he does in a follow-up work called The Hegemon.

The two books become classics and inspire the rise of a movement of Speakers for the Dead. The movement is not a religion, although Speakers are treated with the respect accorded to a priest or cleric. Any citizen has the legal right to summon a Speaker (or a priest of any faith, which Speakers are legally considered) to mark the death of a family member. Speakers research the dead person's life and give a speech that attempts to speak for them, describing the person's life as he or she tried to live it. This speech is not an apology, but rather a way to understand the person as a whole, including any flaws or misdeeds.

The novel begins 3,081 years after the events of the first book, by which time the works of The Hive Queen and The Hegemon have caused the human race to let go of its hatred of the Buggers and instead revile Ender as "The Xenocide", who exterminated an entire species. Ender himself, now using his real name of Andrew Wiggin, is still alive due to relativistic space travel, and still acting as a Speaker for the Dead. No one connects "Andrew Wiggin" with "Ender Wiggin", nor do they connect him (as "Andrew" or "Ender") with the original Speaker for the Dead.

Relation to Ender's Game

Whereas the previous novel was hard science fiction with armies and space warfare, Speaker for the Dead is philosophical in nature, although it still advances a xenology for the planetary setting unique in SF. Its story finds Andrew in a human colony on the colony planet Lusitania, believed to be the only remaining planet in Card's universe with an intelligent alien race after the xenocide of the "Buggers" in Ender's Game. The novel deals with the difficult relationship between the humans and the "piggies" (or "pequeninos", since the action is set in a Catholic Brazilian research installation) and with Andrew's attempts to bring peace to a brilliant but troubled family whose history intertwines with that of the pequeninos.

The Pequeninos

The Pequeninos (also known as "piggies") are a native species on Lusitania. They are the only sentient alien species discovered since the xenocide of the buggers. Many provisions are taken by the Starways Congress to prevent contaminating the Pequeninos culture with any human technological advances or human culture. At the beginning, not much is known about them other than that they worship the trees and call the trees their fathers.

Hierarchy of Alienness

Speaker for the Dead is an exploration of the different hierarchies of alienness. Through Ender, Jane, the Lusitanians, and the piggies, we learn how perspectives and behavior are affected by the changing degree of alienness witnessed by different people at different times.

Characters in Speaker for the Dead

See also

External links

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