RogerBW's Blog

Speaker For the Dead, Orson Scott Card 10 February 2018

1986 Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction. Having gone from universally loved to universally reviled, Ender Wiggin continues to suffer for your sins.

Gah. Like Ender's Game, everything here is set up to make Ender look perfect. He arrives on a colony world beset by problems, and in a few days he's casually solved everything from the occasionally-murderous aliens to the young boy who's behaving badly. And a superintelligent AI nobody else knows about is his personal friend. And he gets the girl that he fell in love with when she was a child (and he was an adult, because relativity – pinched from The Forever War, probably – and it's just as creepy here as when Steven Moffat does it in later years; actually, probably more so, given the Mormons' history of "marrying" very young girls to adult men). There's no mention of her feelings on the matter: Ender is perfect, so of course she must have fallen in love with him too.

By Novinha's calculations, she was still young enough to have another six children, if they hurried.

It's heavy-handed and preachy, and the characters do exactly what is needed in order to convey the author's message whether or not it's in any way related to their established personalities (such as they are). All female leaders are either incompetent or evil. The Catholics are all wrong, though some of them can be brought to understand that Ender Is Always Right. A big secret discovered in chapter 1 isn't revealed to the reader until chapter 16 (of 18), apparently to try to maintain some slight sense of tension, though there are so many clues given that the alert reader will have worked it out much earlier and be waiting for the characters to catch up.

Dona Cristo was a brilliant and engaging, perhaps even beautiful, young woman

Gah. The one vaguely interesting idea is in the title, someone who will discover all the secrets of a dead person and reveal them to the community. Naturally when Ender does it it works perfectly with no drawbacks.

Oh, and here's a really terrible idea to balance the one interesting one, describing someone's cybernetic eyes:

Only one eye was used for sight, but it took four separate visual scans and then separated the signals to feed true binocular vision to the brain. The other eye contained the power supply, the computer control, and the external interface.

Er, no, sorry, the optics she does not work like that. And it's not even important to the story!

Followed by Xenocide. Reread for Neil Bowers' Hugo-Nebula Joint Winners Reread.

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