Speaker for the Dead (Ender, Book 2)

Speaker for the Dead - Orson Scott Card Years ago, when I first read the original Ender's trilogy, I found it awesome. Reading it years later after knowing more about the author and his views, I find I'm reading different books. Reading these, I'm struck that books aren't just the creation of their authors--they're collaborations between the author and the reader, and if the reader changes or his perception of what the author intended changes, you get a different read. That didn't affect my reread of Ender's Game much. From time to time, yes I could see what I'd learned of Card peeking through, but I still found the book a great adventure and a thought-provoking read. I found that Speaker for the Dead was a different case. I didn't find this book as memorable as the first book--literally. I remembered a lot of Ender's Game, with this one it's as if I was reading it for the first time--I had forgotten it all. I imagine that the first time I read the book, I felt terrible about how the precepts and strictures of the theocracy Novinha was born into wrecked havoc upon her life, or at least aided and abetted. This time around though, I couldn't help but suspect that aspects I might have thought Card was critiquing, were actually aspects Card thoroughly approves of--the idea of husband and wife as legally one person so a wife has no right of privacy, the toleration of domestic violence, the lack of abortion or birth control so that six children are born into a a family with an abusive husband, the lack of a right to a civil divorce so that personal or familial happiness is impossible as long as the abuser lives so that his death is cause for rejoicing by his family... All of that meant reading this was a very different experience for me. The religious aspect didn't bother me the first time--in fact I appreciated that Card, unlike most science fiction writers, includes a religious aspect to his characters, since for good or ill, I personally think religious belief will always be an important part of the human condition--as are families, another aspect many science fiction writers downplay that are an important feature of Card's works. But there's a difference between feeling an author is writing about religion, than feeling a religious agenda, one that judges people who don't have five or more children as not full adults, is part of the story. And I wonder that the Catholic Church Card imagines over three thousand years in the future is so unchanging. That certainly hasn't been the case when you contrast today's church with that a thousand or two thousand years ago--a Church that once had married priests, that did not see fetuses before "quickening" as invested with a soul and rights among other things. In fact, his Catholic Church is rather retrograde--there hasn't been an index of proscribed books for Catholics in decades. All that said, I kept reading, and found things were more complicated than the above might make it sound. Partly I continued on because this is at heart an engrossing murder mystery--not about who--but why. As told in Ender's Game, the first time human beings had encountered a sentient alien species, it had resulted in a devastating war and (as far as almost all humans know) genocide of the "Buggers" by Ender Wiggins. In partial atonement, Wiggins wrote as the first "Speaker for the Dead" the book The Hive Queen and the Hegemony explaining the Buggers and the tragic misunderstanding that led to genocide. That was over 3,000 years ago, but because of relativity's time dilation the much space traveled Ender is still alive and relatively young--only in his mid thirties biologically. Recently a second sentient species, technologically primitive, had been found on the Catholic colony of Lusitania. The communication with the "Piggies" are strictly limited to one or two xeonologists--and one of them is slaughtered horribly by them. Ender travels to Lusitania and tries to solve the mystery as to why--and carrying a cocoon and hive queen to find out if the planet might be the suitable place to resurrect the buggers as well. Frankly, I wish I didn't know what I do about Card's political and religious views--it taints the books for me somewhat. But despite that, yes, I did still find I loved these characters and found the book thought-provoking and emotionally involving. I cared about Novinha, her family, Ender, and I loved Jane, the sentient computer companion of Ender who fears making herself known to a human race too prone to destroying what it fears and does not understand. And Card is fantastic at conveying a mindset truly alien and then making you think about what indeed, is truly human.