Lacey Louwagie's Reviews > Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
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really liked it
Recommended for: sociology / anthropology types

Orson Scott Card has said that Speaker for the Dead is the book he always "meant to write" and that the only reason he wrote Ender's Game was as a "prequel," so he felt a little baffled when Ender's Game ended up becoming his most famous and most read work. After reading Speaker for the Dead, I understand where he's coming from. The complexity of issues tackled in Speaker for the Dead are much deeper than those in Ender; likewise, the cultures and worlds explored through Speaker are much more intricate. One thing I love about Orson Scott Card -- which I somehow always end up forgetting when I'm not reading him -- is that, despite the fact that he writes fairly "hard science fiction," his stories are still completely character driven. Unlike many SF writers, he spends as much time developing his characters as he spends developing his society, and the result is a compelling book regardless of the plot. (Heck, I even enjoyed Ender's Shadow, which basically had the same plot as Ender's Game except told from a different character's perspective.)

Despite my enjoyment of the book, there were a few things that annoyed me. Although Orson Scott Card's characters are well-developed, the female characters seemed to have less complexity; in particular, the principle female character spent about 3/4 of the book wallowing in her own self-pity. This may endear her to male readers with a knight-in-shining-armor complex (as, indeed, it endeared her to Ender), but as a female reader I wanted her to just get over it already. Orson Scott Card seems to play the female moral superiority card even as he grapples with some real ambivalence about female leadership -- the female leaders in this book were either veiled tyrants (whom Ender felt compelled to put in their place) or rendered ineffective as leaders the moment Ender burst on the scene. Finally, Ender himself is a main character in this book whom you're almost tempted to despise just because the author is so clearly in love with him. But truth be told, that didn't keep me from being a little enamored with him, myself -- although the "piggies," an alien race introduced in this book -- held my heart and my attention most completely.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
July 11, 2007 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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Skyler It is fascinating to me that after all this time I can read a review that teaches me something new about one of my favorite books. You are absolutely correct about his treatment of the female characters in Speaker and I wonder how much of this is influenced by his Mormon affiliation.

It's something I probably never would have noticed until I talked to a female reader.

Lacey Louwagie Thanks for your comment. I love to read others' reviews of books I've read, loved, or hated because every reader brings a new insight.

message 3: by Me (new)

Me i think that i liked enders game more, this book was very good but the other had more feelings to it i think. if you like these books i just have to tell everyone the new book i found. (new for me not the published date.) try River God by Wilbur Smith
i think it was even better then Enders Game. take a look at it =) tell me if you start it.

Kevin Benedict I am only a few chapters into SftD, but I don't find what you say about the female leaders leadership being ineffective when "Ender burst[s] on the scene" to be a fair male/female assessment. Given Ender's history, if people know who he is, they naturally would look to him for leadership. That would be also true if Ender were female. You could almost make the same argument for children being leaders in the first book as you are for women here.

But then again, maybe I'll understand what you mean more when I get to that part.

message 5: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay Hi Lacey, I just finished the book and am thumbing through reviews. I don't read reviews before reading books as too many reviews include synopses - boo. I found your observation of the female characters interesting and thought much upon it. I have come to the conclusion that a)Novinha was a victim of too many losses who believed the only person she could rely upon for survival was herself. As much as she loved Libo, she didn't trust he could care for himself and felt compelled to "protect" him which then backfired and... yadda, yadda, yadda... She and Ender clicked immediately as they each related to the others' scars of loss. b) religious affiliation rendered any women associated uhhh... moot and c) my guess is the character "Jane" was created to balance out the female characters but when she pouted over being 'switched off' I was rather turned off by that (pun intended). But, it was an easy way to transition her from Ender to Miro. Valentine has always been a strong woman character and she returned in the end to continue. Just some thoughts.

message 6: by Hanno (new)

Hanno Phoenicia Even if Card liked this one better, he cannot be the judge of his own novels. The consumer is and had the last word. This was not as good as Enders Game or Enders Shadow, and didn't have the originality of the others. This novel really read like a Star Trek plot with the same themes.

Nikitah I don't believe it's fair to say an author cannot judge his own works. If a writer first and foremost doesn't write for themselves the work they churn out is sub par at best. So I do believe that he is allowed to judge and be baffled. We cannot take the consumers' opinions as law or else no daring works would be written. And that's what this is- a daring work. The masses enjoy Ender's Game because it's full of action and drama, a common enjoyment for us all. But this is designed to appeal to reason and emotion, especially compassion and love for those of a different race which honestly is not a very popular idea for most people. That doesn't mean that this is less amazing than the other novel. Out just appeals to different sensibilities that are not as wide-spread in popularity or movie-worthy.

Lacey Louwagie Nikitah wrote: "I don't believe it's fair to say an author cannot judge his own works. If a writer first and foremost doesn't write for themselves the work they churn out is sub par at best. So I do believe that h..."

Well said, Nikitah.

Carly A few things:

1. I understand where you see weak female characters but I also see strong ones. Ela basically held her family together in her mother's absence. Quara was very strong minded and opinionated for such a young girl. Ouanda was able to overcome the tragedy of Miro being her brother, while it destroyed him. It may not be prominent in this book but in Xenocide and Children of the Mind, Card shows us some very strong female characters in Quara, Jane, and a young Asian girl (who I cant remember the name of) who before the end of the series show how truly strong they are.

2. Anyone who says that Ender's Game is better than this novel does not understand this novel and therefore can not comprehend it's value. Card created an alien race. He didn't make them green, and English speaking, instead he delved into the evolution of their bodies and figured out that if he gave them certain tongues he could create a way for them to logically be able to interact with humans through human speech. Not only did he follow and develop the piggys based on the logical idea of evolution but then he used it to help the characters describe the inefficiencies they were seeing with the piggys evolution. He then went on to describe how an entire planet, with multiple species, procreate depending on a plant-animal relationship. What regular person can just create something like that?

Enders game is a story that everyone from Adults to Children can enjoy, but it takes truly insightful people to enjoy the rest of the Ender Quartet.

message 10: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Well said Carly.
I'm more than half way through SOTD and after reading some reviews, I have begun to understand the deeper complexities and intricacies of his characterizations and motives. On the surface, I was expecting more drama and entertainment, aka Ender's War, yet instead was swept into the retrospective genius mind of a child who grows up all too quickly and mindfully causes us as readers to search for why he exists while the character struggles himself. Consequently were ensnared into how the author treats females and if this drama is intentional or unintentional. I say bring on the ending to this book as I read through because my own personal discovery to this bears to light the many emotional and psychological tidings we may share from our own lives.

message 11: by JJB (new) - rated it 4 stars

JJB I loved Speaker for the Dead for many reasons and it had many wonderful facets but the reason I loved it best was that I hadn't read Ender's Game and the revelation at the end that Ender had the future of the supposedly extinct aliens in his hands and resurrected them was a bloody brilliant surprise!

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