Hundreds of years after the events of Ender’s Game in which humanity annihilated a sentient race, we find another planet with a sentient race that we call the “piggies.” A scientist studying them has been killed, and tensions are running high. Ender was the one who unwittingly ordered the previous xenocide, and he wants to make sure humanity doesn’t act rashly and repeat the mistakes of the past. He goes to investigate as ‘Speaker for the Dead.’ By ‘speaking’ the life of the decedent, perhaps he can find out what’s going on and redeem his past sin.
The family soap opera and the back story are both pretty good, but what I like most is simply the concept of ‘Speaker for the Dead’ – someone who gets to really know the decedent and gives a true account of his or her life. Personally, I would prefer this to a generic, whitewashed eulogy. To truly understand people, you have to look at them in totality–faults included.
Orson Scott Card said that he wrote Ender’s Game so that he could write Speaker for the Dead. This feels very true as Speaker is a much deeper, more developed book. Ender is much more mature, and he is bent on redeeming himself for past sins.
Speaker for the Dead may not be a literary classic, but it delves into similar themes. It’s not your run-of-the-mill sci-fi. Understanding, redemption, and forgiveness are timeless themes found in many great works of fiction, and they are all present in Speaker.