Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Undefined Gamer: "Speaker for the Dead" Review

Just in time for Ender's Game!

      Speaker for the Dead is a 3,000 year sequel to Ender's Game. A
friend of mine once said it was one of the best books that he's ever
read, and its Hugo and Nebula awards support that theory, so I'd
thought that I give it a look.
      Now, let's get that ugly purple elephant out of the room. Orson
Scott Card, who may be a brilliant author, is also a colossal fool.
The man has repeatedly made known his anti-gay sentiments and has
acted off of those sentiments, and for that, Orson Scott Card will be
remembered in history, as an idiot. However, this does not mean that
I'm going to boycott his work.
      Plenty of artists make poor decisions, yet that doesn't affect
their work. Does Michael Jackson's misdeeds make him any less a great
musician? No. Similarly, Card's venomous opinions have not affected
his work. In fact, if I read Speaker before knowing Card's opinions,
I'd think he was pro-gay, as there is some cloaked allusions to them
in the book. Furthermore, fighting him will do nothing. You can't
punish a man for having opinions. Being racist isn't a crime. Sure,
he acted out upon the gay community, but he did not harm them. He has
committed no crime. Sure, he has taken steps to suppress gay people,
and his reputation should suffer for that, but not his works. His
current views should in no way taint his masterpieces. I can't even
tell if he had his anti-gay sentiments when he was writing Speaker for
the Dead, as his first major anti-gay activism took place in the 90s,
and Speaker was written a decade before, and no anti-gay messages are
present in the book.
      The man's already a millionaire. Whether or not you enjoy his books
will not change his attitude. Hell, even if you bankrupted him, his
attitude will not change. As such, I chose not to miss out on his
so-called "masterpiece."
      Speaker for the Dead takes place 3,000 years after Ender's Game.
Ender has traveled from planet to planet with his sister, Valentine,
looking for a suitable place to revive the Hive Queen and undo the
Xenocide that he committed three thousand years before. He is 38, and
while Ender is far from done with his travels, Valentine is, as she is
currently married and is expecting her first child.
       However, 22 lightyears away, on the planet Lusitania, a new alien
species, nicknamed "the piggies," has been found. Starways Congress is
wary of human influence on this alien race, so contact is severely
restricted by the law. The rest of the novel centers around how the
human community of Lusitania tries and fails to make do with Starways
Congress's laws as tragedy between the two races strikes, drawing
ender to Lusitania and away from Trondheim, where Valentine, along
with her new family, lives. Seeing much pain in the community,
particularly in the family of Novinha, the girl who invited Ender
there, as a result of the piggies' actions. Ender us faced with the
nearly impossible task of bringing unity between the two races, while
reviving a third, while defying Starways Congress. The result will
lead to war.
      Chronologically speaking, it did not make much sense for Card to
write Speaker for the Dead directly after Ender's Game. Ender has
changed so much since Battle school, and the book's style is much
different than Ender's Game. This is the reason why Card wrote a
bridge book, called Ender in Exile, and really should be considered
Ender's Game's "true" sequel. Nevertheless, if you can get past the
break in the narrative flow, it's actually a very well written book.
The problem is that Ender's Game deals mostly with typical teenage
themes found in most YA books, while Speaker for the Dead is told
mainly through an adult perspective and similarly deals with adult
themes. Both books are still wonderfully crafted, but this leaves
Speaker for the Dead as a far less satisfying read than Ender.s Game.
      This is mainly because of the odd pacing of the book. Where
Ender's Game tends to dwell only on a set, uninterrupted timeline,
Card tends to jump from entire decades consistently in Speaker for the
Dead. He abandoned a lot of the book's most likeable characters very
quickly. Others, he ages so fast in an entire page. This makes it very
hard to get attached to any particular character, though it does
perfectly craft an adult mentality in the book. Time flies.
      The world itself is well created. Card has aliens that kill so
that their consciousness can be transferred to another body. Its
considered a great honor. The problem is, to us silly people, it looks
like murder. Card not only provokes very interesting mental
discussion, but also seems to ask questions never before asked
pertaining to how mankind would act if they found an alien race such
as the piggies. Would we quarantine ourselves from them, afraid to
contaminate their culture? Are we afraid that they will destroy us,
therefore we must control them? Would we help them reach the stars and
regard them as equals?
      Speaker for the Dead won its Hugo and Nebula awards fare and
square. A beautiful novel, it is nowhere as radical or frankly
unintelligent as its author's political viewpoints. Everything checks
out under the hood; clever literary elements galore. It's extremely
thought-provoking and well written, though it should not be read
immediately after Ender's Game and is no way a direct sequel. If I
didn't know any better, I'd say that Orson Scott Card was abducted by
Buggers in the 90s and replaced with an asshole, because this book
seems to be written by an entirely different Orson Scott Card.

Speaker for the Dead gets 6 stars out of 6

No comments:

Post a Comment