Speaker for the Dead

Book Review 1: Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

In this new year I have the goal to read more books. I have also decided to write about what I think of them, especially since I have a poor memory of most books that I read, and writing for me is a way of remembering. I really enjoyed the first book that I read in the new year called Speaker for the Dead. It is actually the sequel to the book Ender’s Game, the more well known of the author’s books that was recently made into a movie. What is curious is that Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game for the main reason of setting the stage for this, the book he really wanted to write. The book takes place thousands of years in the future, on a planet shared with another intelligent species. It describes the interactions between these two species as they learn about one another, but also the more subtle human relationships that evolve with the story. In this way there are almost two different plots that are tied together and carry related themes. I think this book would be much more difficult to do justice as a motion picture, because of the level of concealed emotion. The book is almost void of action except for exploring the nature of relationships in all its forms, be it between lovers, parent and child, siblings, enemies, a person and their community, and two cultures and “beings” altogether different. The conflict from the story arises from a secret that is kept in love to protect, but weaves together a life of lies that inevitably causes even more harm. The Speaker for the Dead is a man who has more life experience across time and space then anyone in the world, and because of this he is the most capable of compassion and has profound understanding of a person in all her complexity. He is called to speak for the dead and therefore comes to the planet and touches the very soul of the entire community, laying bare the secret but by doing so offering immeasurable healing. When I read the book I definitely saw a metaphor of Christ in the Speaker just because I imagine Jesus having the same wisdom from the fact that he was God in the flesh and had incredible interactions with people that still permeate today.

Here are some quotes I liked:

Oh Pip, I’d be glad for you to try. But do believe me, my dear friend, touching her heart is like bathing in ice.  I imagine. I imagine it feels like bathing in ice to the person touching her. But how does it feel to her? Cold as she is, it must surely burn like fire.”

“But when it comes to human beings, the only type of cause that matters is final cause, the purpose. What a person had in mind. Once you understand what people really want, you can’t hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can’t hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart.”

“A strange thing happened then. The Speaker agreed with her that she had made a mistake that night, and she knew when he said the words that it was true, that his judgment was correct. And yet she felt strangely healed, as if simply saying her mistake were enough to purge some of the pain of it. For the first time, then, she caught a glimpse of what the power of speaking might be. It wasn’t a matter of confession, penance, and absolution, like the priests offered. It was something else entirely. Telling the story of who she was, and then realizing that she was no longer the same person. That she had made a mistake, and the mistake had changed her, and now she would not make the mistake again because she had become someone else, someone less afraid, someone more compassionate.”

“Ender was a destroyer, but what he destroyed was illusion, and the illusion had to die…the truth about ourselves. Somehow this ancient man is able to see the truth and it doesn’t blind his eyes or drive him mad. I must listen to this voice and let its power come to me so I, too, can stare at the light and not die.”


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