Before I get into the review, I wanted to mention the story behind how this book came into existence.
Now, back to the Speaker for the Dead.
This book is remarkably different from the first one in the sense that while the first one focuses a lot on the action and adventure the second book explores the philosophy of what it means to be alive. It questions and explores the meaning of the word sentience.
What I liked
I think what the author able to do most effectively was Explore our biases in terms of how we see people who are different from us. The end we see in this book is quite different from the ender in the first one.
Ender is a much-changed person, someone who has grown out of the role of the child savior, a role that that humanity had enforced onto him and yet is still haunted by the ghost of his brother – Victor.
Ender is constantly shifting, often not very comfortably, between the two roles – the annihilator of a species and the savior of the other. When I wrote about the first book I spoke about the relationships within the book that interested me the most in this book is well the most interesting aspect is the relationship between Ender and Jane, man and machine.
The mystery of the virus on Lithuania is engrossing, however, it takes a while, a really long while to get unraveled. There are a lot of diversions on the path. Also, [spoiler from book 1, skip this line if you haven’t read that] the future of the bugger species, the conversations between the queen and Ender are fascinating, yet sometimes unsatisfying.
The relationship between the people of the colony Lithuania and the indigenous alien species of piggies is very interesting, it seems to draw a lot of parallels to the exploitation and conversion of the indigenous populations of Africa and Asia by the religious colonies set up by Europeans. The decimation of local culture, the interpretation of indigenous races as inferior, the ignorance of local customs and their relevance to the pre-existing societies is well reflected within the book.
What I didn’t like
The one thing that I didn’t really like about the book is bringing too many aspects of religion, specifically Christianity. That just kept taking me out of the story. When I read books where religion is involved, it’s about how it does or does not make sense in the context of our lives usually the religions are fictional, but in this case, for some reason, the author chooses to focus a lot on Christianity and sainthood and so on. That was the part that irritated me the most. A sci-fi book is not meant to preach a religion; invent a fake one or keep religion out.
Who should read this book
Coming to who should read this book, The Speaker for the Dead is a slow burn. Someone who is used to reading science-fiction adventures might get bored. There are some interesting concepts for science fiction aficionados, but the book doesn’t dwell on those elements, instead, it focuses on spiritual and existential questions around life, sentience, culture, and even ignorance.
So I would not recommend it to those who seek thrill and adventure in their books.
I would recommend this book to those who are comfortable taking a pause while reading and doing their own exploration of what they just read. It is for the reader who seeks meaning – either philosophical or spiritual from the books he/she reads.
You might not always agree with where the author is going but you understand the perspective of the characters and why they are the way they are and why they do things they do. There were times when I was conflicted and didn’t completely agree with the calls that the characters in the book took, but knowing who they were made it easy to understand how they acted.
The writing style of the book is simple, the language is easily understandable, it does not include profanities, it does, however, have gore and violence.
If you like this review you can read my thoughts on the first book here.
Next Book in the Series