I had trouble getting into
this book, but once Ender arrived and started interacting with the
people in the colony, I found it easier. The Speaking was not as intense
as I was hoping for, but the real gem of this book is Ender’s
negotiation with the piggies, which makes the whole buildup a lot more
interesting in hindsight -and it allows everyone to start the healing
I don’t know if it was the culture, the
writing, or the Portugese names and words, but the first chapter in this
book was very difficult to read. In general, I really liked Pipo and his
work, his complaints about not being able to really study the piggies
(due to a Prime Directive-like law), and his relationship with Novhina
as a father-figure. But there was something about the first few chapters
on Lusitania that made for very difficult reading.
I also have a
lot of trouble with characters who decide unilaterally that they must
protect somebody by withholding information and refusing to discuss it.
I realize that this is probably realistic in normally-flawed humans, but
I always find -always- that when a story character does such things, it
frustrating to the reader. It’s obvious that bad things will happen
because of it, and the story is somewhat about those bad things. Without
things happening the way they did -hiding information- there would be no
need for most of Ender’s Speaking.
Novhina finds information
about a disease that swept through the colony years ago, which her
parents cured. When Pipo sees the results of her work, he rushes off to
see the piggies, finally understanding how they are connected to the
trees they seem to worship. They kill him for it. Not wanting anybody
else, especially Libo, to make the mysterious connection, she hides the
information and locks it up. Being a scientist, how does she expect Libo
to learn from Pipo’s mistake, if she doesn’t give him any data? It turns
out that Libo makes the connection later on anyway, which must crush
Novhina, because he is also killed, with a little tree planted in his
Ender, for his part, has been wandering the stars,
searching for a planet where he can resettle the Hive Queen, whose
species he destroyed in Ender’s Game. I
like the way that ideas get turned on their heads over the millennia.
When Ender was young, the buggers were the enemy that brought the world
together. As he traveled to the bugger homeworld, ideas changed, until
now, three thousand years since he left Earth, people condemn him as
murderer, he who committed xenocide. He left Earth as Ender, but
traveled the stars as Andrew Wiggin, so it’s ironic that people now
revere him as Speaker for the Dead, while loathing Ender. The Speakers
are now so revolutionary that anybody, anywhere can call for a Speaker
to talk about a dead person, and can’t be refused.
It’s only when
Ender comes to Lusitania that people there start actually thinking. I
guess the repression of ideas due to the orthodox Catholic society is
really showcased here, as it causes so many of the problems that could
have been avoided if people had been willing to talk. Ender’s Speaking
brings us up to date on everything that we know happened from the
beginning of the book, but none of the characters, except Novhina, do.
Her hiding of the research, refusal to marry Libo (as that would give
him access to her research), her infidelity in having Libo’s children
instead of her sterile husband’s, all come out -and guess what? People
start to feel better about it all. This story is about flawed
characters, which is how some of the best character stories are made.
But my least favorite type of flawed character is this kind, who does
something irrational because they want to protect somebody else, even
against that person’s wishes. It detracted a lot from the story for me.
Ender spends a few days talking to people, or observing their
behavior so that even when they refuse to speak with him, he gleans
information from them. There’s the Bishop and the Mayor, the married
couple who serve as educators and also something of religious
authorities, and of course Novhina’s family. Ender learns that Marcao
knew that Novhina was cheating on him, beat her, and generally scared
and hated their children (who were really Libo’s kids).
have Jane, an artificial intelligence who was born from the Giant
program Ender used in Battle School, as well as the complex programs
that were required for ansible communications. I didn’t really like the
way that she teased Ender, and I agree with him in shutting off her
access to him for a while. But I did like her insights into society, and
how she could easily break into any digital file, including those
Novhina locked. When Ender shuts off his ear crystal, she sulks, but
eventually discovers how much she was relying on him. Now that she’s
revealed herself to Novhina’s son, I think she’s ready to expand.
Presumably that will be needed, now that Ender has convinced the world
to rebel (the subject of a future Ender novel).
after the Speaking of Marcao’s death are the best ones for me. Ender
illegally goes out to see the piggies, and the conversations and actions
they have are riveting. I really enjoyed the way Ender was brought into
the fold of the piggies, how they bring him to the wives, and how they
come to realize that they painfully tortured their idols, Pipo and Libo.
Everything from the climbing of the electric fence to the symbiotic and
exchange-oriented relationship of the species on this world, leads up to
this revelation. The piggies do actually turn into trees, and they (or
at least Rooter) can even communicate with the Hive Queen of the
buggers, who is still in suspended animation in Ender’s bag.
Ender bridges the species by being the last
human to ritually cut a piggy, so that he can be
a tree, an elder. Now that the different species understand each other,
they can respect each others' customs. It's probably the most difficult
thing a human of conscience can do, but it was absolutely necessary, and
it helps ease Ender's guilt over the buggers. Ender will also help
negotiate peace between the different tribes of piggies, much to their
displeasure. But Ender knows it will be best for everybody. I also liked
the agreement -written into the Hive Queen and the Hegemon that Ender
wrote, that specified how the third species on the planet would resolve
disputes between the other two -humans, piggies, and buggers.
liked the way both the Hive Queen and Jane could transcend relativity,
like the ansible. That both grow super-bored during the Ender’s
compressed time as he travels near the speed of light is a wonderful
I wasn’t expecting this book to end where
it did, with the planet in limbo as human fleets will descend on it for
breaking the law -but it will take 30 years or more to get there. It
shows another side to war, and I wonder how Jane and the Hive Queen
might be able to help them out.