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A novel by Orson Scott Card
(1986, TOR Books)

Ender's Saga, book 2

Searching for a location to settle the hidden Hive Queen and atone for destroying an entire species, Ender is called to a colony world where a new species has been discovered, and starts the healing process by revealing the truth about both the humans there and the aliens.


-- First reading (ebook)
July 25th to August 9th, 2017


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 process.

Spoiler review:

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 chest.

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).

We also 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).

The chapters 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.

I 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 character development.

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.


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