Speaker for the Dead

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Not to be confused with Speaker of the Dead.
Speaker for the Dead
Speaker dead cover.jpg
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author Orson Scott Card
Country United States
Language English
Series Ender's Game series
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date
March 1986
Pages 415
Award Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1987)
ISBN 0-312-93738-5
OCLC 13201341
Preceded by Ender's Game
Followed by Xenocide

Speaker for the Dead is a 1986 science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card and an indirect sequel to the novel Ender's Game. This book takes place around the year 5270, some 3,000 years after the events in Ender's Game. However, because of relativistic space travel, Ender himself is only about 35 years old.

This is the first book to discuss the Starways Congress, a high standpoint Legislation for the human colonies. It is also the first to describe the Hundred Worlds, the planets with human colonies that are tightly intertwined by Ansible technology.

Like Ender's Game, the book won the Nebula Award in 1986[1] and the Hugo Award in 1987.[2] Speaker for the Dead was published in a slightly revised edition in 1991. It was followed by Xenocide and Children of the Mind.

Meaning of the term "Speaker for the Dead"[edit]

In this novel's precursor, Ender's Game, the last surviving member of 'the Buggers' contacts the lead character (Ender Wiggin), who had unwittingly wiped out the rest of the species. Ender tells the story of the Buggers as it is related to him, and publishes it as The Hive Queen under the pseudonym "Speaker for the Dead." The audience of The Hive Queen is not aware of the identity of the author (or that the work is factual and not speculative). However, Hegemon Peter Wiggin (Ender's brother) recognized the writing and requested that Ender also act as 'his' "Speaker". Ender complies with the request by writing a second book titled The Hegemon, giving a parallel, but uniquely human, perspective to the ideas and lessons of "The Hive Queen".

The two books become classics and inspire the rise of a movement of Speakers for the Dead. The movement is not a religion, although Speakers are treated with the respect afforded to a priest or cleric. Any citizen has the legal right to summon a Speaker (or a priest of any faith, which Speakers are legally considered) to mark the death of a family member. Speakers research the dead person's life and give a speech that attempts to speak for them, describing the person's life as he or she tried to live it. This speech is not given in order to persuade the audience to condemn or forgive the deceased, but rather a way to understand the person as a whole, including any flaws or misdeeds.

Plot summary[edit]

The Hive Queen/Continuation of Ender's Game[edit]

At the close of "Ender's Game", Ender reports to be transporting "precious cargo". Speaker for the Dead reveals and confirms his precious cargo to be the Hive Queen whom he meets at the very end of the first novel. He wishes to restore her species, and ashamed of the Xenocide, he composes "The Hive Queen" under the name Speaker for the Dead and begins to seek out a new planet for her to thrive. After receiving call to speak on the planet of Lusitania, Ender is hopeful that this planet may fit the Hive Queen.


On Novinha's request for a Speaker, Andrew Wiggin leaves for Lusitania, a colony turned into a virtual prison, with its expansion severely limited and its whole existence devoted to the work of xenologers (alien anthropology) and xenobiologists (alien biology) who study the Pequeninos ("piggies"), the first sentient beings found since the destruction of the Formics. Lusitania itself is remarkably lacking in biodiversity, featuring thousands of unfilled ecological niches. The other outstanding feature of Lusitania is the Descolada, a native virus which almost wipes out the colony, until husband-and-wife xenobiologists Gusta and Cida, known as Os Venerados, succeed in developing counters. Unfortunately, they did not find the cure soon enough to save themselves, leaving their orphaned daughter Novinha to strike out for herself.[3]


At the age of thirteen, Novinha, a cold and distant girl, successfully petitions to be made an official xenobiologist of the colony. From then on, she contributes to the work of father-and-son xenologers Pipo and Libo, and for a short time there is family and camaraderie. One day, however, she makes a discovery about the Descolada (later revealed to be a virus that is in every native life-form) and Pipo rushes out to talk to the piggies without telling her or Libo why it is important. They cannot figure it out on their own, and never learn. A few hours later, Pipo is found vivisected in the grass; his corpse does not even have the benefit of a tree (the symbol of honor placed among all dead piggies). To protect Libo from suffering the same fate, Novinha erases all the lab work, but can only lock the information because of regulations. Libo demands to see it, but even their love for each other does not convince her. It appears to be a secret the piggies will kill to keep. Novinha is determined to ensure they never marry, for if they do, Libo will gain access to those locked files. In anguish, Novinha calls for a Speaker for the Dead.

Ender/Andrew Wiggin[edit]

At the start of the novel, Andrew Wiggin is a Speaker for the Dead on the planet Trondheim, where his sister Valentine resides. He doesn't dare let himself be known as Ender anymore; the name is now an epithet and considered taboo because of the Xenocide of the Formics ("buggers"). Upon receiving the call from Novinha to speak for Pipo's death at Lusitania, Ender decides to leave his sister behind because she just married and is pregnant. His only companion on the journey is Jane, an artificial sentience existing within the ansible computer network by which spaceships and planets communicate instantly across galactic distances.

He arrives on Lusitania after twenty-two years in transit (only around two weeks to him) to discover that Novinha has canceled her call, or rather tried to, as a call for a speaker cannot legally be canceled after the speaker has begun the journey. However, two other people have called for a speaker, making Ender's trip not entirely in vain: they are Novinha's eldest son Miro, calling for Libo, who was killed in the same manner as his father four years before Ender's arrival; and Novinha's eldest daughter Ela, calling for Novinha's husband Marcos Ribeira, who died not six weeks ago from a terminal disease. Besides attempting to unravel the question of why Novinha married Marcão when she really loved Libo (Marcão was sterile, and a quick genetic scan on Jane's part reveals that Novinha's children are all, in fact, Libo's), Ender also takes responsibility for attempting to heal the Ribeira family, and manages to adopt (or perhaps is adopted by) most of the children within their first meeting.

He also takes a strong interest in the pequeninos, and eventually (in direct violation of Starways Congress law) meets with them in person. The Hive Queen has also managed to make contact with the pequeninos philotically, and has told them a number of things—including the fact that "Andrew Wiggin" is not only the original Speaker for the Dead, but the original Xenocide as well. The Hive Queen very emphatically wants to be revived and freed on Lusitania.

Jane realizes the tension between Ender and the Catholic colonists, especially Bishop Peregrino. To spawn cooperation, she creates a common enemy by revealing to the Starways Congress that Miro and Ouanda have been committing Questionable activities, including teaching the pequeninos farming techniques. Ender goes on long journeys and adventures in the other books.

The Speaking[edit]

Ender holds a speaking for Marcão, Novinha's late husband. As a speaker's job, Ender reveals secrets from the lives of Libo, Pipo, and even Novinha herself. He explains how Novinha blamed herself for Pipo's death, and underwent a life of suffering and deception. She married Marcão to prevent Libo from accessing the information which killed Pipo, but she trusted with Libo—because their love for each other never truly died. Knowing about the affair, Marcão took out his anger on his wife and children.

The Severing of the Ansible/The Covenant[edit]

In response to Jane's article, the Starways Congress revokes Lusitania colony's charter and orders an immediate evacuation. In addition, they place Miro and Ouanda under arrest for committing Questionable Activities and order them to report to Trondheim for trial, a journey that would take twenty-two years. Convincing him that he can hide in the forest, the pequeninos urge Miro to cross the electric fence. In his attempt, he suffers significant neurological damage that partially paralyzes him. The colony declares itself in rebellion, and Jane severs the ansible connection, shutting down the electric fence and allowing Ender and the others to save Miro.

With pequenino Human's help, Ender is able to work out a treaty with the Wives, the women and leaders of the piggies, so that humans and pequeninos might live in peace. The meaning of Pipo's and Libo's murders is revealed as well: the trees are the "third stage" in the life of the piggies. Trees grown from piggies normally become brothertrees, but the ritually dissected ones are done so in order to make them fathertrees—sentient, living trees that are, unlike animal pequeninos, capable of reproduction (the Descolada is proved to be instrumental in these transformations). Both Pipo and Libo gained honor with the help of their partners, Mandachuva and Leaf-Eater respectively. The pequenino reward for such an honor is to be brought into the third life. Mandachuva and Leaf-Eater bring Libo and Pipo into the third life because the xenobiologists couldn't muster the strength to commit the act. Human begs Ender to do the same to him, and after struggling with the decision, Ender does the deed. Our final image of Human is of a small sapling growing out of his spine. Ender later adds to the treaty that no humans may be brought to the third life, as the colonists would view it as murder.

At the conclusion of the novel, Valentine and her family plan to travel to Lusitania to help in the rebellion. Miro, with his crippled and partially paralyzed body, is sent into space to meet them. For the first time in his life, someone (Novinha) is prepared to receive the Xenocide with compassion instead of revulsion, and she and Ender marry. In the final chapter, Ender releases the Hive Queen, ready to begin the continuation of her species.

The novel begins 3,081 years after the events of the first book, by which time the works of The Hive Queen and The Hegemon have caused the human race to let go of its hatred of the Buggers and instead revile Ender as "The Xenocide", who exterminated an entire species. Ender himself, now using his real name of Andrew Wiggin, is still alive because of relativistic space travel, and still acting as a Speaker for the Dead. No one connects "Andrew Wiggin" with "Ender Wiggin", nor do they connect him (as "Andrew" or "Ender") with the original Speaker for the Dead.

Relation to Ender's Game[edit]

Whereas the previous novel focused on armies and space warfare, Speaker for the Dead is philosophical in nature, although it still advances a xenology for the planetary setting. Its story finds Andrew in a human colony on the colony planet Lusitania, believed to be the only remaining planet in Card's universe with an intelligent alien race after the xenocide of the "Buggers" in Ender's Game. The novel deals with the difficult relationship between the humans and the "piggies" (or "pequeninos", since the action is set in a Catholic Brazilian research installation) and with Andrew's attempts to bring peace to a brilliant but troubled family whose history is intertwined with that of the pequeninos.

The Pequeninos[edit]

Main article: Pequeninos

The Pequeninos (also known as "piggies") are a native species on Lusitania. They are the only sentient alien species discovered since the xenocide of the buggers. Many provisions are taken by the Starways Congress to prevent contaminating the Pequeninos culture with any human technological advances or human culture. At the beginning, not much is known about them other than that they worship the trees and call the trees their fathers. Later on in the book, it is learned that the Pequeninos have what is called a "third life", where they are reborn as trees. It is a great honor to be allowed to enter the third life, one of the reasons being that only when they are in the third life are they able to reproduce. The Pequeninos have a special language reserved for speaking to the trees, and the trees can be manipulated to build wooden structures and tools as a favor to the piggies. The Pequeninos want to learn much more about human culture and "murder" Xenologers Pipo and Libo. Pipo and Libo both contributed significantly to their survival, so the Pequeninos wanted them to vivisect a Pequenino, which is necessary to attain the third life. However, Pipo and Libo both refused and the Pequeninos proceeded to vivisect them instead, with intentions of their entering the third life. However, their endeavor failed as Libo and Pipo are humans and have no third life. As the nature of the third life and the necessary procedure was unknown to humans, it appeared to the human population that Pipo and Libo were brutally murdered, thus the main and first reason that Ender came to Lusitania.


  • Andrew Wiggin
  • Valentine Wiggin
  • Novinha (Ivanova Santa Catarina von Hesse)
  • Marcão (Marcos Maria Ribeira)
  • Gusto (Vladimir Tiago Gussman) and Cida (Ekaterina Maria Aparecida do Norte von Hesse-Gusman) (Os Venerados de Ribeira)
  • Jane
  • Miro (Marcos Vladimir Ribiera von Hesse)
  • Ouanda (Ouanda Quenhatta Figueira Mucumbi)
  • Ela (Ekaterina Elanora Ribiera von Hesse)
  • Olhado (Lauro Suleimão)
  • Quim (Estevão Rei)
  • Quara (Lembrança Milagres de Jesus)
  • Grego (Gerão Gregorio)
  • Rooter
  • Pipo (João Figueira Alvarez)
  • Libo (Liberdade Graças a Deus Figueira de Medici)
  • Human
  • Leaf-Eater
  • Mandachuva
  • Governor Bosquinha (Faria Lima Maria do Bosque)
  • Bishop Peregrino (Armão Cebola)
  • Dom Cristão (Amai a Tudomundo Para Que Deus vos Ame Cristão)
  • Dona Cristã (Detestai o Pecado e Fazei o Direito Cristã)

Lack of film adaptation[edit]

At the Los Angeles Times Book Festival (April 20, 2013), Card stated why he does not want Speaker for the Dead made into a film: "Speaker for the Dead is unfilmable," Card said in response to a question from the audience. "It consists of talking heads, interrupted by moments of excruciating and unwatchable violence. Now, I admit, there's plenty of unwatchable violence in film, but never attached to my name. Speaker for the Dead, I don't want it to be filmed. I can't imagine it being filmed."[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "1986 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d "1987 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  3. ^ Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, pp. 5-7
  4. ^ Bloomekatz, Ari (April 20, 2013). "Orson Scott Card talks film, adaptation of 'Ender's Game'". Los Angeles Times. 

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