Speaker for the Dead

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Speaker for the Dead
Speaker dead cover.jpg
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
AuthorOrson Scott Card
Cover artistJohn Harris
CountryUnited States
SeriesEnder's Game series
GenreScience fiction
PublisherTor Books
Publication date
March 1986
AwardLocus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1987)
Preceded byEnder's Game 
Followed byXenocide 

Speaker for the Dead is a 1986 science fiction novel by American writer Orson Scott Card, an indirect sequel to the novel Ender's Game. The book takes place around the year 5270, some 3,000 years after the events in Ender's Game. However, because of relativistic space travel at near-light speed, 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 space colonies. It is also the first to describe the Hundred Worlds, the planets with human colonies that are tightly intertwined by Ansible technology which enables instantaneous communication, even across light years of distance.

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.


Some years after the xenocide of the Formic species (in Ender's Game), Ender Wiggin writes a book called The Hive Queen, describing the life of the Formics as described to him by the dormant Formic Queen whom he secretly carries. As humanity uses light-speed travel to establish new colonies, Ender and his sister Valentine age slowly through relativistic travel. Ender's older brother, the now-aged Hegemon Peter Wiggin, recognizes Ender's writings in The Hive Queen, and requests Ender write for him once he dies. Ender agrees and authors The Hegemon. These two books, written under the pseudonym "Speaker for the Dead", launch a new religious movement of Speakers, who have authority to investigate and eulogize a person and their work after their death.

Three thousand years after the Formic xenocide, humans have spread across the Hundred Worlds, ruled by Starways Congress. A Brazilian Catholic human colony called Milagre is established on the planet Lusitania (1886 S.C.). The planet is home to a sentient species of symbiotic forest dwellers. The colonists (who primarily speak Portuguese) dub them "Pequeninos" (Little Ones) but they are often referred to as "piggies" due to their porcine snouts. Their society is matriarchal and gender-segregated, and their belief system centers around the trees of the forests. The Pequeninos prove to be of great interest to scientists. Since humans had destroyed the only sentient species they had encountered (the Formics), special care is taken to ensure no similar mistakes are made with the Pequeninos. The colony is fenced in, strictly regulated to limit contact with the Pequeninos to a handful of scientists, and forbidden to share human technology with them. Shortly after the colony's founding, many of the colonists die from the Descolada virus (Portuguese for "uncoiled"), which causes terrible pain, rampant cancerous growth of fungus and even extra limbs, decay of healthy tissue, and death. The xenobiologists Gusto and Cida von Hesse manage to create a treatment for the virus before succumbing to it themselves (1936 S.C.), leaving behind their young daughter Novinha.


Further information: List of Ender's Game characters

Eight years after the Descolada virus is cured, Xenologer Pipo and his thirteen-year-old son and apprentice Libo have developed a friendship with the Pequeninos. They allow Novinha to join their science team as the colony's only xenobiologist, after she manages to pass the test at age thirteen. After accidentally sharing information about human genders with a male Pequenino named Rooter, the scientists find Rooter's body eviscerated, a sapling planted within it, and guess this may be a torturous sacrificial ritual.

A few years later, Novinha discovers that every lifeform on Lusitania carries the Descolada virus which, though lethal to humans, appears to serve a beneficial purpose to native lifeforms. When Pipo learns of this, he suddenly has an insight, and before he tells the others, races off to talk to the Pequeninos. Hours later, Libo and Novinha find Pipo's body cut open just as Rooter's had been, but with no sapling planted. As Pipo's death appears unprovoked, the Pequeninos are now considered a threat by the Starways Congress and restrictions on studying them are tightened. Novinha, having fallen in love with Libo but fearing that he will find out from her files what led to Pipo's death, marries another colonist, Marcos Ribeira, so as to lock her files from being opened, under colony law. Emotionally distraught, she then makes a call for a Speaker for the Dead for Pipo.

Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, living innocuously on the planet Trondheim, responds to Novinha's call. Though she has traveled with him for thousands of years, his sister Valentine is now pregnant and settled. He travels on alone, save for an artificial intelligence named Jane who communicates with Ender through a jewel in his ear and appears to live in the ansible network that enables faster-than-light communications. After relativistic travel, Ender arrives at Lusitania 22 years later (1970 S.C.), finding that Novinha had canceled her request for a Speaker five days after sending it. In the intervening time, Libo had died in a similar manner to Pipo, and Marcos had succumbed to a chronic illness. Novinha's eldest children, Ela and Miro, have requested a Speaker for Libo and Marcos. Ender, gaining access to all of the appropriate files, learns of tension since Pipo's death: Novinha has turned away from xenobiology to study crop growth, which created a loveless relationship with Marcos; Miro has secretly worked with Ouanda to continue to study the Pequeninos, while sharing human technology and knowledge with them. Over the course of time, Miro and Ouanda have fallen in love. With Ender's arrival, Miro tells him that one of the Pequeninos, Human, has taken a great interest in Ender, and Ender becomes aware that Human can hear messages from the Formic Hive Queen. Ender and Jane discover that Marcos was infertile: all six of Novinha's children, including Miro, were fathered by Libo, Ender also learns what Pipo had seen in Novinha's data.

As word of Miro's and Ouanda's illegal sharing of human technology with the Pequeninos is reported to Congress, Ender secretly goes to meet with the Pequeninos. They know his true identity, and they implore him to help them be part of civilization, while the Formic Queen tells Ender that Lusitania would be an ideal place to restart the hive, as her race can help guide the Pequeninos. By the time Ender returns to the colony, Congress has ordered Miro and Ouanda to be sent off-planet for penal action and the colony to be disbanded. Ender delivers his eulogy for Marcos, revealing Novinha's infidelity. Miro, distraught to learn that he is Ouanda's half-brother, attempts to escape to the Pequeninos, but he suffers neurological damage as he tries to cross the electrified fence. Ender reveals to the colony what he discovered that Pipo had learned: that every life form on Lusitania is paired with another through the Descolada virus, so that the death of one births the other, and as in the case of the Pequeninos, who become trees when they die. The colony leaders recognize Ender's words, and they agree to rebel against Congress, severing their ansible connection and deactivating the fence, allowing Ender, Ouanda, and Ela to go with Human to speak to the Pequenino wives, to help establish a case to present to Congress.

The Pequenino wives help Ender corroborate the complex life cycle of the Pequeninos, affirming that the death ritual Pipo observed was to help create "fathertrees" who fertilize the Pequenino females to continue their race. The Pequeninos believed they were honoring Pipo, and later Libo, by helping them become fathertrees, but Ender explains that humans lack this "third life", and if the Pequeninos are to cohabitate with humans, they must respect this difference. To affirm their understanding, Ender is allowed to perform the ritual of giving Human "third life" as a fathertree, providing Ouanda with the confirmation needed to present to Congress.

Miro recovers from most of the physical damage from his encounter with the fence, but he is still paralyzed. Valentine and her family inform Ender they plan to help Lusitania with the revolt, and they are traveling from Trondheim to help; Ender has Miro meet them halfway. Novinha, having gained understanding into the death of Pipo and Libo, finally absolves herself of her guilt, and she and Ender marry. Ender plants the Hive Queen as per her request, and he writes his third book, a biography of the life of the Pequenino, Human.

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."[3]


Card writes in his introduction to the 1991 edition that he has received letters from readers who have conducted "Speakings" at funerals.[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. ^ Bloomekatz, Ari (April 20, 2013). "Orson Scott Card talks film, adaptation of 'Ender's Game'". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ Card, Orson Scott (1991). Speaker for the Dead, Revised Edition. New York: Tor. p. x.

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