Tag Archives: ScienceFiction

SFRC: Speaker for the Dead

Science Fiction Reader Challenge
Science Fiction Reader Challenge
The Ender series is generally considered YA but in my opinion Speaker for the dead is NOT YA. Almost all of the POV characters are adults and most especially Ender, the central character, is an adult with adult concerns.

The book starts on a planet called Lusitania where humans discover a new intellectual species, the Pequininos or Piggies as they call them. Soon however one Piggies turns up brutally murdered near to the perimeter fence of the human compound. The local xenobiologist and two xenologers have a hard time reconciling the murder with everything else they know about the Piggies but they continue their efforts to understand them. The lead xenologer, Pipo, discovers something from the xenobiologist’s (Novinha) data that he doesn’t share with anyone before confirming it with the Piggies. Unfortunately his discovery leads the Piggies to slaughter him in the same brutal manner that they slaughtered their own. Novinha, feeling guilty and in pain, calls for a Speaker for the Dead to speak Pipo’s death so that the Catholic rituals that feel hollow to her due to her childhood experiences won’t be the last word spoken for Pipo.

The closest Speaker turns out to be Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who sees Novinha as someone who would understand him and starts off for Lusitania. He arrives thirty years later, only a few weeks after Pipo’s son, Libo, has been killed by the Piggies. As luck would have it, Novinha’s abusive husband has also died of his chronic disease. Novinha’s children call for a Speaker, not knowing that one is already on his way and indeed almost ready to arrive to Lusitania. Ender’s arrival puts Novinha’s whole family and indeed the small human community of Lusitania into a tailspin that none will recover from unchanged.

The Speaker for the Dead is an odd book. The world building is strong and indeed the ending completely relies on it. The mystery is weak, looking at Goodreads it’s clear that I’m not the only one who guessed the twist ending well in advance. The characters are quite complex and certainly pretty fully realized but the character based plots are wholly based on everyone’s inability to communicate. Novinha refuses to talk to the love of her life, Libo, and thus condemns herself to an unhappy life with Marcão. Pipo does not explain to Libo or Novinha his realization of the nature of the Piggies despite the fact that both are supposed to be more or less his students. Novinha doesn’t talk to her kids, or Marcão. Marcão does not talk to Novinha’s kids, leaving them all feeling abandoned. Libo does not talk to his wife or Novinha, or any of his children. There would not be a book, if these people just communicated with each other and so it sort of makes the whole book that much more difficult to believe.

I finished reading this book more than a month ago and I still can’t make up my mind on whether I liked it or not. There are certainly problems galore with it and maybe if I had been reading the physical book, I would have given up before the end or skipped much more. But the audio version went by quite nicely and I really enjoyed the ecological implications of the worldbuilding. It is very unlikely though that I’ll ever read it again and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for people who aren’t science geeks. And yet I don’t think it bad in any sense of the word. I really don’t know what to think about this book.

And thus with this post I am officially caught up to the review/month pace.

YA/MG Science Fiction
Adult Science Fiction
Hugo Winner
Science Fiction Classic – Pre-1950s
Science Fiction Modern Classic – 1951-1992
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster


WWJVD- What Would Jules Verne Do

Like a lot of other people before me, I got interested in science fiction because of Jules Verne. When I was little my dad had a book with Verne’s biggest stories (you know the ones; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, etc) and it had these gorgeous full-page paintings depicting the scenes and then smaller, black and white lithographs there among the words. It’s the first book I ever read and I read it before I could even read.

But, nostalgia aside, today I got to wondering what Verne’s stories would have been like had he been born in the information age. Here are some suggestions:

Around the galaxy 380 days

Verne was all about the technology. And although something like Captain Nemo’s submarine is possible nowadays, in the days of Jules Verne it was as much science fiction as faster than light travel is today. Sure, submarine’s existed but they could hardly go below the surface. We have yet to explore even the other planets in our own solar system, let alone the whole galaxy. I don’t know about you, but to me this sounds like a job for Jules Verne.

Journey through the black hole

Verne’s signature touch, even above technology was taking us to places we had never seen before. And while black holes cause a lot of speculation among physicists and especially among science fiction fans and writers, the truth is, we have no clue what – if anything – lies beyond.

(Image via Vilseskogen

20 000 leagues under the sea

I really believe that space travel would feature heavily in Verne’s modern fiction, but there are still so many things we don’t know about the planet we ourselves live on. I believe there’s lots of cause for Captain Nemo to ride again into the Mariana Trench for instance.

Under the crust

Although the days of the great explorers are long gone, there are still corners on this Earth that haven’t been explored, as I’ve already mentioned. Some of the most dangerous, most intriguing places still to be explored are the large cave systems especially the ones that are under water. They require not only experience and knowledge about caving (apparently, spelunking is only for the amateurs), but also specialized equipment and nerves of steel in case you get stuck. In a cave. Under water. Oh my.