Scott Fitzgerald said, “The sign of intelligence is the ability to carry opposed thoughts at the same time”. Orson Scott Card has an ability to clearly put forth opposing ideas and arguments and debate each side. Because of personal beliefs and convictions it can be difficult not to blatantly lean to one side or the other, or come off as preachy. Card does neither of those and can even stab at his own beliefs, which I find refreshing. The more I get to know Card’s mind, the more I enjoy his writing or is that the more I read of his, the more I enjoy his mind?
In Speaker for the Dead, the Bugger Wars have long been over and humans have expanded to what has become known as the Hundred Worlds. On the planet-colony Lusitania, a newly discovered alien race is being studied. Lives perish and the Speaker for the Dead comes to do his job.
Because it is a sequel to Ender’s Game, it is difficult to say just enough about Speaker for the Dead without giving too much away of either. In general, Card writes so that any of his books within a series can be read alone, but both of these in particular were written with that intention. In fact it is out his working on Speaker for the Dead that Ender’s Game came to be.
Card tends to explore concepts that one can really bite into. The idea for Speaker for the Dead arose because he was dissatisfied with the way funerals are used to:
“make them into a person much easier to live with than the person who actually lived. I rejected that idea. I thought that a more appropriate funeral would be to say, honestly, what that person was and what that person did. But to me, “honesty” doesn’t simply mean saying all the unpleasant things instead of saying only the nice ones. It doesn’t even consist of averaging them out. No, to understand who a person really was, what his or her life really meant, the speaker for the dead would have to explain their self-story- what they meant to do, what they actually did, what they regretted, what they rejoiced in. That’s the story that we never know, the story that we never can know- and yet, at the time of death, it’s the only story truly worth telling.”
I could continue at great length and although it’s hard not to pick Speaker for Dead apart here and now, I won’t. I’ll stick to dissecting it with a friend who has read the series. That reminds me, I want to find out what my uncle thought of Ender’s Game. Both are favorite reads from 2008 and I highly recommend them.
- “Rituals and myths don’t come from nowhere. There’s usually some reason for it that’s tied to the survival of the community.”
- “Order and disorder, they each have their beauty.”
- “No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one’s life is nothing.”
- “Some sort of rigid hierarchy always emerged as the conservative force in a community, maintaining its identity despite the constant variations and changes that beset it. If there were no powerful advocate of orthodoxy, the community would inevitably disintegrate. A powerful orthodoxy is annoying, but essential to the community.”
- “The bones are hard and by themselves seem dead and stony, but by rooting into and pulling themselves against the skeleton, the rest of the body carries out all the motions of life.”
- Good vs Evil: “It’s figuring out which is which that takes so much work.”
- “We question all our beliefs, except for the ones that we really believe, and those we never think to question. “
- “Sickness and healing are in every heart. Death and deliverance are in every hand.”
- “What man of you is there, when his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
- “When you really know somebody, you can’t hate them. Or maybe it’s just that you can’t really know them until you stop hating them.”
- “Once you understand what people really want, you can’t hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can’t hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart.”