“This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones that we really believe in, and those we never think to question.”
“No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one's life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.”
“It's the most charming thing about humans. You are all so sure that the lesser animals are bleeding with envy because they didn't have the good fortune to be born Homo sapiens.”
Speaker for the Dead is the original sequel to Ender's Game, and it takes place about 3,000 years after the events of Ender's Game have occurred. In fact, Orson Scott Card intended this novel to be his magnum opus, a true masterpiece of Science Fiction and philosophy, while Ender's Game (originally actually a short story or novella) was slated as a simple lead-in to Speaker for the Dead. However, Speaker for the Dead actually has very little to do with the plot of the original novel in the Ender sequence; the Hive Queen, Ender Wiggin, and his sister Valentine are still alive due to all the almost-light-speed traveling they've been doing, but everyone else has died of natural causes, including Peter, Ender's brother, who became leader of the Hegemony of Earth after the events of Ender's Game. In this time period, humans have begun to colonize planets outside the Solar System, and a few dozen planets have been begun to be colonized. Ender and his sister travel all over space, with Ender performing "Speakings" for the dead. Many other speakers for the dead crop up, but he is the original one.
What a Speaker does is this: he uncovers many facts about the deceased and presents them all honestly and factually, stressing the good things that person has done in their life and how they lived it, but also not leaving out the bad parts or the crimes they may have gotten away with. Thus, the Speaker creates a more poignant, powerful atmosphere at the deceased's funeral while truly illuminating their character for all to see and appreciate. Speaker for the Dead has become a sacred task, and in fact it was all invented by Ender Wiggin at the end of Ender's Game. Ender's unintentional murdering of an entire race of aliens, the Buggers, or the Formic people, is another theme in this novel. He was a military-bred child genius, and at the end of Ender's Game he plays what the generals tell him is a very complex game, when in fact, he is controlling an Earth assault on the Formic planet (evidently his genius has been recognized). He mercilessly destroys the Formics and blows their planet to smithereens. The only Formic left is the Hive Queen, a cocoon that Ender tries to find a suitable planet for, so the race can reestablish itself.
In this novel, Ender travels to Lusitania, a colony planet of Portuguese-associated people to investigate (and Speak for the deceased) a mysterious brutal murder of Pipo, a biologist who is studying the newfound alien piggies: apparently simple, reasonably cute creatures found on Lusitania, and the only other sentient race found so far. Ender has been called by Pipo's depressed and bitter daughter, Novinha, to find answers. This book focuses on Ender's interaction with the people of Lusitania, and his solving of the mystery of Pipo's death, why these seemingly peaceful creatures would kill a man who had gained their trust and respect so viciously, with his stomach cut open and his entrails arranged neatly out of his body.
Speaker for the Dead is an interesting and stimulating novel about how alien life is never going to be easily understood by humans, and about respect and the proper treatment of the dead. Is it as interesting and engaging as Ender's Game, almost on par with it in fact, and quite a good read. Of course, read Game first, but this story does not have much to do with Game, due to the 3,000 year time separation. This novel was intended to be the big one in the series, but Game stole all of its thunder. Many people dismiss the seemingly endless Ender sequels, but this is definitely one that is well-thought out and quite different from Ender's Game-- less focused on action and more contemplative and emotion-laced ( as opposed to the sometimes disturbingly emotionless murder in Ender's Game) throughout its entirety.
“We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. With out them we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence. ”
“To sit among all those unknown things before a puzzle like that is hopeless. That way lies monomania. Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all.”
“We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existence, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.”
The Time Machine by H.G Wells is the original time travel story, period. This very short novel (only about 90-120 pages depending on the font size) is still the time travel story against which all others pale. But its shortness and simplicity should not fool the reader. This book is certainly an adventure, but there is also some thought-provoking philosophy about socialism, and the ethicality of time travel itself. I have found in reading science fiction that many time travel stories introduce new dilemmas to time travel, but, after reading the Time Machine, it becomes apparent that H.G. Wells had already thought of most of them!
The plot is quite familiar to most, and fairly straightforward: The Time Traveler, set against the background of Victorian England, builds a machine with which he can travel through time. After a brief introduction to our protagonist, most of the novel focuses on his voyage to an era in which humanity has split off into two separate sub-species: the weak, peaceful, useless Eloi, and the dark, barbaric, underground-dwelling, cannabalistic Morlocks. The Morlocks apparently represent the working class, which makes the Eloi's semi-utopian existence possible. The Eloi's stagnant, peaceful, workless society thus represents the wealthy upper class. It soon becomes evident that the Morlocks hold the true power in this society --they are feared by the Eloi, and kill and eat them often.
It becomes apparent to the Time Traveler that the Eloi will probably perish as a race soon. Wells takes this opportunity to introduce the reader to some of his socialist philosophy, and it is quite convincing in places. The Time Traveler's love of the Eloi, Weena, is the central arc in this story, as the Traveler tries to stop Morlocks from killing her, as well as stealing his machine. The Traveler also briefly visits Earth in the far future, where he sees the sun swelled to enormous size, and the entire Earth as a wasteland home to strange, writhing creatures.
The novel ends rather abruptly, but the reader has been given much to think about by the time this wild ride is over. All in all, The Time Machine is an excellent introduction to Science Fiction, and it's probably the first book I'd recommend to someone starting out SF. You can get to the more complex stuff like Star Maker, Dune, Dying Inside, and The Man in the High Castle eventually, but if you are a SF fan and haven't read this, drop everything and read it; it is a pioneering, seminal work of SF.
ADDED 1/20/2016 --A BLOG POST I DID ON THE TIME MACHINE FOR A COLLEGE LITERATURE COURSE:
‘That’s right,’ I said, ‘or even worse, it could be perfect.’ ”