Day: September 23, 2008

by Orson Scott Card

This is one of those books packed with a complex story and thought-provoking ideas. Yet at the same time it really disappointed me, and I just cannot love it the way I did Ender\’s Game. In Speaker for the Dead, thousands of years have passed since Ender nearly obliterated the alien Buggers, causing his name to be vilified by the universe for killing an entire race. Now mankind has discovered another form of alien life, and they don\’t want to repeat the same mistake. Contact is strictly guarded, so many restrictions its nearly ludicrous. Life on the new planet is complicated further by the presence of a deadly disease, the secrets of its pathology deliberately hidden by those who found its cure. Members of the scientist family involved summon a Speaker for the Dead to reveal the true desires and motivations of their dead father in a public ceremony- not knowing that the Speaker is Ender himself, who by some quirks of space travel has skipped over the centuries while only ageing minimally. Ender has his own motivations for coming to this planet- to redeem what he did to the Buggers by facilitating understanding between humans and the new aliens, and finding a place where the Bugger hive queen can come back to life.

It\’s a great story, fraught with moral and religious dilemmas and showing how vast misunderstandings can be, not only between the obvious alien races, but between people of the same community and family. The problem for me was that it covered so great a scope of time- and several generations- that I felt like I was just observing all the characters from a distance (rather like in Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang) and couldn\’t get close to any of them. Even the passages describing Ender\’s inner conflict and emotional moments left me unmoved. What really motivated me to get through the book was curiosity about the alien race, but there was far too little information about them. In fact, there was very little description at all, of the setting, the characters, or anything else. This is a story almost totally expressed in dialog and heated conversations, quite the opposite from the last book I read (which was a stream-of-consciousness monologue inside a teenager\’s head). So even though I think Speaker for the Dead is a good book for the questions it raises, and heavy moral quandaries it wrestles with, in comparison to Ender\’s Game it really fell flat for me. It\’s great for analyzing and arguing over with your spouse (we read it at about the same time), but not a book with characters who feel like friends I\’d want to visit again.

Rating: 3/5                 382 pages, 1986

More opinions at:
Things Mean a Lot
An Adventure in Reading
Blue Bold Adventure
Book Nook Club

by Keith Miller

This gently moving story speaks in poetic language, each chapter a quiet vignette of its own. Set in an entirely imagined land, a world inhabited by fantastic beasts as well as men, where half the people have wings and can fly. The winged people and the earthbound don\’t really mix. Pico, lonely poet and librarian in his little town, was born wingless, but he loves a girl who has them. So he sets off on a journey to a fabled city where supposedly there\’s a book that can teach him to gain wings and fly.

I had high hopes for The Book of Flying. The dreamlike setting and events, the beautiful language. The wandering poet who must travel the world. It feels like one long, elaborate parable. But two things failed me. I was unable to feel anything for Pico. He seemed such a gentle, almost innocent person I really wanted to like him. Yet although chasing a dream for the love of a girl evidences some passion, his actions appeared so passive; besides a token vocal protest, he never resisted (at least as far as I got) when others forced him to do things against his character. After fifty pages I just didn\’t care enough about him to continue. And the sensual parts of the story bothered me (again, because of how Pico responds to them). Yet the setting and events are so imaginative the pages still tug my curiosity, so I\’m setting this one aside, perhaps to return to later. Maybe I just wasn\’t in right mindset for it.

I first heard of this book on Chris\’ fantastic blog, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On. It\’s in such short supply I feel lucky to have acquired a copy from Paperback Swap, so I\’m not going to let go of mine soon, even though it failed to enthrall me on the first reading attempt.

Abandoned                 272 pages, 2004

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

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