Skip to main content
  1. Readings/

Speaker for the Dead

·1785 words·9 mins·
Book-Swap 2024 Reading-Challenge-2024
Jerry S
Jerry S
Table of Contents


I read Ender’s Game and absolutely had to read more. This book is very unlike Ender’s Game. There are no grand space battles. One thing that was immediately interesting about it was that the author, Orson Scott Card, used Portuguese in the book as one of the main languages. I don’t speak Portuguese but it resembled Spanish enough that it enhanced my enjoyment of book. The author always made sure to keep English-only speakers aware of all translations but he did also make sure to include enough Portuguese to lend the characters their own distinct quality.

Find it here

Goodreads link

The Truth After Dying

The job of a Speaker for the Dead is similar to that of someone who gives a eulogy at a funeral. Simple enough, yes? The catch is that first gather information through an interview process and they must speak truthfully about the life of the person and the impact it truly had on them and those around them.

Sounds easy, but it’s anything but.

If I should need a Speaker for my life, I hope they would have nothing to uncover after my passing. That is a worthy aim. I doubt I’ll achieve it. Most no one does.

The Truth Needs a Defender

The Truth on its own is not enough. Action must be taken to defend it valiantly, but the actions must be kind and compassionate because the truth can destroy lives and reinvent them. So it is that in this book lives are destroyed and reinvented, killed and revived with the simple uttering of words.

Speaker Comic - Deviant Art

Favorite Quotes

I carry the seeds of death within me and plant them wherever I linger long enough to love. My parents died so others could live; now I live so others must die.

This is one of the character’s internalized beliefs. She’s in a formative time of her life. Unfortunately, these beliefs, constructed at such a critical time, no matter how wrong, can become the cornerstone of a lifetime of suffering. But who cares, without her suffering there wouldn’t have been a book! :-D

And perhaps when he found the truth, and spoke in the clear voice…., perhaps that would set her free from the blame that burned her to the heart.

I used to think like this. If only someone could see the truth of me and speak it out clearly and loudly, because I’ve not the strength to do it myself, then I would be set free of my burden.

I have changed my vantage point. Though others might glimpse and even see clearly into someone, they are not incentivized to move a muscle to aid. I must do for myself what I would wish done for me. At once the savior and the saved.

Here I Am - Deviant Art

How clever of me. I have found such a pathway into hell that I can never get back out.

Hahaha. Ah yes. There is a quote this reminds me of by Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut:

There is no problem so bad you can’t make it worse.

For the character in the book, maybe she can’t find a way out of hell, but if Chris Hadfield’s quote has any truth to it…there is always a deeper part of hell to go into.

For he loved her, as you can only love someone who is an echo of yourself at your time of deepest sorrow.

This character doesn’t know the other that he loves personally. He has only read her history and knows of her hell and knows how it has paralleled his own.

Is it possible to love this way? To love someone who is a shadow of your past self? Yes, I believe it is, partly because I have lived it. Also partly because how one can love a character in a book and never know them in flesh and bone, only in ink and paper.

Ender had trained himself not to respond reflexively to an enemy’s actions until he had decided to let his reflexes rule.

I don’t have this level of control. I don’t think I want it, but in Ender’s character it is a skill that is valuable to have.

“Don’t blame yourself,” said Ender. “It’s the kind of thing only a stranger can see.”

Isn’t it funny to have a complete stranger enter one’s life and point out, immediately, the thing that has been hiding in plain sight for so long. It can be a horrible experience because the bigger the issue the more impact it’ll have as it comes crashing down.

But what a relief, to be able to usher in a new way of being.

He is dangerous, he is beautiful, I could drown in his understanding.

Beauty and danger wrapped into one being. If I hadn’t read the entire book I would be a bit disgusted by this quote. It feels very much like a line from a romance novel that I would read but not enjoy. Maybe I need to travel into this unknown frontier of romance novels. Yes, I should. It is something I have put off for too long.

Anyway, it reads like the typical draw of a forbidden love. One knows they mustn’t, but one knows they will.

Painful Truth - Deviant Art

“Twisted and perverse are the ways of the human mind,” Jane intoned. “Pinocchio was such a dolt to try and become a real boy. He was much better off with a wooden head.”

Pinocchio was NOT a name I expected to see in this book. Imagine if Pinocchio had not tried to become human!? Is Pinocchio a story of self-adulation told through the eyes of an animate non-human to serve as the alien eye to justify our human worth?

He like dealing with [their] religion as little as he liked his own people’s Catholicism. In both cases he had to pretend to take the most outrageous beliefs seriously.

I identified with this character’s way of thinking in the past. Largely, Instinctively, I still do.

Older that I am now, I no longer pretend to believe. Not to say that I’m religious now. I’m, however, more accepting.

Church Dove - Deviant Art

Christ will clothe us in virtue like the lilies of the field, but we will make no effort to appear virtuous ourselves.

Wow. I admire that. Maybe because I already believed it to begin with. Maybe it’s just me despising those that tout their virtuousness so that we may sanctify them for it.

That’s because you’ve never sinned, my son, that’s because you know nothing of the impossibility of penance.

Another belief to be trapped in.

To believe that one has sinned so grievously that one will never be forgiven. The belief is so strong that seeking forgiveness and speaking the truth become non-options.

My own beliefs that I’m trapped in, what are they? How do I get to the foundation of my being and uproot them?

…don’t ever try to teach me about good and evil. I’ve been there and you’ve seen nothing but the map.

Oh, ouch. An adult speaking to a child in a condescending manner because the adult doesn’t believe the child understands good and evil. Give the kid a compass to evil then so they can find their way there.

Compass to Evil. If you go the opposite way…

Sometimes it’s a little like a battle just to get people to tell you the truth.

Yes. Sometimes it’s even a little like a battle to get myself to admit the truth to myself.

Ignorance and deception can’t save anybody. Knowing saves them.

I wish I believed this more thoroughly. I must adopt it.

She jumped up and bounced on it a few times.
“You only lasted a couple of days,” she said cheerfully.
“Everybody hates you now.”

Ender laughed wryly and turned around to look at her. “Do you?”

“Oh, yes.” she said. “I hated you first of all…
“…You want to see me do arithmetic?”

Hahaha. How can children speak the truth so easily like that? I know how but only when there is a full moon do I remember…or is it on new moons? Ah! I forgot!

A strange thing happened then.
The Speaker agreed with her that she had made a mistake that night, and she knew when he said the words that it was true

she caught a glimpse of what the power of Speaking might be.

Just another favorite. The art of Speaking is something, I realize, I’m trying to learn through my writing.

“I speak to everyone in the language they understand,” said Ender.
“That isn’t being slick. It’s being clear.”

In the story, Ender, has convinced two characters, at the same time, of something using a religious quote for one and a secular quote for the other. He uses their own beliefs to communicate.

Don’t we all try to? Hahaha. No, we don’t. Especially when the words they use and the beliefs they have are so different from our own, even if we technically speak the same language, it can be impossible to communicate. Not everyone seems to understand this. To speak differently than we would otherwise speak feels like self-abandonment. It isn’t. It might sound like deception as well. It’s not.

How can it be deception to be understood? It’s being a diplomatic self-ambassador.

When you don’t held them accountable, when you don’t ask them direct questions, when you try to deceive them, then you treat them like animals.

I capture this one more for me than for anyone else.

“They aren’t stupid,” said the Speaker. “This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question…”

This might be my favorite of the book but it’s so closely tied with another it’s hard to tell.

“I don’t need things like that,” said Speaker. “What I need are true stories.”

Yes! Truth speaking is at the center of this book and at times it is portrayed as a villainy. Eventually though truth speaking is the way that things move forward the best. Truth speaking rearranges the universe…almost literally.

I want true stories. One of those stories I want is my own.

“You see, Speaker? I would die to climb the wall that keeps us from the stars.”

Ah! This one is the other favorite that is tied for first. To explain it I’d have to copy and paste the whole book. Suffice it to say that I want to understand if I’m willing to show the same dedication as the character that utters these words.