Title: Speaker for the Dead
Author: Orson Scott Card
Summary: Three thousand years after the events of Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin has long since disappeared. No one associates him with Andrew Wiggin, a Speaker for the Dead, who stays no longer than six months on any world, and who now appears to be a man in his mid-thirties.
Humans have exterminated the insect-like race known as Buggers. Now a second non-human intelligent race, the “Little Ones”, called “piggies” because of their appearance, has been discovered on the planet Lusitania. Hoping to avoid the terrible misunderstandings that led to the Bugger War, the Starways Congress decrees that only one xenologist and one apprentice may study these new beings. No information about human culture may be passed on to the piggies.
Pipo, the present xenologist, and his son Libo have only limited contact with the piggies. They try to glean information from the natives’ actions and conversations. They are assisted by Novinha, the daughter of two biologists who saved the Lusitania colony from a wide-spread plague, only to lose their own lives in the process. Novinha wishes to follow her parents’ vocation, and some of her findings excite Pipo. He praises her and runs off to check his guesses with the piggies. He is found several hours later, murdered in what looks like a ritualistic sacrifice. Pipo and Libo had seen at least one member of the piggy community killed the same way.
Novinha realizes that she knows the secret of why Pipo was killed, and that she can never pass the knowledge on to anyone, especially Libo, because he will be killed as well. She attempts to destroy her work, but the computer won't allow it. So she encrypts her files and refuses to marry Libo, whom she loves, because as her husband he would have access to the data. But she also puts out a call for a Speaker for the Dead, someone who investigates the story of a person’s life, and asks that he or she Speak for Pipo, which will allow the truth to come out.
Andrew Wiggins accepts the call, arriving many years after the request is made, only to discover that Novinha has changed her mind in the meantime. But two others in the Lusitania colony have called for Speakers also, and this gives Andrew the legal excuse he needs to investigate the mysteries of Lusitania. Why Novinha married an abusive husband. Why the piggies killed first Pipo, and later Libo. And why the horrifying plague that was stopped by Novinha’s parents may not be as dead as everyone thinks.
Peronally, this was my favorite of Card’s works. The characters are interesting, and the attempts to get inside and understand an alien mindset are fascinating. This is the sequel to Ender’s Game, and won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for outstanding science fiction.