Review of Speaker for the Dead

3,000 years after Ender destroyed the buggers, the human population has expanded to 100 worlds, held together by Star Congress. One colony on Lusitania has discovered the first sentient life form since the xenocide of the buggers. Thus begins a series of events that throws the entire universe into chaos and could lead to another xenocide.

It is so important for a writer to read. Why? Because you learn so much by watching a master at work, pulling the strings to create a dancing marionette right before your eyes. With Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card dances twenty such marionettes in a dazzling display.

I recommend this book for any aspiring writer, but especially for those in the fantasy or sci-fi genres. Here's what I learned from his writing:

Card's characters are multi-dimensional, flawed, loveable, resourceful, full of emotions and agendas of their own. Every character that you meet has a life of its own. No one is there to support the plot; they all act and move and breathe like real living beings, each unique from the other.

I know in my own writing I try to do this too. But I have not achieved it to the scale he has. While I work with a handful of characters, he has worlds full of them.

Although it is a character-driven story, Card pieces the plot together as easily as doing a puzzle, putting in the proper information, the right detail, at the perfect--no, the crucial--moment to keep readers turning pages. Or fumbling to put in the next disc while driving down the highway, as the case may be.

Sometimes he interrupts his story--usually between chapters--to include a report from scientists or a dialog between congress men on another planet or a letter between friends. You, the readers, see things that the main characters cannot, and it leaves you in awe of the complexity of the world, the tangled web of sub-plots, the mish-mash of agendas from characters across the entire universe.

It's hard to see the use of techniques in Card's writing. Not because he doesn't use them, but rather he has created such a fascinating story that you forget to watch for them. But even if you are watching for them, they are subtle, hard to notice. Dialog, point of view, description--all handled like a master fisherman reeling in his catch.

So I highly recommend Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card to readers and writers who love excellent books.

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