Combine one part biology, on part ethics, one part religion, and one part philosophy; sprinkle generously with a sense of hope, a tragic love story, and a desire for redemption. Add a hero who is regarded by many as the ultimate villain, and an entire race in grave danger of suffering the same fate (and paying the ultimte price). Add the writing style of a master storyteller. Shake well and serve.
The above receipe describes Speaker for the Dead perfectly; it is all of these things, with a few surprises along the way, artfully combined into a story that not only sets the stage for things to come, but stands well on its own as a tale that will have the reader thinking about it long after he has put it down.
Ender Wiggin, the hero of Ender's Game, has spent the three thousand years since the Bugger War travelling between worlds, aging months in relativistic space, while first years, then decades, and finally centuries passed outside. As a Speaker for the Dead (part orator, part investigator, part father-confessor), he has travelled among the Hundred Worlds researching and revealing the truth, whole & unvarnished, without judgement or pity, about those whose deaths he has Spoken.
Now, he has come to the colony of Luisitania to Speak the deaths of two xenologers (a kind of exo-sociologist) who studied the native inhabitants of this world. The natives killed them for some reason, and in a very ritualistic fashion. Ender must find out the reason why they did this, and the truth about what the xenologers learned. In Speaking their deaths, he may find himself Speaking for an entire living race.
The novel is well written, thought-provoking, and raises a great many questions about what it means to be Human...even if your fellow human doesn't happen to be Homo sapiens. 4 1/2 out of 5.
Title: Speaker for the Dead