Speaker for the Dead: p. 134--151
Chapter Nine: Congenital Defect
Notes this time are, for some reason, a dialogue embedded in the working records of Novinha's parents, Gusto and Cida. Maybe they were texting each other from different labs? They discuss Descolada, how it's in absolutely every living thing on Lusitania. Gusto determined that Descolada "isn't bacterial", that it's in everything, and they hypothesise that it's somehow actually necessary for their life cycle. Which: wasn't it a huge deal that Novinha figured that out? Isn't that the key discovery that set Pipo off and instigated the current carnival of tragedies? Did Novinha just not read her parents' notes while studying to be the best xenobiologist ever, despite those being the only xenobiology notes studying Lusitanian life ever? Plot twist: Lusitania was actually settled by a clown college and everyone's walking around in floppy shoes and driving cars the size of a minibar.
Card does lampshade this, as Cida bemoans that "the next xenobiologist will probably work with standard genetic adaptations and won't follow this up", and this dialogue is published in an article titled "Lost Threads of Understanding", but that's not actually a reason. Novinha just decided not to read all the notes on the Lusitanian plague that made her parents saints by taking them away from her and leaving her to carry on in their exact footsteps on Lusitania. Because... I dunno, I'm open to theories.
Anyway, Ender goes home late, stays up reflecting on the Ribeiras, wakes up early, and sets out to investigate. He's antsy, like he always is before speaking a death, but he's thinking more about living people than dead. Jane says he's obviously in love with Novinha; he says that he liked her as a kid but he finds adult-Novinha off-puttingly selfish and that she's failed her children. Jane just razzes him and says she hopes he lets her speak his own death. Ender sighs and sorts out his questions:
1. Why did Novinha marry Marcão in the first place?
2. Why did Marcão hate his children?
3. Why does Novinha hate herself?
4. Why did Miro call me to speak Libo's death?
5. Why did Ela call me to speak her father's death?
6. Why did Novinha change her mind about my speaking Pipo's death?
7. What was the immediate cause of Marcão's death?He stops his thrilling whiteboarding there because he realises he has hit a simple factual question that he can answer by going to a clinic. I'm not 100% sure why he couldn't have got answers to 4 and 5 by, for example, asking Miro and Ela why they called him, when he was over there, last night, after the rest of the family had long since gone to bed. I mean, sure, they might lie, but he hasn't even asked yet. Surely Ender isn't a sufficient jackass to just assume that everyone is going to instantly put all their effort into confounding him by default after all these years never mind of course he is check out this next scene.
Because Ender of course goes to the clinic, where the physician makes some opening jokes about his own name (Caronada, "little cannon") and Ender responds by threatening devastating legal action against the entire colony. No, really.
"There are two ways I can get the answers to my questions," Ender said quietly. "I can ask you, and you can tell me truthfully. Or I can submit a petition to the Starways Congress for your records to be opened to me. The ansible charges are very high, and since the petition is a routine one, and your resistance to it is contrary to law, the cost will be deducted from your colony's already straitened funds, along with a double-the-cost penalty and a reprimand for you."ENDER YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY ASKED A QUESTION YET. Honest to Buddha, this is the first line of dialogue he has in this scene. But he's determined that the doctor is "a good Catholic" and so will otherwise follow the bishop's urging to block his investigation. (I still don't have a satisfactory answer for why ansible charges are so high. Lightspeed travel is bizarrely cheap, but wifi will break you?) Ender's tactics haven't changed even slightly since he fought the formics. 'This guy isn't coming at me, but I think he might, so I'd better burn down his house to be sure'. He is just amazingly terrible. It goes on! When the doctor says "of course" he'll answer, Ender goes into another rant about how he knows the bishop told them to stop him and, if necessary:
"I will petition for my status to be changed from minister to inquisitor. I assure you that I have a very good reputation with the Starways Congress, and my petition will be successful."
Navio knew exact what that meant. As an inquisitor, Ender would have congressional authority to revoke the colony's Catholic license on the grounds of religious persecution.I guess the government does know who he is, if he's got a good reputation in congress? Does no one think it's a big deal that Ender the Xenocide is still alive? No one's let that slip for political purposes? How does he have a reputation, anyway? He's an unknown speaker and his job is inherently ephemeral! There are no records of his work! Valentine was the famous one, and under a pseudonym at that!
This is especially hilarious rules-lawyering and coercion from Our Hero given what Card thinks of people using, for example, entirely legal democratic processes to institute marriage equality.
The doctor finally shows some actual resistance (now of all times) by asking to see Ender's authorisation, and Jane helpfully activates a nearby terminal to project it and declare his credentials in her most commanding voice. Ender did nothing, and the doctor is smart enough to realise this means that the terminal was activated remotely by a monitoring program, presumably in Ender's bling, meaning he's got ridiculous clearance of some kind and he outclasses Bishop Peregrino. God, this whole sequence has been so unnecessary.
"Marcos Ribeira died of a congenital defect." He rattled off a long pseudo-Latin name.Pseudo-Latin? How is it pseudo? (Latin is at this point six thousand years old; it's not that surprising if they have to invent some new words now and then.) Card just absolutely hates anyone who might in any way be associated with any scholarly institution (physical or conceptual). It's amazing. Anyway, speaking of pseudo, the doctor then gives us the pseudo-science that Marcos' disease slowly turned a bunch of his organs into pure fat cells. He remarks that it usually starts with the testicles, preventing reproduction, but obviously for Marcos it hit them much later. All of his kids were tested and none of them are showing signs of the disease, though the doctor presumes they must still be carrying the tendency. The only thing the doctor's not sure about is how they didn't catch it in Marcos back in the plague days when everyone got a genetic scan. He clunkily notes that it must have not shown up on the scan, or Novinha would never have married him. Ender of course immediately decides that she knew exactly what she was doing.
Ender goes home and Jane projects herself holographically just so she can laugh forever. Ender makes some excuses about people not being able to question their premises when it would imply something negative about a respected figure. So, in a shocking twist that clearly none of us could have seen coming, Libo is the real father of all six of Novinha's kids. Jane confirms this through a genetic scan, which... look, apparently she has access to data that lets her confirm parentage, but no one else has already done so. The doctor has sufficient information on hand to determine paternity but hasn't bothered to investigate it after receiving strong evidence that their apparent father shouldn't have been able to bear children and after doing a detailed search for genetic anomalies on all of them. Why are we impressed by Ender again? This isn't Sherlock Holmes' calibre work, y'all. Watson's dog could handle this investigation.
We return to Miro, taking the long path through the woods like Libo taught him, to avoid making a worn trail that an angry Lusitanian mob could follow one day if they decided to kill the Little Ones. He sees a Little One watching him from afar--a scout, he suspects, to keep him from getting near the women--and recalls finding Libo's body with Ouanda, Libo still barely alive but carved open and unable to speak. Libo insisted they never go near the theorised Province of the Ladies, and Miro doesn't.
When he arrives, Ouanda is teaching the Little Ones to churn butter from cabra milk, because apparently even though the whole point of this SCIENCE MYSTERY is that the aliens are so completely inconceivably different from anything humans could expect, they still have mammalian cattle. (There was no mention of Little Ones herding, so I'm going to guess that Miro and Ouanda already taught them about that, too.) Cabra milk is apparently nutritionally useless to humans, so they can't ask for help or else people would know they were doing something for the Little Ones, except I thought it was already a plot point that the Little Ones' diets made no nutritional sense either, so why do they think Space Llama Butter is a good idea?
"Welcome, I-Look-Upon-You-With-Desire." That was,of course, an extravagantly precise translation of Miro's name into Stark. Mandachuva loved translating names back and forth between Portuguese and Stark, even though Miro and Ouanda had both explained that their names didn't really mean anything at all, and it was only coincidence if they sounded like words.Um? Miro's full name is Marcos Vladimir Ribeira von Hesse, according to the dramatis personae (although since this is Card, he titled that page "Some People of Lusitania Colony" because he's not some ivory-tower elitist like you). Someone help me out here. 'Miro' does appear to be some form of the verb 'to see', and I'm guessing it was derived from the 'Vladimir'. Marcos seems to be derived from Mars, Ribeira means 'river', and I can't find anything for 'Hesse'. Google Translate isn't giving me anything helpful if I ask for Portuguese words for 'desire'. Do we have a Portuguese-speaker in the blog? (Ouanda also responds to 'Vaga', which means "wander", which sounds like Ouanda, but at least that makes sense.)
Miro reflects for a moment on Mandachuva, oldest of the Little Ones, whom Pipo wrote about as if he were important (they translate his name as slang for "boss") but whom Miro suspects is actually least prestigious, because he always has time to talk and isn't every busy with important work. Both are reasonable conclusions, I think--either he's the boss and so he gets to loaf around while others serve, or he's always busy because the boss has to do important stuff. Dunno which is supposed to be obvious. Anyway, he's complaining about the cabra butter and how the females demand to see it even if it's horrible, and then descends for a while into cursing them while Miro considers how weird it is that the males are both so hateful and worshipful, because, again, Miro is an inept clown who knows nothing of gender politics throughout the whole of human history and especially as applicable to his own mother.
Arrow wants to talk to Miro and Ouanda, and they must not interact with each other because the Little Ones freak out to see a male and female human acknowledge each others' presence. Winking is right out. They'll also talk to Ouanda alone, but as soon as Miro is there they won't speak to her and won't let her speak to them. So, again, a lot like humans.
Arrow has a favour to ask, and Miro maintains his (sensible) ongoing lie that he is absolutely powerless among humans, but Arrow is insistent because this request comes from Rooter, or more specifically his tree. This apparently happens a lot.
It was only the last few years, beginning not long before Libo's death, that they started singling out Rooter as the source of most of the troublesome ideas. It was ironic that a piggy they had executed as a rebel was now treated with such respect in their ancestor-worship.Keeping in mind here that they don't actually have any evidence whatsoever that Rooter was in fact considered a rebel, and the only evidence that he was executed was that he was alive during his evisceration. Apparently no one's considered the possibility that it was, for example, crude surgery gone wrong. (Or a lone murderer, as we keep noting.)
Anyway. They want metal. They've worked out that all the best human stuff is made out of metal, or needs metal, and they fear that without it "we are condemned always to be varelse, and never ramen". Miro silently curses Ouanda for teaching them the Hierarchy of Exclusion, even though we know for a fact that she didn't since Pipo mentions them calling themselves ramen/varelse in his notes at the start of chapter four, and he died years before Ouanda was born. But that's just me obsessing over "tiny errors or contradictions or lapses in method", not pointing out that this lauded author and his entire editing staff still don't understand linear time.
Miro insists he can't get any; Arrow says they've seen the humans dig it up from the ground (which, Miro notes, means they're crossing the fence somewhere and sneaking around). Miro explains that it's very hard to mine and process metals and it is all accounted for, even a single metal tool would be missed, which I assume we're also supposed to take as a lie since six-year-old Grego steals screwdrivers and knives all the time.
Arrow shows off his newest arrows, which he's started tipping with cabra bone instead of obsidian, because apparently now they do hunt cabra, even though that was never mentioned before? Seriously, if Libo and his kids have introduced a pure gatherer society to hunting and farming, there should be massive societal upheaval. It's not like they just added a fourth Starbucks. They're transforming their entire food supply and all the associated ways of life. That's a big deal in a subsistence society.
The Little Ones then bring out their copy of the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, which Miro gave them after Ouanda gave them a copy of the Gospel of St John, following a discussion about religions. (The Little Ones are baffled that the humans (Christians, the kind of humans that matter) just have one god who died and lived again and now "dwells in our hearts", unlike Little One ancestors with their sweet tree-afterlives.) Ouanda was first outraged at Miro's blasphemy, and then the Little Ones ended up using the gospel for kindling and keeping HQ&H wrapped in protective leaves. The Little One called Human arrives, reverently opens the book, and declares that the speaker who has arrived is "the true Speaker. Rooter says so." They want Miro to bring him immediately; Miro says it'll take time, Human howls and Miro thinks he's going to die, but instead they just shun him until he leaves.
In the forest, Ouanda catches up with him and thanks to dramatic irony they have the most uncomfortable makeout session ever. Ouanda says in another two year they can marry without Novinha's consent, and Libo would just as soon bang now, but:
...he did understand how vital it was in a fragile community like Milagre for marriage customs to be strictly adhered to. Large and stable communities could absorb a reasonable amount of unsanctioned coupling; Milagre was far too small....What? Even if I buy the explanation, which I don't, how is a colony of three-to-five-thousand too small to support one pair of teenagers mashing their junk in the woods? What is it with conservatives and their conviction that Unauthorised Sex projects some kind of aura of doom? I assume if they were both girls Lusitania would be immediately torn apart by The Nothing*.
Ouanda remains convinced that the speaker will ruin everything and they've only got ten or twenty years to improve the Little Ones' standard of life before the satellites start picking up on the changes. Miro insists that he's good and trustworthy, having seen him instantly fix his entire family. Ouanda says that it's easy to look good in that house when your standard of comparison is Marcos Ribeira, Miro gets offended and says his standard is Libo, et cetera, et cetera.
I'm more unsettled by the quiet undercurrent of threat towards Ouanda--first when Miro thinks that if he "thought for one moment that they would ever have to live the same vows of chastity in marriage [...] Ouanda's virginity would be in grave and immediate danger". I really, really want to think that Miro means they would both go for each other instantly, but that's not clear and Ouanda's consent isn't otherwise mentioned. Then, she talks about how Ender arrives "and every single one of you rolls over belly-up like a puppy dog", and Miro's response is to want to hit her. Now, he shows self-control in both of these situations, but it's worth noting that Miro is the abused child of an abused father and that tends to affect people, so these are thoughts that cause me to also put Miro in the THERAPY FOR EVERYONE BUT ESPECIALLY THIS LOT bucket. Obviously, that won't happen, because he's been Touched By An Ender and so is healed and enlightened.
Miro admits that she's right, he did wish Ender was his father:
"Just the way I used to say that every day when I went home from the Zenador's Station If only Libo were my father, if only I were his son."If only Libo were his sister's mother's aunt's niece's husband. (Miro sounds like my grandmother, who referred to my namesake as "my father, your dad's grandfather, your great-grandfather", without fail.) In case it hasn't clanged home yet, Ouanda chucks another anvil at us, saying she's glad he wasn't, "Because then I'd be your sister, and I could never hope to have you for myself." WE GET IT OH MY GOD.
And with that, we've caught up with as far as I've read ahead, so I can't warn you what's coming next Sunday except that it starts with a really boring Q&A about the bizarre rules and philosophy of Card's invented monastic order, the Children of the Mind of Christ.
*I didn't mean for this to be an Elizabethan pun, but now it is and I will fight anyone who tries to stop me.