(Content: death, violent imagery, victim blaming. Fun content: depends how into religious doctrine you are.)
Speaker for the Dead: p. 277--294
Chapter Sixteen: The Fence
This chapter opens with Bible AU fanfic. Specifically, it's about John 8:1-11, 'let the one without sin cast the first stone', etc, and it has an interestingly controversial history about whether it's 'real' gospel or not. You can pick your favourite version of the Bible from a drop-down menu on that site, but here, in Ye Must Love Reapers' translation of San Angelo's writings about Ender's fanfic, we get two different parables about how the rabbi (explicitly not Jesus) reacts.
He takes the woman by the hand and leads her out of the market. just before he lets her go, he whispers to her, "Tell the lord magistrate who saved his mistress. Then he'll know I am his loyal servant."
So the woman lives, because the community is too corrupt to protect itself from disorder.This interpretation doesn't work for me--the rabbi is corrupt, and he argues for the woman to be spared out of mercy, but it wasn't the rabbi's corruption that actually saved her; it was the decision of the crowd based on their agreement with the philosophy that the rabbi suggested. There's exactly one corrupt person in the community as described, and his power is voluntary.
In the second take, the rabbi waits for everyone else to drop their stones, then grabs one and murders the woman himself.
"Nor am I without sin," he says to the people. "But if we allow only perfect people to enforce the law, the law will soon be dead, and our city with it."
So the woman died because her community was too rigid to endure her deviance.Again, we have this confusion between 'community' and 'rabbi'. The rest of the crowd was completely willing to relent, but the rabbi took sole responsibility as judge/jury/executioner. This only makes sense in Card's world, where the only people who actually do anything and thus count as 'community' are the protagonists, and everyone else is furniture.
San Angelo concludes by talking about how this illustrates Jesus' daring optimism (expecting people to show mercy while preserving the law') and I wonder just how much harder Card can push the Ender-is-Messiah button.
We catch up with Miro doing a Walk of Despondency because his girlfriend is his sister, his father wasn't his father, his boss was his father, and the Little Ones are Space Dryads. Hell of a day. There's some casual sex-shaming when he wonders if Libo and Novinha hooked up inside the Xenobiologist's Station, or "was it more discreet, rutting in the grass like hogs on the fazendas?" Stay classy, Miro. He arrives at the gate in the village fence and makes the eminently sensible decision to deal with his pain by living in the woods forever. (Not that I haven't considered that on long days myself.)
He laid his right hand on the identification box and reached out his left to pull the gate. For a split second he didn't realize what was happening. Then his hand felt like it was on fire, like it was being cut off with a rusty saw, he shouted and pulled his left hand away from the gate. Never since the gate was built had it stayed hot after the box was touched by the Zenador's hand.The gate then informs him that his authority has been revoked, and he and Ouanda are to hand themselves over to the mayor and be shipped to Trondheim to stand trial. He panic-mopes that no one will be able to tell the Little Ones what's happened, about how every trace of the colony will be destroyed, instinctively grabs for the gate and gets zapped again. He waves, hoping to catch the attention of a Little One, but he expects the mayor to arrive shortly since the gate is apparently under observation. (It isn't. Their concepts of privacy are so weird.) Miro starts walking beside the fence and hooting, the sound that he and Ouanda use to call each other in the forest (you remember all the times they've done that before this exact moment, right? Nah) and hoping that it will summon one of the Little Ones out of the woods, even though he's apparently only ever used it to call Ouanda and specifically not one of the Little Ones. I don't even know.
In THE BISHOP's office, Quim is petulantly receiving the we're-not-having-a-witch-hunt-for-your-mother lecture. He asserts that Ender is indeed the devil and he's never going home, and when the Bishop points out that Jesus forgave everyone and we can't all have the Blessed Virgin for our moms, Quim similarly tries to cast Catholicism and speaking as inherently opposed:
"Has the church made way here for the speakers for the dead? Should we tear down the Cathedral and use the stones to make an amphitheater where all our dead can be slandered before we lay them in the ground?"The Bishop shuts him down, puts forth the more reasonable suggestion that Ender should have only told the people personaly involved what he knew and let them decide for themselves what to do. Quim is unmoved by the evidence that his mother loves him, but the Bishop points out that under Catholic doctrine, if she had confessed, she would have been completely forgiven without ever telling anyone else the truth, and then shuffles Quim off to pray for forgiveness for not showing forgiveness.
For a science fiction classic about an atheist hero relating to an alien species whose 'religion' is scientifically accurate, I don't think this book could possibly spend more time talking about comparative religion.
The Bishop's secretary lets Ender in, and when the Bishop doesn't rise to meet him, Ender kneels and waits. Eventually the Bishop approaches, holds out his hand for a ring kiss, but Ender doesn't move and eventually the Bishop asks if he's being mocked. Ender relates that bit of backstory about his parents being "a closet Catholic and a lapsed Mormon", which the Bishop finds way too convenient. He also does the math right quick and determines that the last time it was forbidden to be Catholic anywhere in the galaxy was pre-galactic-colonisation Earth, three millennia earlier, and determines that this means Ender was a Third. I've increasingly liked the Bishop over the last chapter (apparently the Battle School rules about horrendous adversity magically transforming you into a better person still hold true), but this just feels like extra-gratuitous continuity in order to remind us that this book is definitely a sequel to Ender's Game.
There's more back-and-forth about what was the right thing to do and who needs blessings and when Ender found out about Miro and Ouanda's Questionable Activities (in the non-making-out, contravention-of-interstellar-law sense of the term) before the Mayor arrives, and then they both go back to being typical jackwagons.
"I've always been respectful of authority," said the Speaker.
"You were the one who threatened us with an Inquisitor," the Bishop reminded him. With a smile.
The Speaker's smile was just as chilly. "And you're the one who told the people I was Satan and they shouldn't talk to me."Oh my god Ender you didn't deign to talk to them anyway you just magically intuited everything Jane hadn't gotten around to telling you. Am I supposed to feel tension? Because I can't say that people being snippy and giving each other refrigerated smiles is really gripping prose. I've written scenes like that and I always get huge warning bells in my head because I get bored writing them, and if I'm bored while writing, the reader will be bored while reading. The Bishop's power is largely by convention and Ender's power is by narrative fiat; I don't care if they like each other.
Ender says they have to wait until Novinha arrives, so we cut to Ela finding Novinha out in the grass by their house.
Her mother had not worn he hair down in many years. It looked strangely free, all the more so because Ela could see how it curled and bent where it had been so long forced into a bun. It was then that she knew that the Speaker was right. Mother would listen to his invitation. [....] Mother is glad, thought Ela, to have it known that Libo was her real husband, that Libo is my true father. Mother is glad, and so am I.Not that literally letting one's hair down can't be a sign of relaxation and freedom from crushing secrecy, but I'm not sure what makes Ela so sure it's that, and not, say the outward sign of someone who believes they have nothing left to lose and so sees no reason to be bound by social strictures or expectations. She's an alien biologist; she above all others on the planet has potential now to go full badass Mad Scientist. In a more interesting book...
Novinha says yes, she'll go, and yes, she'll tell them everything she knows about the Descolada, and says that she never told Ela because Ela was doing better xenobiology on her own:
"You're my apprentice. I have complete access to your files without leaving any footprints. What kind of master would I be if I didn't watch your work?"
"I also read the files you hid under Quara's name. You've never been a mother, so you didn't know that all the file activities of a child under twelve are reported to the parents every week."
So, to recap, children can hide nothing from parents, apprentices can hide nothing from masters, and Novinha spent twenty-two years trying to hide the secret of the Descolada from everyone but also approvingly watching over her daughter/apprentice as she tried to piece the genetic theory together while also forbidding her access to the Descolada files that she personally didn't fully understand anyway. I have no adequate words. This is just a blatant against-character retcon for the sake of making Novinha suddenly seem reasonable now that it's not important to the plot for her to be supremely irrational.
Novinha does still hate Ender and is betrayed that her children trust him so implicitly but not their own mother. Now, I'm all on-board with hating Ender, but Novinha just admitted that she's been secretly spying on her kids and erratically denying Ela information while putting up a front of disinterest, so I don't think she should be surprised she's not everyone's closest confidante.
Ela is still totally convinced that all the pain is Novinha's fault:
"I love Libo, the way everybody in Milagre loved him. But he was willing to be a hypocrite, and so were you, and without anybody even guessing, the poison of your lies hurt us all."We went over this a while back, but the only aspect of Libo and Novinha's secret affair that has obviously contributed to harm in the town is that Miro and Ouanda didn't know not to make out. Everything else is directly attributable to Marcos' abuse, Novinha's neglect, and the disinterest of everyone else in the colony. That can only be blamed on Novinha if you think that Marcos' abuse and everyone else's disinterest is directly, 100% the inevitable result of Novinha not being nice enough.
"It's easy to tell the truth," said mother softly, "when you don't love anybody."
"Is that what you think?" said Ela. "I think I know something, Mother. I think you can't possibly know the truth about somebody unless you love them. I think the Speaker loved Father. Marcão, I mean. I think he understood him and loved him before he spoke."Our evidence for this is... look, we'll get back to that.
(Is it weird to anyone else that in the space of two hours all of Novinha's kids have stopped thinking of Marcos as their 'father'? Libo's literal only contribution to any of them but Miro was genetic. Sure, if they see this as a good time to reject the idea that the verbal abuser they lived with deserves any familial loyalty, they're welcome to do that, but it's hard not to see this instead as a logical offshoot of Card's obsessive fetish for genetic lines.)
But really, why should we think that Ender loved Marcos? What did he do that demonstrated this deep and abiding compassion--explain to everyone in town that it was all Novinha's doing? He gave them context for Marcos' death, but come on, that's the job of journalists and biographers and no one says that their jobs are driven by an all-encompassing love. The things Ender told us about Marcos were obvious, surface facts (he was burly, he was surly, he fixated on the one time a pretty girl was nice to him) that he found out with about five minutes' "research" from publicly available sources. The secrets he revealed were scientific facts that Jane worked out in thirty seconds. None of this required a special love. If this is going to be Card's core thesis, he's going to need to justify it much more extensively.
But Novinha breaks down and embraces her daughter and swears she has always loved her, and Ela reflects on how Ender has finally erased the barriers between them.
"You're thinking about that damnable Speaker even now, aren't you?" whispered her mother.
"So are you," Ela answered.I imagine that's a problem a lot of people in this galaxy have during intimate moments.
(There's a very wise proverb: "The best safeword is 'as a white man I think that', because it can kill any mood.")
We'll leave off here for this week, so we won't get around to the Insurmountable Waist-High Fence until next time.