Living Columns & Blogs

The best just got different

For nearly 30 years, my favorite novel has been “Speaker for the Dead.” But it was dethroned recently by a book that in many ways is its complete opposite.

Plot-wise, Orson Scott Card’s “Speaker” is about a colony of humans living on a planet with an indigenous intelligent species resembling small mammals. But at its soul, it’s about — as Pvt. Joker would put it — the duality of man.

In the far future, the most beloved figure in the galaxy is a philosopher who wrote under the name the Speaker for the Dead. The most hated person in the galaxy is a former warrior named Ender Wiggin, whom most of the human race blames for having annihilated every member of a peaceful, sentient insectoid species.

But what very few people know is that the Speaker for the Dead and Ender Wiggin are the same person.

And when folks on the colony discover this truth, their deepest beliefs are shaken to the core. “Sickness and healing are in every heart,” Wiggin says. “Death and deliverance are in every hand.”

For us, it’d be like finding out Caligula and Jesus were the same person.

The redemption, peace and forgiveness that the revelation of the Speaker/Wiggin duality brings to some of the characters is emotionally overpowering. I’ve wept more reading that novel than all the others I’ve read put together.

“I’m not one to despise other people for their sins,” Wiggin says. “I haven’t found one yet, that I didn’t say to myself, I’ve done worse than this.”

So what could top this futuristic tale of people learning their true humanity while living among pig-like aliens?

Well, there’s this 11th century comic adventure about a pair of doofus Vikings who discover North America — and not just once, but five times. And lose it each time.

Next week

More about “Meadowland” and an explanation of why it’s now my favorite novel.