Summary of Reading – July ’20

Speaker for the Dead (Orson Scott Card) – Very beautiful and elegant. The slow pace and the depth of understanding here, along with the level of detail and complexity works well with the pace, seriousness, and action of the first book in the series. It’s great to see Card take a respite from pure action and thrill and focus a lot on world-building, which sets up the sequel to this book pretty well. It’s amazing how similar the situation set up by the ending is to the plot of the first book, an invitation for xenocide. 

I really like how the story progresses and how Card transitions the murders (apparent) of Pipo and Libo to something done for a very honourable and specific purpose. What seemed like a monstrous act was instead an event of transformation, of sending your best to the afterlife (which is very real for the piggies). It also enabled that evident and missed gap of communication that would be present between any two species, and that’s how Card made the human interpretation of Pipo’s and Libo’s deaths look horrific but then made the human interpretation itself look very biased. Personally, I thought Pipo was killed by stumbling onto one of the Piggies’ closely guarded secrets, one they would kill to protect, and that the same fate befell Libo, albeit independently. It wasn’t so, they both were killed for refusing to kill and send their brothers to their third lives (also note how important ‘third’ is now compared to what ‘third’ was at the start of the book). 

Ender’s level of control and influence is also brilliant. How he uses his skills to unravel the situation almost perfectly, and guide everyone towards a rebellion is amazing. It’s beautiful character development. Over the course of two books, Ender goes from being a compassionate killer to a wonderful father and a man who has fully redeemed himself by bringing the species he destroyed back to life and nurturing a new species so as to prevent them from the same fate the buggers met. 

It’s also quite interesting to read about the ecology on the planet. How every living thing shares a plant-animal life cycle. Raises a lot of questions about our basal assumptions for any form of alien life. 

Xenocide (Orson Scott Card) – One of the best books I’ve read so far, and that’s saying a lot. While the scientific reasoning behind many things may not be sound (anything at all regarding philotes i.e), the book more than makes up for it through world-building, action, and plot. It brings so many concepts and worldviews and beliefs together that it is just exhilarating. The concept of genetic enslavement was rather interesting to read about. The people of Path were genetically enhanced to be more intelligent than any other human being, but had a specific gene engineering inside them that led them to believe in the power of the gods and that the gods spoke to them to keep them on their path, making them slaves to Congress. I like how the plant itself is named path, and how the tampered gene is an attempt to make everyone fall onto the designated path, but as the story ends, the planet goes on to forge its own path. We also see genetic enslavement in the form of the descolada. I find the entire concept to be dictatorial and bizarre, and also worrisome as it isn’t that hard for something like that to be done irl. 

In terms of storytelling, Peter’s return might just breathe back the intense action and absorbance of the first book into the series. It was definitely a huge surprise. However, the brilliance of Peter’s return is equally matched by Novinha’s stupidity. I mean, what was Novinha even doing? Why did she become a nun? While the dependence of every single character on mysterious religious power is troubling, as any advanced future society should’ve freed itself of the shackles of religious belief by then, what’s even more disturbing is the big question: what happened to Jane? I take it she will be weakened, but what happens? The ending felt like a small calm before the storm, and I personally believe that this is great, as the next book heralds the arrival of the fleet, Peter’s bid to destroy Congress, and the end of Ender’s journey.

We are the Nerds (Christine Lagorio-Chafkin) – Not as good a read as I expected it to be, primarily because I use reddit a lot and I expected an account of its history to be based more on the product rather than the people running it or the social lives of the people running it. Before reading this book, I was expecting an account of reddit’s journey as a product, not as a business. Furthermore, the book goes off on various tangents, everything from Ohanion’s relationship with Serena Williams to Aaron Swartz and net neutrality. While I feel this may have been necessary to attract a larger audience (Aaron Swartz attracts tech-savvy people and Williams is just famous), it isn’t related to reddit whatsoever. However, there were some aspects of this book I found fascinating. One of these was Huffman’s return, which sounded quite poetic. I was surprised by how he wasn’t able to fit in and needed a counsellor/therapist. I also found the entire “spezgiving” saga to be quite childish, but it really brought out how big businessmen/women are the same people as us, and how they’re prone to the same mistakes. I also found it interesting to read about how people are targeted online and the internet’s potential to be downright toxic (seeing as I’ve encountered a very small portion of this toxicity myself), but how its countered by the internet’s ability to be wholesome, helpful, and amazing. The best example of this, in the book, was perhaps Barack Obama’s reddit AMA, or perhaps the “Mr Splashy Pants” thing. While there were some likeable facets to the book, it doesn’t really do justice to its title.


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