Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Books I Think You Should Read, part 1

For my first post I would like to answer that very popular question that I rarely get asked: What books would you recommend I read above all others? It’s a short list of long parts so I've broken it down into three. I think these reading recommendations will serve as a good introduction to my way of reviewing fiction and also a glimpse into what exactly I like in fiction or what kind of fiction remains with me emotionally and intellectually. Well, without further ado, here is the first of three (though they are in no particular order).



Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Synopsis (from Amazon) “In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: The Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War. Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens' ways are strange and frightening...again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery...and the truth.”

This is an odd one to start with because it comes with caveat. Since Speaker for the Dead is a sequel to Ender’s Game it would be helpful to go ahead and read Ender’s Game first before you dive into Speaker. A side note here: Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead are the two books that helped me formulate my definition of what makes a good book versus what makes a great book. (For those of you just dying to know that definition is: a good book is one that you cannot put down but must consume and consume as if your life depended on it; a great book is one that fills you with so many questions, emotions, and understanding that you must put it down and rest for fear you will be overwhelmed and die.)

Alright, so back to Speaker for the Dead. This book is very different from its predecessor in that there is little space action, or action at all, going on. The book is made up of people talking about who they are, how they relate to the aliens in question, and how should they react to their alien neighbor's odd and violent customs. The growth of Ender Wiggin from child prodigy to full adult, who is still a genius, but not as special or rather special in his infamy shows a great depth of character. The reflection of humanity within Ender is much clearer than most would like to see when looking at a fictional mirror. Sci-fi is supposed to take us to the stars and the future, to places and to things we can only imagine but also believe we can attain. Sci-fi is hopeful in its outlook and melodramatic in its forecast. And yet science fiction has always been like a corrective lens to our lives, a magnifying glass to the dim and sometimes distant problems of the world. Speaker for the Dead does not come up lacking but shines brightly into the fog of our world and its problems and prejudices. Couched within the mystery and violence that these new aliens follow, we the readers begin to see what it means to know someone who is different and to connect with someone whose culture has no context within our own. We begin to see all people as just they should be seen, as people.

If you’re not ready to take a long look at yourself and your own prejudices, because despite what we would all like to believe we all have them, then I would save this book to read for last from this list. Any book that makes you look at yourself and see the flaws within you, lets you see them as flaws, and then shows you that they must be changed is a powerful and worthwhile work of fiction. I wish I could say I could not put this book down but I cannot. I had to put it down, multiple times. It was great.


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