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.
Three thousand years after the xenocide, humans attempted to colonize the planet Lusitania, but found its ecological system unusual compared to other planets. Unique to the planet was a sentient species, the mammal-like Pequeninos (Portuguese for little ones), drawing the attention of many xenobiologists to the colony. Shortly after arrival, the colony was ravaged by a virus, the Descolada, which wiped out many of the colonists before a remedy could be found, leaving a girl named Novinha orphaned. Novinha was taken in by father-and-son xenobiologists, Pipo and Libo, later becoming one herself.
One day, she made a discovery about the Descolada: it was carried by every life form on Lusitania, including the Pequeninos. Pipo was inspired and raced out to ask the Pequeninos about it before revealing this inspiration. When Pipo did not return, Novinha and Libo searched and found his body vivisected, which they recognized as part of a death ritual the Pequeninos gave to their fallen. However, this ritual normally included the planting of a sapling in the body, but there was no evidence this was done for Pipo; they considered this hostile, and came to see the Pequeninos as a potential threat. Novinha, who had come to have feelings for Libo, locked her files, fearing that Libo will make a similar conclusion and meet the same fate as Pipo. Novinha sent out a call for a Speaker for the Dead throughout the Hundred Worlds, in order to have someone speak the death of Pipo.
Andrew Wiggin was living with his sister Valentine and her husband Jakt on the planet Trondheim when the call for a Speaker arrived. Andrew opted to go to Lusitania without Valentine as she was due to give birth soon. Besides the dormant Hive Queen, Andrew traveled with Jane, an artificial sentience existing within the ansible network. By the time Andrew arrived, 22 years had passed on Lusitania, during which Novinha had canceled her request for a Speaker. However, recent events had brought others to call for a Speaker. Four years prior, Libo was killed in the same way Pipo was, and more recently, Marcos Ribeira, Novinha's husband, had died of a terminal disease. Andrew, with Jane's help, quickly discovered that Novinha had refused to marry Libo despite her love for him and giving birth to his children – though acting as these were Marcos', because if she had married him, her locked files would have become available to him.
While performing the research for the Speaking, Andrew became interested in the Pequeninos, secretly crossing an electric barrier enacted by Starways Congress to speak to them. The Hive Queen revealed to Andrew that she had philoticly spoken to the Wives, the female elders of the Pequeninos, and they had learned that he was the original Speaker for the Dead; the Queen also revealed that Lusitania would be ideal for her species to begin anew. Andrew's investigation was stymied by the mostly Catholic colonists; to gain cooperation, Jane issued revealed to Starways Congress that Novinha's eldest child Miro and his girlfriend Ouanda had taught the Pequeninos human technology such as farming in direct violation of Congress' law; upon learning this, Congress demanded the colony be evacuated to prevent more cultural contamination, and that Miro and Ouanda were to be placed under arrest. The Pequeninos convinced Miro to hide among them by crossing the electric barrier. Miro attempted this, but suffered neurological damage that partially paralyzed him. The colony rebelled against Congress, and severed their ansible connection. This disabled the electrical barrier, and Andrew and others went to find Miro with the help of a Pequenino named Human.
Andrew met with the Wives and they came to a treaty for co-habitation of the planet. While there, he learned of the Pequenino concept of the Third Life; normally in death, the body of a Pequenino would become a Brothertree; however, those that are vivisected will become Fathertrees that are instrumental in their reproductive cycle, due to the Descolada virus. Libo and Pipo had determined this, and separately sought to confirm this with the Pequeninos. Each time, a Pequenino had offered themselves to enter the Third Life, but neither human would commit the act, so instead the Pequeninos performed the ritual on them. To demonstrate for Andrew, Human offered himself to enter the Third Life, and Andrew agreed to perform the act, and witnessed the sapling spout from Human's spine after the process. With clarity of the situation, Andrew insisted to the Wives that their treaty prevent the Pequeninos from helping humans enter the Third Life, as it would be considered murder.
Miro was safely returned to the colony, though still paralyzed. Valentine and her family informed Andrew they planned to help Lusitania with the revolt, and were traveling to help; Andrew had Miro meet them halfway between the planets. Novinha, having gained understanding into the death of Pipo and Libo, was able to continue on and she and Andrew married. Later, Andrew went to plant the Hive Queen larva as she had requested.
- "SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD is a tale of guilt and tragedy driven by fear of the alien, by lack of empathy...Less brash than Ender's Game, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD may be a much better book. Don't miss it!"
- — Analog
- "Told with compassion and keen insight, this powerful sequel to Ender's Game is highly recommended."
- — Library Journal
- "The most powerful work Card has produced. SPEAKER not only completes Ender's Game, it transcends it."
- — Fantasy Review
- "There aren't too many recent sf novels we can confidently call truly moral works, but SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD is one. Full of careful characterization, intriguing scientific, especially anthropological, speculation, and a fictional challenge to our capacity to define humanity inclusively rather than exclusively, it's a completely gripping story."
- — The Toronto Star
- "The book is complex, both in historical perspective and story line, The intricate relationships between the main characters are an integral part of the tale. Card draws us into their lives, giving us insight into their thoughts and feelings and getting us involved in the twists and turns of this very intimate story."
- — United Press International