This is OS Card’s best story. Enders Game, the prequel, is easily his most popular so I’ll explain:
O.S. Card’s principal themes are power, community and sacrifice. Enders game is at heart a fantasy of power (I crush my enemies-always). It is much more than that and a classic because it illustrates truths about power: loneliness, responsibility/guilt, leadership lessons and group dynamics. But it is popular because of the easy immersion into the fantasy.
Speaker on the other hand focuses on the community/sacrifice from many different angles: The piggies life cycle, Novinha’s choices, Ender’s‘calling’, the monastic life, Ender shutting out Jane among others. It talks about power too, not with the giddy first taste of Enders game but with the more mature view where you live with your adversaries (usually) instead of wiping them off the map. What ties these two stories together is the idea of true alieness and its mutual incomprehension. Speaker explores this more than Game.
When I read this as an older teen, I identified with Ender. This timeI identified with Marcao. Not the abuser, but the ignored outcast, doing his share, who desperately wants in. I just could not identify with the genius Ender this time. Marcao’s speaking was very moving.
Speaker for the Dead got a little preachy at times – for example directly explaining why Miro and Ouanda were not sexually active. This point is made in the story itself, and fitted into aphilosophical conversation so this was clunky overkill.