Xenocide

From Academic Kids

The term Xenocide is a science fiction neologism that means an act of genocide directed towards an alien species.

The cover art for Xenocide is similar to that of .
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The cover art for Xenocide is similar to that of Speaker for the Dead.

Xenocide is the third novel in the Ender's Game series of books by Orson Scott Card.

Storyline

Following the events of Speaker for the Dead, we find Ender, a member of a human colony on the planet Lusitania, which is unique in human space in that it is inhabited by two other sentient species: the Pequeninos, and the Hive (transplanted to this world by Ender in part penance for his near-total destruction of their species in Ender's Game).

Unfortunately, the Lusitanian ecosystem is pervaded by a virus, named 'descolada' by the Humans, so adaptable as to be potentially fatal to all living things. The native pequininos are adapted to it, humans can survive in its presence through continuing medical intervention via dietary supplements, and the Hive has advanced immune systems, but the descolada is slowly adapting to both non-Lusitanian races and will drive them to extinction if not countered. Furthermore, were any carrier of the virus to set foot upon an uninfected world, an ecological catastrophe would ensue, wiping out all but a handful of species. The threat presented by this pathogen is great enough to frighten the Human government off-planet, the Starways Congress, into dispatching a fleet of ships, armed with the Molecular Disrupter Device (M.D. Device), to destroy Lusitania. Knowing this, the pequeninos have commissioned the Hive Queen to construct a starship for them, so that their species may survive.

The Lusitanians have a great ally: a cybernetic sentience of some sort which lives in and controls the ansible network, which allows instantaneous communication across galactic distances. The sentience, named Jane, aids them by allowing them to communicate with the rest of the galaxy and access its data nets; she also shuts down ansible connections with the fleet, even though this may lead to her discovery and termination.

On Lusitania itself, Ender marshals his forces, which consist almost entirely of the Ribeira family, including his wife Novinha and her children, whom he has since adopted. Novinha and Elanora, the mother-daughter team responsible for most biological advances and the countering of the descolada, are undecided on whether they can manufacture a replacement virus and unsure whether they should use it if they could, since it may be intrinsically related to pequenino sentience. Grego, Lusitania's leading physicist, scoffs at the idea of faster-than-light travel but is persuaded by Ender to investigate it anyway. Quara, the third biologista of the colony, is convinced that the descolada itself is sentient. And Quim, father Estev„o, is determined to head off pequinino-inspired xenocide (via their starship) with faith and theology. Whether any of this can be accomplished remains to be seen.

Starways Congress, the interstellar governing body, wants its fleet back. It places the dilemma before superhumanly-intelligent citizens of the world Path, a cultural planetary enclave modelled on early China. Path's culture centers around the godspoken, those who hear the voices of the gods in the form of irresistible compulsions. It later becomes clear that the godspoken of Path are victims of a cruel government project: granted great intelligence by genetic modification, they were also shackled with obsessive-compulsive disorder out of fear. The siting of this experiment in a culture bound by four dictates - obey the gods, honor the ancestors, love the people, and serve the rulers - is a further safeguard against rebellion, especially since the godspoken are considered the most devout and holy of all citizens. The most respected godspoken on Path is Han Fei-Tzu, and great things are expected of his daughter and potential successor, Han Qing-jao. The two of them are tasked with deciphering the disappearance of the Lusitania Fleet. Qing-jao's secret maid, Si Wang-Mu, aids her in this task, her incredible intelligence (partially) unfettered by the rigid caste system.

Qing-jao eventually traces the identity of Demosthenes, the pen name of an essayist who has revealed and been arguing against the planned destruction of Lusitania. Discovering that Demosthenes is Valentine Wiggin, Ender's sister, but that Valentine has been on a starship, en route to Lusitania, for the last thirty years, Qing-Jao infers that a sentient computer program closely tied to the ansible network must be responsible for hiding Demosthenes and publishing her work while she is in transit. All but discovered, Jane reveals herself to Han Fei-tzu, Qing-jao and Wang-mu, telling them about their genetic slavery and begging forbearance on their report to the Starways Congress. Han Fei-tzu, already harboring suspicions about their condition, accepts the news, as does Si Wang-mu, but Qing-jao clings to her traditionalism. Betrayed by her father, she reports the presence of Jane to Congress and tells them that, if all ansibles are shut down simultaneously, Jane will be destroyed. Luckily for Jane, this will take some thirty or forty weeks to accomplish, but her fate is sealed.

Regretting his daughter's act, Han Fei-tzu assists Jane and Elanora Riberia, a biologist on Lusitania, in designing a counter-virus to the descolada. Unfortunately, this construct, derived from the descolada and nicknamed the recolada, proves impossible to synthesize. All seems lost until Grego, with the help of his brother Olhado, combine their own metaphysical speculations with information provided by the Hive Queen on philotic theory. Ender goes to talk to her about Jane's origin, which turns out to be the philotic connections Ender formed with a piece of software in his youth. The Hive Queens, seeking a way to contact him during his crusade, attempted to construct a philotic 'bridge' based upon those connections. Jane was the bridge they constructed, and in order to make it live, they imbued it with that quality which all living things have: a philote. Jane, in other words, is an actual lifeform, not just a collection of software. The Hive Queen further explains that Jane's philote was called from a space outside of the universe, just as all philotes are. Grego and Olhado, hearing this, hypothesize that, if someone can somehow contain all the information on how a spaceship's philotes are organized (IE its structure down to a subatomic level), that person could essentially will the spaceship Outside and Inside again. This will be entirely dependent on Jane, since no one else has any chance at holding or even learning all that information.

Jane's test flight consists of a box with a door (technically a spaceship), Ender (to whom Jane is inextricably philotically linked, Miro (for the same reason), and Ela (so that she can create the recolada virus once they are Outside). It is a success: Ela manages to envision and thus create the new virus, and also a new virus to give to the people of Path, to undo their genetic tampering and spread the increased intelligence across the world. But others are busy creating as well. Miro, by going Outside, creates a new body to replace his crippled one. And Ender manages to create copies, almost caricatures, of his siblings Peter and Valentine.

With a cure to the descolada to hand and growing public pressure against a second Xenocide on Lusitania, the future of the three sentient races on the planet seems more secure. The new Miro and the new Val set out to find new planets to colonize (since transportation is now cheap and instantanous), and the new Peter takes the counter-OCD virus to Path, where Wang-mu joins him in a quest to stop the Lusitania fleet. Qing-Jao, relieved of the biological origins of her compulsions, continues to act them out as the last remant of the old ways of her world, ultimately becoming known as one of the holiest women in the known universe, and upon her death is unanimously elected the patron goddess of the planet of Path.

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