Three thousand years after "Ender" Wiggin destroyed the alien "buggers," another intelligent alien species turns up: the "piggies" of Lusitania--a planet already colonized by various Portuguese-speaking religious sects. So, to prevent the destruction of the technologically primitive but socially complex piggies, Starways Congress declares them off-limits to all but a few specialists: biologist Pipo, his son Libo, and Libo's emotionally crippled girlfriend Novinha. The scientists circumspectly investigate the baffling Lusitanian ecology and the piggies' place in it, making little progress--until Pipo has a brain storm one night and rushes out into the rain to confront the piggies. . .who promptly murder him as part of a weird ritual. Novinha, terrified, destoys her records and retreats into a shell. Later, Libo finds out what Pipo discovered--and the piggies deal with him in the same way. Years pass before Novinha's children summon a Speaker for the Dead--a sort of wandering oral confessor-biographer--to uncover the truth about Pipo and Libo and why the piggies killed them. The Speaker turns out to be Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, still alive thanks to the time-dilation effects of light-speed travel; he soon sorts out the tangled family relationships and learns to communicate with the piggies (they turn out to be more intelligent than humans!). The alien biology here is particularly well worked-out--in a narrative unfortunately overburdened with adolescent agonizing and the highly developed but irrelevant religious-linguistic backdrop.
Card's YA appeal is undeniable, but thoughtful readers will be frustrated by his inability to explore the wider implications of his own ideas.