Speaker for the Dead - Orson Scott Card
Card takes his character of Ender Wiggins (from Ender's Game) in his role as Speaker for the Dead and inserts him into the world of Lusitania, a Portugese Catholic colony which has been established with rigid rules in order to study the pequeninos, "piggies," the first alien race humans have encountered since the buggers in Ender's Game. Here, the xenologists try to glean information about the piggies without revealing information about humans, lest they effect any major changes to the piggies' own cultural development. A beloved xenologist is brutally tortured and killed by the piggies, sparking the great debate about whether the piggies are "ramen" (human, however otherworldy) or "varelse" (alien, soulless, incomprehensible).
I enjoyed the book very much—it's quite different from Ender's Game in that Ender has grown up, and the pressures he faces aren't the Lord of the Flies-like trials from the Battle School, but the sufferings of a family without a father, the suspicion of an overpowering Bishop, and the regulations of the Hundred Worlds regarding the pequeninos. It is written so that it could stand alone, but I think you get a better understanding of Ender's motivations if you've read Ender's Game first.
Another thing Card does well is to give you hints of things that will happen later on, revealing tidbits of information from "history." At the beginning of each chapter there's a passage taken from the xenologer's private files, for instance, or the text of a Congressional order. It is as if the book is a history, and he has selected various relevant historical documents to include.
A good read, sort of a science fiction/drama/mystery, with plenty of surprises about the biology of the piggies.

Fed to jonathan's brain | August 20, 2003