I'm looking for help finding a book I read when I was really young. It was a thick paperback sci fi novel, and it seemed pretty old. I don't remember anything specific about the cover other than it was kind of a generic spacey sciencey picture. Maybe with a lot of red. Let me tell you, there was SO MUCH going on in this book, and since I read it so long ago when I was so young I only have a really general idea of what happened. This is a long shot but I'd like to find it so I can re read it, because I remember really liking it. I bought it from a used book store because I liked the sound of the title, but I do not know what the title is (obviously lol). The main things I remember about the book:

  • The main character was a man who everyone thought was really smart. His main companion was a computer program that was questionably sentient.
  • He met his long-lost sister at some point, who's also a political writer
  • The man is being called to this planet, which the general governing body is threatening to nuke because it's infected with a disease no one can cure
  • The planet had two forms of alien life--these hogs that were running around and killing people but they were also sentient and had a lot of religion, and the disease turned out to also be sentient somehow. like the molecules themselves were a life form?
  • There was a separate storyline about Chinese people on another planet that were controlled by OCD. They were very smart.
  • In the end, everyone is saved because the sentient computer program transports them to, like, the void, where they imagine everything they need and it is magically created. Also, the computer program gets a body, and the main character gets copies of his dead relatives.
  • Also, at some point aliens that look like bugs show up. I do not remember what that's about at all.

I know it sounds crazy, which is why I want to find it and read it again! Thanks in advance for your help.

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    Technically speaking, a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/188540/…, but on very different axes.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 6, 2020 at 1:25
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    Good detailed question. The only thing missing is when you were really young. Apr 6, 2020 at 7:59
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    @StigHemmer it almost seems a shame when such a good question probably didn't need any of that detail, as the title was enough to place it for me.
    – Jontia
    Apr 6, 2020 at 8:56
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    I must have drunk more than I thought last night... I could have sworn I'd found and linked an accepted matching answer, but that's not the right link (sorry, regionalsky), and now all I can find is the upvoted, but unaccepted, answer at scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/203263/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 6, 2020 at 11:56
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    I love how utterly bonkers your question sounds, and yet, anyone who's read Xenocide will almost surely recognize it. Good memory, BTW! The only detail I can see you (maybe) got wrong is the "questionably sentient" bit. As I recall, Jane was definitely sapient. (BTW, sentience and sapience aren't quite the same. Most animals — well, mammals, anyway, probably birds and reptiles, maybe fish, probably not insects — are generally regarded as sentient, but only humans are definitely sapient.)
    – Matthew
    Apr 7, 2020 at 17:43

1 Answer 1


You're very likely talking about the legendary Xenocide by Orson Scott Card.

It's the third book in a series of five. It follows very closely to your description, mostly it's about main character Ender Wiggin and his quest to redeem himself after he killed billions of alien souls, an act that has labeled him "Ender the Xenocide" thousands of years later. It has all of the alien life you're talking about, as well as his sister Valentine, his virtual friend Jane, and the tandem story about the world of Path.

I'd recommend that you read the other books before embarking on this one, however. The first book is the classic Ender's Game, after which comes Speaker for the Dead. I may get downvoted for sharing my opinion but from one Card fan to another, I'd highly suggest you also read Ender in Exile as well. It was written after Xenocide, but in the chronological sequence of the Enderverse, it fills in the substantial space between Ender's Game and Speaker. Then comes Xenocide, a book I'd consider to be one of Card's best.

Best of luck my friend!

an edit to directly address your points, as requested:

  • The main character is Ender Wiggin (in this book, he goes by Andrew most of the time), hailed as a genius through all of the books. His companion, Jane, is a computer program evolved from the Fantasy Game of the original Ender's Game. A big theme of the book surrounds souls: what are they, where they come from, who gets one and why. Jane is one of the entities that is considered sentient but not truly alive until she gets a soul at the end of the book.
  • Ender's sister, Valentine, has been separated from Ender for thousands of years (this is possible because of time dilation). Valentine, as revealed by Ender's Game and Ender in Exile is the famed political writer and historian Demosthenes. The two reunite on a ship before heading to the colony of Lusitania.
  • The Starways Congress is threatening to use the MD device, which essentially destroys all chemical bonds, on the colony of Lusitania, because they mildly rebelled. Valentine is involved because she still has a lot of political sway as a writer, and Ender is involved because he has been called to perform as a Speaker for the Dead, essentially an honest eulogy.
  • The main alien life on Lusitania is the pequeninos, sentient pig-like creatures. They are capable of language as well as having complex political and societal structures. Because of their life cycle, the highest form of honor is being vivisected and laid out on the ground, which they have done to one of the scientists. This is of course interpreted as malintent, which leads to a lot of miscommunication and violence. Also involved is the descolada virus, which is described as a virus that unglues DNA. One of the scientists discovers that the virus mutates extremely rapidly because it can communicate with other viruses, and thus deems it sentient. The pequeninos and the descolada are very tightly biologically intertwined.
  • The kind of separate storyline is about a Chinese colony on a world called path. (Chinese specifically, not just asian.) These people were genetically modified to be very intelligent, and those at the top of the social pyramid are deemed "godspoken"--meaning that they have incredibly debilitating OCD. It's explained later in the book that the godspoken have been genetically modified to have their OCD triggered essentially when they think anything bad about the Starways Congress.
  • Now this is a big one. Basically there's faster-than-light communication that exists (for lots of cool reasons that OSC skims over until one of the prequel books), and thus every planet has multiple devices that are capable of this, called ansibles. These ansibles are connected and controlled by the Starways Congress. Theoretically, Jane's brain is comprised of these connected ansibles, and she has access to basically all human knowledge every created. She has insane computing power. There's a lot going on (a godspoken girl, Han Qing-jao, is on the path to discovering Jane's existence) but after speaking with the Hive Queen (you really need Game, Speaker, and Exile for this) and the fathertrees (the fully evolved forms of the pequeninos, what they turn into after they are vivisected), Ender theorizes that there is an "outside". (side note: this is all deeply rooted in Mormon theology, very cool stuff) The "outside" is where souls come from, where everything comes from, really. The souls aren't just souls, they are the foundations of everything. Jane, who has infinite computing power, teleports Ender and some other people into the outside by holding in her mind every single detail of them. There, most of the main characters solve their problems by imagining 1) a "cure" for the descolada, 2) a perfect body that is not crippled, and 3) the parts of Ender's personality that he hates about himself. This manifests in his long-dead brother, Peter Wiggin, and his sister (who is not dead), a young Valentine. The things that they imagine materialize, and Jane brings them back "inside" to a different place. This all happened instantaneously--thus, faster-than-light transportation.
  • So the original Ender's Game is all about the Formics, bug-like aliens that are supposed to be invading Earth. I will not spoil that. They do show up in Xenocide, as Ender is rebeginning the Formic race by planting the Hive Queen. She acts as a spiritual guide and a source of information for Ender throughout, teaching him about the "souls" and inspiring him to go "outside".

Basically every detail matches up!

You can find it pretty cheap here.

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    Wow! Thanks for so much information. I'm really excited to reread now.
    – eviscerate
    Apr 6, 2020 at 0:07
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    There are things which are more fun to read than Xenocide though (personal opinion ... I can only describe it as "it leaves the same feeling as a bad video game; you finished it but you regret it immediately thereafter and feel slightly nauseous"). Anything by Vernor Vinge or Alastair Reynolds is recommended as immediate replacement. Apr 6, 2020 at 16:30
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    @David Tonhofer yeah it can be a pain to read at times, it's definitely Card at his densest and most condescending. Obviously EG is a romp and the prequels are more modern, but Xenocide has some of the most interesting ethical dilemmas that Card has created (imo) Apr 6, 2020 at 17:04
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    I know it's off-topic, but I profoundly disagree with Xenocide being a strong book, and I'm not alone. Since I don't believe in anything like it, I find the roots in Mormon theology off-putting rather than "very cool stuff", but my biggest problem with this book is the wish fulfilment device - "if you can imagine what it looks like, you can acquire it" is a fascinating but completely universe-breaking concept, that seems to be used here just as a deus ex machina to fix all the problems the novel sets up.
    – IMSoP
    Apr 7, 2020 at 8:54
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    @eviscerate, Enderverse is definitely one of the classics. There is some hope OSC might finally write "the finale" one of these days. Meanwhile, the Formic Wars series (prequel to Ender's Game) is on I book 5 of 6, with #5 published only last year. I also loved the movie; shame they seem unlikely to make any more.
    – Matthew
    Apr 7, 2020 at 17:51

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