I’m trying to find the name of a book I read as a teenager in the 90s. I’ve searched the plot but haven’t had any luck.

The book is set on an alien planet where humans have a research facility studying the local humanoid aliens.

It starts out with the apparent murder by the aliens of one of the researchers. The researcher was killed and then cut open and his insides splayed out.

The main character is sent there to investigate or take over the research, can’t quite remember.

I have forgotten most of the detail except that at the end it turns out that for this alien species, when one of them dies, they do this ritual to them and out of their body grows a tree or plant? And so this wasn’t murder but a respectful handling of the researchers body and the aliens didn’t understand why a tree did not grow.


1 Answer 1


This is almost definitely Speaker for the Dead (1986) by Orson Scott Card, the sequel to Ender's Game.

Quoting from the plot summary on Wikipedia:

Eight years after the Descolada virus is cured, Xenologer Pipo and his thirteen-year-old son and apprentice Libo have developed a friendship with the Pequeninos. They allow Novinha to join their science team as the colony's only xenobiologist after she passes the test at age thirteen. After accidentally sharing information about human genders with a male Pequenino named Rooter, the scientists find Rooter's body eviscerated, a sapling planted within it. Guessing this may be a torturous sacrificial ritual, restrictions on studying the Pequeninos are enforced, barring the humans from asking questions directly at Pequininos.

A few years later, Novinha discovers that every lifeform on Lusitania carries the Descolada virus which, though lethal to humans, appears to serve a beneficial purpose to native lifeforms. When Pipo learns of this, he suddenly has an insight, and before he tells the others, races off to talk to the Pequeninos. Libo and Novinha find Pipo's body cut open just as Rooter's had been, but with no sapling planted.

  • 1
    Also fits the OP's recollection of the main character being sent there to look into it—Ender is summoned to Lusitania to be Pipo's (titular) Speaker for the Dead.
    – Milo P
    Dec 1, 2023 at 21:52
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    Technically speaking, this is a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/95417/…. Note that we had a couple of different "primary answers" for various books in the Enderverse.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 3, 2023 at 4:04
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    @FuzzyBoots, You seem to have pasted the wrong link. There's no mention of killing, corpse, tree or aliens in that question (or its answer).
    – ikegami
    Dec 3, 2023 at 19:30
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    @ikegami Policy Is that any story identification question that has the same answer is considered a duplicate. And technically, we're supposed to group different answers for books in the same series to create a single answer, but that often doesn't happen
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 3, 2023 at 21:19
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    @FuzzyBoots, The answer isn't remotely similar, nevermind the "same". Again, there's no mention of killing, corpse, tree or aliens in the other answer.
    – ikegami
    Dec 3, 2023 at 21:29

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