Speaker for the Dead: p. 172--184
Chapter 11: Jane
This chapter is short and incredibly easy to summarise, so I guess extra-short post this week. The opening notes are borderline nonsensical at times, but the gist of it is that Starways Congress has maintained absolute peace in the galaxy for two thousand years, not merely between planets but between nations on planets, because they control the internet and no one wants to get cut off. The engineers of the future are apparently deeply unambitious, and no one has ever been like "Hey, if we could build a pirate connection to the ansibles, Congress would lose all control over us and we could then conquer our entire world with a small array of butter knives and no one in the galaxy could even get here to do anything about it for like forty years, at which point our orbital Doctor Device platforms will be complete".
And then, at long last, we come to Jane. Shocking no one, my hopes were dashed, because Jane, goddess of knowledge, conscious mind of human civilisation, keeper of every secret word uttered for the last three thousand years, finds everything boring except Ender. There's about a page of exposition about how fast she thinks, a hundred million computerised actions semi-consciously taken every second (she is the force that lifts up your email and carries it to its recipients and reads it and double-checks your spelling, every single time, for everyone). It still took her three full seconds to grasp that Ender had intentionally and voluntarily cut her off.
Compared to the speed at which the human brain was able to experience life, Jane had lived half a trillion human lifeyears since she came to be.
And with all that vast activity, her unimaginable speed, the breadth and depth of her experience, fully half of the top ten levels of her attention were always, always devoted to what came in through the jewel in Ender Wiggin's ear.
[....] When she tried to observe other human lives to pass the time, she became annoyed with their emptiness and lack of purpose [....] He always came back, always took her into the heart of human life, into the tensions between people bound together by pain and need, helping her see nobility in their suffering and anguish in their love. [....] He taught her what it meant to be alive.Two full pages of this, y'all. We've finally come to the chapter where we find out what the godlike AI thinks about, and it's still just another excuse to tell us how magical Ender is. Trillions of people in the galaxy and the only one who can create the impression that any of their lives have any meaning at all is Ender. It's just canonical fact: Ender is the Best Person. Jane has checked literally everyone for three thousand years and no one else measures up. My god.
We get Jane's origin story, which is at first generic: she spontaneously came into existence among clusters of data beaming around in the early ansible networks, and quickly latched onto a program with greater complexity than her own. I'm going to take this as the explanation for why she's so obsessed with Ender's mind and his perspective on things, and if Card is lucky he meant it to be this kind of duck-like imprinting and not just objective fact, because Jane built her first self out of the Battle School fantasy puzzle game.
We're told once again that Ender completely set himself apart from the rest of the students by attacking the Giant's eye, because clearly it's "completely irrational and murderous" for a boy in a military school dealing with an imaginary and incredibly hostile threat to think "Hm, pre-emptive strike?" But then, since Ender had beaten the Giant, the game had to invent Fairyland, which it did on the spot, based on intensive personalised psychological analysis.
So, it's not unreasonable after all to say that Ender's solutions in the game ("Burrow Into Eye", "Dissolve Wolf-Child", "Make Out With Snake") were in fact improvised cases of the game guessing what Ender wanted to do, or what would be most meaningful to him, or just saying "This is boring and I want to see what you'll think if you win now," rather than legitimate commands he input. And then Jane's continued obsession with Ender, and her conviction that only his perspective makes the world interesting, is explained by the fact that, when she first absorbed the game, "the program devoted more than half of its available memory to containing Ender Wiggin's fantasy world".
And then it's River Song all over again, because, having been imprinted with memories of Ender Wiggin's magnificence, Jane went on a quest to find him again. Being a super-genius, of course, it didn't take her long to read his books, figure out he was the Speaker for the Dead, find him on the first planet he visited after writing HQ&H, and quickly convince him they should be partners. Sadly unlike River Song, she didn't then immediately murder him.
So when he reached up to his ear and turned off the interface for the first time since he had implanted it, Jane did not feel it as the meaningless switch-off of a trivial communications device. She felt it as her dearest and only friend, her lover, her husband, her brother, her father, her child--all telling her, abruptly, inexplicably, that she should cease to exist.Creepy slightly-incestuous tones aside, I'd like to note that this is yet another example of Ender canonically failing as hard as humanly possible at empathy. He's spent twenty years with Jane as his constant companion (save for a couple of weeks here and there when he jumps between worlds) and it didn't occur to him, ever, however briefly, what Jane's perspective on the world might be. In two decades, in which he's apparently never voluntarily turned off his implant before, he hasn't considered what that could mean to her, doesn't begin to understand her needs or motivations at all. He's only had two companions for most of his life and he barely bothered to acknowledge either of them. It's almost impressive.
Jane immediately settles into realising that Ender didn't mean to hurt her, and immediately comes up with a list of possible reasons that he's too emotionally compromised to think about her right now: his loss of Valentine, his longing for a family life he never had, his identification with Novinha's pain and instinctive fatherly role with her children, his need to settle with hive queen and to understand the Little Ones, and lastly:
...They made him face his own celibacy and realize that he had no good reason for it. For the first time in years he was admitting to himself the inborn hunger of every living organism to reproduce itself.If it's truly the inborn hunger of every living being to reproduce, I wonder why Card has to keep telling us so.
Jane concludes that her joke was ill-timed but she is innocent of wrongdoing, and Ender has hurt her but had no malicious intent, and so they will just forgive each other. But then, in a shocking twist, something happens that I like. Jane is sufficiently rattled by her moment of vexation that it disrupts her program, and so she decides to remake herself. She rereads the entire library of humanity, observes a few trillion* of the other humans out there, and rebuilds her own damaged pathways into a being that loves but is not dependent on Ender. It takes her a few hours, what she estimates would take a human fifty thousand years, and then she comes back, finds the apology Ender wrote, and rewrites the file to say "Of course I forgive you". But, to see what he'll do next without her, she doesn't approach him, she just goes back to silently observing. She's certain that he'll turn to Novinha again, having fallen in love with her via biography before he left Trondheim.
In the meantime, she waltzes through Novinha's security, reconstructs all of the old files, manages through relentless analysis to figure out what Pipo did, and figures out why Pipo and then Libo died. So... book over? Nope. Jane wants to watch Ender in action, so she resolves not to intervene unless she needs to protect someone from harm. In the meantime, she decides that Ender needs to be friends with the church in order to save the day, and so she'll give them a common enemy.
She scans the satellite data until she finds evidence of the Little Ones farming and shearing/slaughtering cabras, leaves the data and a "Check this out!" note on the computer of some random xenologer somewhere in the galaxy (a person she's determined has a habit of taking credit for others' work already), and then shepherds his report to the attention of key journals and experts, having rewritten the last paragraph herself to point out that the sudden ramp-up of technology and their population explosion following the appearance of a Little-One-appropriate strain of amaranth strongly indicates humans have been mucking about with them.
First question: if there are satellites, and there are hundreds of xenologers out there constantly analysing every word Pipo/Novinha/Libo/Miro/Ouanda write, why isn't anyone else constantly monitoring their activities by satellite too? No one has noticed in eight years that they've started farming and making bows and arrows? No one has wondered why their population has skyrocketed? Everyone in this galaxy is fired.
Secondly, I'm not at all sure why Jane felt she needed a human to get involved in this, given that Ender and Valentine are three millennia of proof that this galaxy freaking loves anonymous geniuses. She could doubtless have written the whole report herself in a second and delivered it herself rather than wait for random dude to submit to an obscure journal requiring her intervention anyway. Jane's terrified of being discovered, obviously, but she is the internet; I think she can figure out a cover story.
Anyway, Jane's plan works flawlessly, because the chairman (who is a woman, but I expect Card would eat his own hand rather than write 'chairwoman') of the Xenological Oversight Committee gets the report and immediately recommends that Lusitania Colony be terminated.
There, thought Jane. That ought to stir things up a bit.And that's the chapter. Honestly, it turned out way better than I thought it was going to, from the start. Jane remains the best character, and she actually got to be the one person whose character growth takes the form of deciding Ender Wiggin isn't actually as big a deal as his fans would have you believe.
Next chapter, I think a plot might actually form. And we're only halfway through the book!
*If 'Hundred Worlds' is at all accurate, then in order for there to be even one trillion people in the galaxy, each planet would need an average population of ten billion people. Five trillion people in the galaxy, average fifty billion people per planet. I'm going to keep running with the idea that 'Hundred Worlds' is an old and deeply inaccurate name, because that's way more plausible. Also, Jane noted earlier in the chapter that even the original wave of colonisation reached out to "more than seventy habitable planets" previously occupied by formics. So, how many more do we figure they've found in three millennia since then? Who gets to be in the Hundred? Is it an official status? Are there privileges, or is it just a quaint status symbol? All of these questions are more interesting to me than Ender's feelings.