Book Review: Earth Unaware (Formic Wars) by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

Reviewed by Sara Drake

Victor has lived his entire life in space, helping his family in the asteroid mining business. On his family’s ship, the El Cavador, he has his place as a genius with mechanical equipment. When Victor’s friend discovers an alien space ship headed to Earth, he finds himself increasingly making decisions opposite of the adults he has always followed. The danger posed by the aliens becomes increasingly clear and still Earth knows nothing of the threat. Will he find a way to warn Earth?

Lem Jukes desperately wants to prove himself to his father, one of the richest and most powerful men alive. As the captain of a research vessel testing a revolutionary new device, he hopes he has finally found his chance. The device proves to be more than expected and he finds himself forced to make choices between his father’s corporate ethics and his own personal ethics. When the future of Earth is at stake, will he do the right thing?

Wit O’Toole leads a United Nations special operations force. His team trains to handle any possible situation, respond to any crisis. Have they truly trained for everything? Is his team ready to face the unknown?

Earth Unaware begins a trilogy set before Ender’s Game, the popular early 80s book that spawned the Enderverse series. Ender’s Game has found its place as an American classic, exemplifying the best of what science fiction can be. Orson Scott Card’s writing has continually offered readers amazing plots and characters backed by beautiful prose. Aaron Johnston has co-written multiple graphic novels set in the Enderverse; this was his first novel. The resulting blend of master writer and novice produces a novel with some amazing strengths and weaknesses.

I’ll cover the weaknesses first. Unlike other Orson Scott Card books, significant scientific errors caught my attention. Science fiction authors always have the option of bending the science to make the fiction work, but normally Card explains the deviations from known physics when creating his worlds. This was not the case in this novel. Additionally, numerous typos and grammatical errors appear throughout, detracting from the readability of the novel. Lastly, the Wit O’Toole story line remains completely disconnected from the plot. In fact, it could be removed entirely without even a slight ripple in the rest of the book. The reader can only hope that plot line connects with others in the next book.

However, I could barely force myself to put the book down, eagerly wanting to know what came next. The plot moves rapidly, with action scene followed by more action. Unlike many of Orson Scott Card’s books, the action dominates throughout this novel. The characters quickly come alive. Victor charms the reader with his mixture of maturity, talent, and adolescent angst. Of all the characters, he is the easiest with whom to sympathize. Lem’s complex personality left me hating him at one moment and rooting for him the next. The strong secondary characters, especially among Victor’s family, add a great deal of depth to the novel and kept me invested in the outcome.

The ending may not please all readers, though I found it satisfying. Orson Scott Card has always been a master at giving the reader just enough information without beating the point to death. The conclusion of Earth Unaware resolved the key dilemma while perfectly setting up the second book. Best of all, the finale built subtly, relying on the readers’ ability to put the pieces together, leaving most of the resolution hinted at rather than spelled out.

As the prequel to a longer series, this book does not require the reader to be familiar with any of the other works in the series. Long time fans of the series will enjoy the background to one of science fiction’s most renowned novels.


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