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Book review: 'Earth Unaware' a promising prequel set up for 'Formic War' series

Published: Saturday, July 14 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

"EARTH UNAWARE: The First Formic War," by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, Tor Hardcover, $24.99, 368 pages (f)

Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston have teamed up to mine the backstory of Card's science-fiction classic "Ender's Game," and the result is a satisfying first entry in a series that will tell the events leading up to the "First Formic War."

That war, a conflict between humans and ant-like aliens called "buggers," is familiar territory for readers of the Ender series, which now numbers a dozen books and several short stories.

But readers don't need to be familiar with the "Enderverse" to enjoy this prequel, which takes place about two generations before the events of "Ender's Game."

The new novel, "Earth Unaware," isn't the first time Card has visited the events of this catastrophic first encounter, having related some of this story in two Formic War comic book series.

However, the novel format allows the authors to develop the characters more fully, and to set a broad stage for the events that will take the earth to the brink of all-out war.

Co-author Johnston has collaborated with Card previously for "Invasive Procedures," a sci-fi thriller, and the two voices blend seamlessly throughout "Earth Unaware."

The story of the arrival of an alien craft in earth's solar system is told through the viewpoint of two individuals — Victor Delgado, a teenage member of a nomadic family of space miners operating in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, and Lem Juke, the son of a space mining magnate on a mission to prove himself as he heads up a corporate mining expedition to the same region.

Delgado's group first identifies the interstellar object as an alien space craft, but conflict with the corporate miners makes it impossible to warn the earth that the aliens are coming.

The scenarios allow Card and Johnston to explore human nature in the most extreme circumstances in a family setting, in the case of Delgado, and in a business setting, for Juke.

The authors present both groups at their best and their worst. Card excels at peeling away the actions of his characters to expose their most private motivations, and he does it well here.

Family values are paramount for the Delgado group and play a major role in the story. The language and tone of the book are suitable for young adult readers.

"Earth Unaware" is full of promise for future volumes that flesh out the further events of the Formic Wars that play such an important role in the literary world of Ender Wiggin.

Marc Haddock has been a newspaperman for 35 years and is currently a marketing writer for Xactware. He lives in American Fork.

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