The Earth is under attack from an alien species, and while politicians dither, several small groups of men and women take steps to meet the assault head-on in Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston's second volume in their Formic War series, "Earth Afire."
A sequel to "Earth Unaware," this book is a prequel to Card's science-fiction classic "Ender's Game." The series recounts Earth's first disastrous encounter with the Formics, an extraterrestrial species that plays a critical role in what Card's fans call "The Enderverse."
"Earth Afire" picks up precisely where "Earth Unaware" left off, and while there is plenty of backstory provided in the first few chapters, this book is better if the reader is familiar with the first volume.
As three alien vessels land in China, the Formics, ant-like beings with unknown motives and no discernible means to communicate or negotiate with humans, begin transforming the Earth with complete disregard for other life forms.
Card and Johnston follow the exploits of a variety of characters through this brutal first encounter tale — Victor Delgado, the asteroid miner who first brought news of the invasion to an unbelieving Earth; Lem Jukes, the son of a ruthless mining magnate with something to prove; Bingwen, an 8-year-old Chinese boy who foreshadows the brilliant children that will populate the Ender and Ender's Shadow books; and Razer Rackham, the Maori soldier who is the bridge between this volume and Ender's game.
Card deftly invests each of these characters with humanity and believable motives, and by telling different parts of the story through individual eyes, he creates intimacy and scope at the same time.
The result is an enjoyable story that pulls the reader from page to page. Be aware, as the second volume of a series, every story line is left hanging for the next volume.
"Earth Afire" is filled with military action, strategy and some occasional mild cussing. This is a war story, and there is plenty of battle-related violence. There is no sex. The book should appeal to readers who are teenagers and older — especially those with a background and interest in Card's Ender series.
Marc Haddock has been a newspaperman for 35 years and is currently a marketing writer for Xactware. He lives in American Fork.