Thursday, April 3, 2014

Earth Unaware

For more than 30 years Orson Scott Card has been churning out book after book in his Enderverse. I think that he has found a way to consistently write stories that are fresh, distinct, and compelling. Some books are pure science fiction, some psychological thrillers, some love stories, some political intrigue, and some character driven. While he has several threads of commonality that appear in each new work, the different books are each quite distinct in terms of characters and settings. I have now moved to tackle his trilogy on the first Formic War co-written with Aaron Johnston. These stories take place in a time well before Andrew "Ender" Wiggin was even born. They tell the story of the alien race known as the Formics, who came in force to colonize the Earth. Here Card provides the backstory of what led the nations of Earth to unite their purposes and their resources to develop the infrastructure necessary to defend the planet against the coming invasion and to establish the battle school to search for the ultimate military commander.

The trilogy begins with Earth Unaware in the Kuiper Belt at the outer edge of our solar system. There we meet a group of independent space miners who extract metals from the asteroids in this region. This group consists of a number of families who have adapted to life out in space and move from claim to claim, mine what they can, and send it back to Earth. Their ships are old and their equipment dated. For the most part they are struggling to survive, but they are a hardworking and resourceful group. One of the ships detects something moving toward Earth at near light speed that can only be explained as some type of alien craft. When they try to alert others to the possible dangers, a corporate mining ship on a secretive mission to test a new type of mining laser, attacks the family ship, destroying their communications equipment.

The story ends with the deaths of several thousands of people who got in the path of the aliens. However, due to subspace interference from the alien ship, Earth remains completely unaware of the danger that awaits. As the story ends, a young miner named Victor volunteers to make the journey to the moon in an improvised mineral transport ship, arriving just ahead of the aliens. However, nobody takes anything that he has to say seriously, except for one low-level case worker for the court. This story was top-notch. I now move onto the second book in the trilogy, Earth Afire.