Friday, July 6, 2012

Earth Unaware: the First Formic War

Earth Unaware: the First Formic War
by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
Tor Books, July 2012
Kindle edition, 368 pages (hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-7653- 2904- 2

The mining ship El Cavador is far out from Earth, in the deeps of the Kuiper Belt, beyond Pluto. Other mining ships, and the families that live on them, are few and far between this far out. So when El Cavador’s telescopes pick up a fast-moving object coming in-system, it’s hard to know what to make of it. It’s massive and moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light.
El Cavador has other problems. Their systems are old and failing. The family is getting too big for the ship. There are claim-jumping corporate ships bringing Asteroid Belt tactics to the Kuiper Belt. Worrying about a distant object that might or might not be an alien ship seems…not important.
They're wrong. It's the most important thing that has happened to the human race in a million years. The first Formic War is about to begin.

My Thoughts:
Earth Unaware: the First Formic War by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston is the first book that launches an Ender prequel trilogy.  It covers the time directly before the Formics arrived in our solar system. For those of you who read comics, the Earth Unaware series is supposed to cover the material found in the Marvel Comics Formic War series.
The novel follows three different story lines but focuses mainly on the free mining families on the Venezuelan ship El Cavador, especially seventeen year old Victor. It also follows Lem Jukes, son of wealthy and influential Ukko Jukes, on a Juke Limited corporate ship that attacks the El Cavador during a claim jump on their mine. In a more limited narrative, it follows Wit O’Toole, the head of an elite international peacekeeping force called the Mobile Operations Police (MOPs), as he seeks and trains new recruits for his team.
When the residents on the El Cavador discover an alien ship, they know that those in the Kuiper Belt region of space must work together to find out what this means to humankind. Due to the claim jumping attack by Juke, their long-range communications are down and they must take desperate measures to try and spread the news as well as stop the aliens.
Although this is a prequel to the Ender's series, it also works well as a first novel in a series. That may be a catch for some readers who like to read a series in its entirety all at once, because, at the end, you definitely know it is a series to be continued.  I'm not familiar with Johnston as a writer for Marvel, but Card is a proven writer who can deftly handle multiple storylines while creating well-developed, believable characters. Clearly that is present and the plot was very compelling. Fans following the Enders series will naturally want to start this prequel trilogy.
Earth Unaware: the First Formic War is Highly Recommended

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Tor Books and Netgalley for review purposes.

Victor didn’t go to the airlock to see Alejandra leave the family forever, to marry into the Italian clan. He didn’t trust himself to say good-bye to his best friend, not without revealing how close he had come to disgracing the family by falling in love with someone in his own asteroid-mining ship. opening

“But we haven’t done anything wrong,” said Victor.
“You two are second cousins, Victor. We would never be able to trade with the other families if we suddenly developed a reputation for dogging.” Dogging, from endogamy: marrying inside the clan, inbreeding. The word was like a slap.
“Dogging? But I would never in a million years marry Alejandra. Location 45-47

The stabilizer was a quick install. It was just a matter of bolting it in and plugging it in to one of the drill’s mod outlets. Most big machines allotted a certain number of modifications and had built-in power outlets and boards to accommodate them. Victor would have to reboot the drill before it recognized the stabilizer, but his lifeline carried hardware lines to the ship, and he could do it from here using his heads-up display. He blinked and called up the display. The helmet tracked his eyes, and Victor gave the necessary blink commands to reboot the drill. Location 238-242

“So Alejandra is starry eyed and naïve.”
“Not at all. I suspect she will think of you for the rest of her life. She’s far more mature at sixteen than I was at eighteen. My point is you’re not a villain, Vico. I know you. You’ll beat yourself up over this, and you shouldn’t. She’s your second cousin. Any place on Earth, you could have married, and no one would have batted an eye.”
“Maybe that’s because there are more sick and twisted dirtbags on Earth.”
Isabella laughed. “They’re human, Vico. Just like us. We can’t help it if we hold ourselves to a higher standard.” Location 313-317

I need to get out, he realized. Go to Luna perhaps. Or Earth or Mars. He didn’t know how to make it happen, but he knew in that instant that it must. Location 324-325

“It’s slowing down?” said Victor.
“Natural objects in space don’t slow down on their own, Mar.”
“No, they don’t. And when I say it’s moving fast, Vico, I mean fast. Fifty percent of lightspeed fast. Interstellar objects don’t go that fast, they don’t bend without a gravity well, and they don’t decelerate. So tell me, am I going to get teased for this?”
“I don’t think so,” said Victor.
“I should forget about it?”
“Edimar, I think we’re looking at a spacecraft.”
“Nothing goes that fast.”
“Nothing made by humans.”
At his words, Edimar visibly relaxed and a silly grin came to her face. “So I’m not crazy to think we’ve got us an alien starship? A near-lightspeed ship coming into our system and slowing down?”
“Either it’s a lightspeed ship or somebody repealed a whole bunch of laws of physics. And either it’s alien or some corporation or government is experimenting with a technology so advanced it will make them masters of the universe.”
“So I should call a grown-up.”
“You should call the Council. Or I will. This isn’t just important, it’s so important that they’ve got to make decisions about it right away.”
“What’s the hurry?”  Location 393-401

“Why aren’t you running your own corporation? You’ve certainly had plenty of opportunities to do so. You helped launch four IPOs before your twentieth birthday, you took nine different divisions and companies from the brink of bankruptcy into the black, and the rumor is that you’ve built a private investment empire that knows few equals. And yet here you are, heading up a testing expedition in the Kuiper Belt. Your father doesn’t always make decisions based on résumés.”
“I took this job, Dr. Benyawe, because I believe in the gravity laser.”
“But this test is dangerous. If it works wrong on a massy object like an asteroid, this ship could simply disappear.”
“I’m willing to take risks. Is Dublin?”
“Maybe Dublin was given strict instructions by your father to make sure you came home alive.” Location 504-510

Lem didn’t doubt his Father’s love. He doubted the pure, distilled form of it. That was something Lem had never seen. Location 525-526

What had Father said? “Guilt is the greatest weapon because its cuts rarely heal and it aims for the heart.” Location 4147

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