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Orson Scott Card’s latest Ender novel Earth Unaware: The First Formic War, co-authored by Aaron Johnston, was released last week on July 17 and my review copy came in the mail just a couple of days later.

A hardcover book of 364 pages (excluding the Afterword), Earth Unaware is an official Ender’s Game prequel that brings us the story of humanity’s very first encounter with the Formics. Earth Unaware has interesting and well fleshed out characters, a steady pace, and great foreshadowing for Ender’s Game.  The book is split into three separate storylines and two of them eventually intertwine to provide you with a thrilling and terrifying ride through the Kuniper Belt.

First there’s the El Cavador storyline, told mostly from the perspective of Victor Delgado, a brilliant 17 year-old free miner mechanic on his Venezuelan family’s mining ship, the El Cavador. You start off meeting Victor at a time of painful loss, as his closest cousin and best friend Alejandra, nicknamed Janda, is “zogged” or married off to another clan early to an Italian clan the Delgados have been trading with for the past week because they sense that the two cousins are falling in love. (this chapter can be read as a sample on Tor.com) For her sake, Victor chooses not to say goodbye and instead immerses himself into his work.

That’s soon interrupted when Janda’s younger sister Edimar, an apprentice in the ship’s crow’s nest called The Eye, spots something in the distance that by her calculations is decelerating. The conclusion they both come to is that it’s an alien starship headed for Earth. They notify the ship’s captain immediately and with only the departed Italian ships and one corporate mining ship within communication distance, they send off messages in the hopes that they reach them.

The second storyline follows that of the Makarhu, a corporate space mining ship led by Lem Jukes, son of Ukko Jukes, who is the wealthiest man in the galaxy and president of Earth’s largest corporate mining company Juke Limited. Lem is on a mission for Juke Limited’s R&D division to test the outrageously expensive prototype “glaser” or gravity laser to hopefully provide them with a revolutionary way to mine minerals out of asteroids. The Makarhu is the corporate ship nearest to the El Cavador.

Impatient and eager to return home with good news, Lem is plagued by delays and an overcautious lead scientist and after their first test on a “pebble” or small asteroid, he makes the call to head to a much larger asteroid nearby. The problem is that it’s being mined by the Delgado clan. Not to be discouraged, Lem suggests the unethical practice of “bumping” the El Cavador from the rock and taking it for themselves. This begins a terrible conflict between the two ships, with what’s presumably a Formic ship quickly approaching.

Back on Earth, we follow Captain Wit O’Toole, head of the elite peacekeeping force known as the Mobile Operations Police or MOPs for short. Recruiting from the most elite military forces on the planet, Wit’s visit to the New Zealand SAS base is where we get our first glimpse of young Mazer Rackham. The downside is that while Wit’s story is interesting and entertaining, he parts ways with Mazer early on in the book and his story fails to tie into the meat of the story in a relevant manner and in the end Wit only serves as backstory for what’s obviously another book to come.

Victor makes for a fascinating young adult character with admirable qualities and a deeply rooted loyalty to his family and a “home” he’s never even seen in Earth, since he is space-born. Lem could have been a typical rich kid character, but thankfully, he’s a reluctant non-hero with ethics and the yoke of his father muzzling his full potential. This makes him a much more complicated and therefore interesting man.

You see shades of Ender’s Game throughout, but most notably with the glaser, which is obviously the prototype for what eventually becomes the Little Doctor. Wit O’Toole’s elite force leads one to believe that he’ll eventually help form the International Fleet, since his MOPs are a global force that do not answer to individual governments and strive to keep harm from coming to civilians. The climax of the novel brings you thrills similar to the Battle Room and you can’t help but think that this influenced how they trained the students in the school.

I’d been struggling through Children of the Mind when Earth Unaware landed on my desk and I finished the book in a quick three days, being a bit slow to start since I’d already read most of the first chapter online. Once I got a bit deeper in, however, the story and characters pulled me in until I couldn’t put it down. It’s a very strong novel for what I presume will be a set of prequel books. My only wish was that Captain Wit had tied in better with the main storyline.

If you’ve been waiting to buy the book until you read reviews, consider this review one that urges you to pick up the book immediately. While decidedly different from Ender’s Game, Earth Unaware is a quality novel and overall a highly entertaining read.

Earth Unaware was provided to me by Tor Books. I was not paid to write this review. All opinions expressed above are my own.


  1. […] past July, I reviewed Earth Unaware, the Ender’s Game prequel novel by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. The book did a lot of […]

  2. […] You can read my review of the book here. […]

  3. […] Check out the book trailer for ‘Earth Afire’, the sequel to ‘Earth Unaware’. These books are part of the First Formic War trilogy. Read my review of the first book here. […]

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