Review: Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston

Saturday, August 4, 2012
Genre: science fiction, young-adult
Series: The First Formic War #1
Pages: 368 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: July 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 1/5

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.

Written as a prequel to the well-loved Ender's Game, Johnston's Earth Unaware tries to fill in some of the holes and unexplored history of the "Enderverse" and the first Formic War that led to Battle School, and Ender's adventures in vanquishing the "hormigas"/Formics. When this book works the most, it succeeds predominately on misplaced nostalgia for the earlier-published-but-later-in-the-chronology novels like Ender's Game, Xenophobe, Children of the Mind, etc. I found Earth Unaware to be a weak, ghost-written book that lacks the easy charisma, dynamic characters, and unique storyline that the other books possessed in abundance and which made them so memorable.

There are obviously some good, interesting ideas at play here (the asteroid mining and the cultures that sprout up around them [free miners versus corporations, etc.]) but Aaron Johnston is primarily a graphic novelist, and it shows quite obviously here. Nothing about the novel is realized to its full potential -- from characters to plot to even the action, almost all about Earth Unaware felt contrived, weak, and overdone all at the same time. This is a superficial and shallow adaptation of Ender and the world's backstory, obviously written primarily to lure in fans of Ender's Game and its subsequent sequels. The plot is minimal, the characters are in dire need of more/or a rounded personality (or in Wit's case, a connection to the actual story. His Earth-bound plot will surely coincide with the events of the sequels, but for Earth Unaware, they are more filler than anything else, Mazer Rackham cameo or not.)

Wonky pacing, uneven and unconnected storylines, cliched or predictable characters, and more made this a miss for me. The few things I found interesting were often and quickly glossed over to focus on the less developed ideas and characters. There are people who will absolutely love this and gush over the finally explained and explored first contact with the Formics, but Earth Unaware is nowhere near the league of Ender's Game in any area. This reviwe is much shorter than most, but my disappointment with this and OSC's raging homophobia make it almost impossible for an impartial thought.

And other thoughts:

When I first read Ender's Game, I was 10. It was my first scifi novel and Ender was a protagonist seemingly created just for me to love. I still love it to this day, but more for nostalgia and my first sense of how powerful children could be than for anything else. It was revelatory: kids can be heroes and save the world too! Now that I'm older, wiser, and more exposed to the kind of hate that OSC regularly spews towards homosexuals, I find myself less and less inclined to pick up anything he's written (or was written for him.) I debated whether or not to even review this (though it's far from a glowing review) because I don't want to promote OSC in any way, shape or form, negatively or not. In this recent climate, among all these debates about author behavior and how it affects readers, I find it hard to justify my read of this/these books. Sure, OSC has never attacked a negative review or reviewer (to my knowledge, but I certainly try to ignore anything that comes out of his mouth at this point), but how authors behave does impact their work and those who read it. 

As I was reading Speechless by Hannah Harrington right after this novel, it made me think about silent compliance, ignoring the bad stuff, and just doing what everyone else does for the sake of not making waves. I'm done, I'm gonna make my own wave about this; I just can't support an author who thinks it's right to discriminate and dehumanize other people. I was granted an ARC of this, but you can bet this author will never see another penny of my cash. I won't be finishing the Fist Formic War series, and though I thank TOR for the generosity of reading the ARC, even an ARC of the sequel won't tempt me. So long, OSC. I will still reread Ender, but I won't recommend it anyone anymore.

So long, Enderverse, and thanks for all the fish.

1 comment:

  1. The sci of this scifi book is wonky. E.g. why does a spacecraft need to decelerate to have a spacewalk commence? Why would a spacecraft that accelerates fast have protruding arms etc conveniently there to be snipped off. How can the temperature be lowered making metal brittle when it already should be hovering not far above zero? Why mine the Kuiper Belt that contains very little rock? Why does the sun cast sharp shadows when it's so far away there?


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