Earth Awakens ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Earth Awakens
Series: Enderverse: First Formic War #3
Authors: Orson Card & Aaron Johnston
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 341
Words: 136K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

With an alien invasion in progress in China, humanity is divided on how to defend itself. The Chinese government is determined to go it alone, despite suffering catastrophic losses. Captain Wit O’Toole of the Mobile Operations Police (MOP) and Mazer Rackham have managed to destroy one of the three alien landers, but because they achieved the first significant human victory of the war without official approval and using a nuclear warhead obtained without authorization, they are in the custody of Chinese General Sima. During the invasion, Mazer Rackham saves Bingwen, a very intelligent eight-year-old Chinese boy who now comes up with a clever ploy to get them released: he spreads word over the internet that they were acting under Sima’s orders and gives Sima full credit.

Meanwhile, Victor Delgado and Imala Bootstamp drift to the alien mothership in a ship disguised to avoid being destroyed. Victor manages to enter and explore the vessel. They survive a failed drone attack on the alien ship and, after getting away again, confront Lem Jukes, whom they suspect of involvement in the attack. Actually, it was launched by Lem’s father, Ukko. Lem tried to stop or delay it.

Based on what he has learned, Victor devises a plan to capture it, and reluctantly accepts Lem’s help in carrying it out. The MOPs, including Wit and Mazer, are recruited to become the rest of Victor’s boarding party. Despite Victor’s objections, Imala volunteers as well.

When the Formics detect the intruders, all of their forces on Earth leave to go to their ship’s defense. Lem leads a force to hold them off, resulting in a fierce space battle. Aboard the Mothership, Wit has to sacrifice his life, exposing himself to quickly lethal levels of radiation, but Victor’s plan succeeds, and the ship is captured intact. However, Victor’s cousin, Edimar, backtracks the path of the alien ship and discovers that it was only a scout ship; the real Mothership is reconfiguring itself into a battle fleet that will arrive in about five years.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed this final book in the First Formic War trilogy. But much like the slide from the first book to the second, there was something missing from the second to the third book. I simply can’t put my finger on what it is, but that enjoyment factor just wasn’t as high. Still a good read at 3.5stars though.

There was a LOT more politics involved in this book than in the previous and so depending on if you like political thrillers or not, that will shape your enjoyment of the book. There is also a storyline about the survivors from Victor’s old spaceship (all the women and children) and it should have been cut or tied off in the previous book. It felt like it was added simply to justify the very end of the book where one of the women discovers that the “mothership” at earth is actually just a scoutship and the real mothership is on its way and will arrive in about 5years. That could have been done with one of the Juke scientists and had several chapters removed from the story, thus streamlining the story and the number of POV’s.

Bingwen is definitely an Ender prototype. He ends up going to secret school run by the Chinese and is treated like absolute crap by his “mentor”. This is the beginning of the Space School and you see its mindset clearly here. It is sad but at the same time it is good to see how the world went from what we would consider normal to the world where Ender grew up and what was considered normal then.

This trilogy was good enough that I am going to try the entire Ender quintet next. I’ve read Ender’s Game multiple times and read Speaker for the Dead once back in 2000 but never got past that. Now that I’ve got a better handle of how Card writes (having read some of his Ender’s Shadow series, the Pathfinder series, the poorly executed Alvin Maker series and his absolutely atrocious Homecoming saga which I abandoned after the first book) I think I can take the complete change in tone. Plus, the Second Formic War trilogy isn’t completed.

In regards to that. This trilogy was released in 3 years. One book a year, bam, bam, bam. That’s the power of having 2 writers. OR they pre-wrote it. However, the Second Formic War trilogy was started in ’16 and book 2 was released in ’19 and there is no release date yet for book 3. I really want to read it but won’t until it is complete, so reading the original Ender books is probably the best way to keep my toes in the Ender pond while I wait.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Earth Afire ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Earth Afire
Series: Enderverse: First Formic War #2
Authors: Orson Card & Aaron Johnston
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 373
Words: 148K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A century before the events of Ender’s Game, an alien spaceship enters the solar system and soon makes known its hostile intentions by destroying harmless human ships. Then, it wipes out a ragtag fleet of asteroid miners who have banded together in a desperate attempt to stop it. All of the adult male members of Victor Delgado’s extended clan die in the battle. The survivors are unable to transmit a warning, so Victor volunteers for a near-suicidal mission to try to reach Earth in a tiny, hastily converted unmanned cargo ship. He makes it to the Moon, but is unable to get the authorities to take him seriously. Thus, humanity is totally unprepared when the First Formic War starts.

The invader sends three enormous landing craft to southeast China. The Formics emerge and use gas to defoliate the area and kill everyone. Despite suffering stupendous losses, the suspicious Chinese government refuses outside help.

Before the landing, Mazer Rackham had been training the Chinese military on a new transport aircraft, the HERC, in exchange for training on their new invention, drill sledges that can tunnel quickly underground. During the Formic invasion, he saves Bingwen, a very intelligent eight-year-old Chinese boy, but is then shot down. Bingwen saves his life, with the remote help of Mazer’s romantic interest, Kim. Bingwen and Mazer then set off to destroy the nearest Formic lander.

The Mobile Operations Police (MOP), a small but elite international force, enters China (without official authorization). The MOPs save Bingwen and Mazer from a Formic attack. The lander is heavily shielded, but it does not extend underground. Mazer manages to find some drill sledges and HERCs to transport them close to the lander. MOP Captain Wit O’Toole obtains a tactical nuclear weapon from anonymous Chinese who do not agree with their government’s stance on foreign assistance. They destroy the lander, but then Captain Shenzu arrives and places Mazer under arrest.

Meanwhile, Victor and Imala (a Customs Agent assigned to Victor upon his unauthorized arrival) manage to drift close to the Formic ship, using a disguised ship provided by Lem Jukes (the only son of the richest man alive) to avoid being destroyed. Victor breaks into the alien ship through a gun port.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the first book, Earth Unaware, so much that I broke my usual way of reading and dived immediately into this the second book in the First Formic War trilogy. This was another really good entry but for whatever reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much, hence the halfstar knocked off.

Part of it is that the Lem and his father Ukko Jukes thing got tiresome. Lem lives and breathes everything through the lens of thinking his father is out to test him. He’s paranoid about it, to the point where it got on my nerves. Then Ukko will go and do something to justify everything Lem has thought. That was just as frustrating, if not more so, to read about.

A lot of the action takes place in China. I rather enjoyed these sections and found the boy Bingwen to be an Ender-prototype. He was smart and intelligent and didn’t act like a baby. While many of the adults around him were panicking he was trying to figure out ways to fix whatever the problem was. He was not a superhuman, but Card definitely has a thing for writing very intelligent young people (Ender or Rigg from the Pathfinder trilogy). Bingwen also brought a very human touch to the story. His adventures as an 8year old getting beat up, trying to take special tests to get ahead and then his parents dying, taking care of his aged grandfather, it was all SO human. Mazer Rackham is the military look, Victor and Imala are the political look and Bingwen is the purely everyman look.

I liked how all the threads were woven together in this story. There were no obvious demarcations between Card and Johnston, to the point where I wonder if Johnston did most of the writing with Card supplying the ideas. It doesn’t really matter though, as it was a good tight story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Earth Unaware ★★★★✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Earth Unaware
Series: Enderverse: First Formic War #1
Authors: Orson Card & Aaron Johnston
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 323
Words: 131K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A family of “free miners” living on the spaceship El Cavador is working an asteroid far out in the Kuiper Belt when they detect what appears to be an alien ship decelerating from near light speed as it approaches the solar system. Meanwhile, Lem Jukes, son and heir of the hard-driving founder of the largest mining corporation, is also in the remote region, far from the prying eyes of competitors, secretly testing a “glaser” (gravity laser) that promises to revolutionize mining. Back on Earth, Captain Wit O’Toole goes recruiting among the elite New Zealand Special Air Service for the even more select, multinational Mobile Operations Police (MOPs).

Jukes orders his ship to “bump” El Cavador from the asteroid the family is mining, as it is the only suitable one nearby for his test. During the violent collision, an El Cavador crewman is killed. The miners hack into the corporate ship’s network, planting a message for Lem Jukes and downloading confidential files pertaining to the glaser. Jukes, fearful of a scandal involving the death of a free miner and the danger of the miners selling the confidential files to his competitors, sets out for Weigh Station Four, where he intends to plant a hacker to strip El Cavador’s files.

El Cavador’s transmission equipment having been destroyed in the bump, the crew are unable to warn another mining clan about the intruder, and can only watch helplessly as the alien pod destroys them. El Cavador rescues a few survivors. In the meantime, Victor and a few others modify a “quickship,” an automated vessel normally used to send processed metals to Luna, to carry one person to warn Earth. When the pod attacks El Cavador, the men on the quickship ram and disable the pod using mining equipment. During the attack, the aliens emerge to battle the humans. Their physiology is revealed to be Formic (ant-like).

El Cavador heads to Weigh Station Four to use their laserline transmitter. As a backup, Victor volunteers to take a datacube with the evidence of the aliens’ hostile intentions to Luna aboard the quickship. The journey is perilous, but their duty is clear.

Meanwhile, the Juke ship makes its way to Weigh Station Four, only to come under attack from roughnecks who recognize the crew as despised corporates. Several of the attackers are killed by Chubs, a man seemingly junior to Lem Jukes, but revealed as having been assigned by Ukko Jukes to protect him. The corporates are still able to leave behind a hacker to strip El Cavador’s files, but the scheme becomes moot when the Formic ship destroys the station.

El Cavador sends a short-range, broad radio call and is able to contact the Juke ship and a Chinese mining vessel. El Cavador sends its women and children aboard the Chinese vessel, which is too small to help in the attack. The plan is to plant mining explosives along the hull of the alien ship. Unfortunately, one of them detonates early, drawing the attention of the Formics, who at first engage the humans wearing space suits, but subsequently attack without any protection. Seeing the battle go against them, Chubs withdraws Lem Jukes and his men and moves the corporate ship away, as the Formic ship destroys El Cavador.

Victor arrives at Luna, only to be largely ignored and confined for his illegal arrival. Meanwhile, Wit O’Toole prepares his MOPs for any situation, including what he thinks is a hypothetical alien attack. Victor is eventually assigned a case worker who believes his story and helps him transmit the evidence onto the Nets

My Thoughts:

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. While a collaboration between Card and Johnston, I suspect Johnston did the heavy lifting in terms of the writing itself. I have no problem with that though. In the intro Johnston talks about how he and Card had collaborated on this very story for comics and so that moving into novel territory wasn’t much of a stretch.

I think the various characters were what made this a notch above the typical SF offering. It helps that in Ender’s Game you got “characters” in spades, so this felt very much in tune with that. Lem Jukes makes for a great badguy/notbadguy. I felt sympathy for him while simultaneously wanting to take my Combat Knife to his guts.

I’m usually not a fan of multiple points of view, but with the authors limiting them to three, it gave me the overall view that needed to be seen. Being familiar with Ender’s Game and the Enderverse, I’ve been curious how the world got to the point where we see it in Ender’s Game. This first contact story sets the stage quite well. We get Lem Jukes and his corporate crew in space, Victor and the free miners in space and then Rackam Mazer and the MOPS on Earth.

This story is all about aliens coming to kill us and how we ignore that threat. Exciting and yet scary and tense at the same time. Perfect recipe for a great story.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Shadow of the Hegemon

Shadow of the Hegemon
Ender’s Shadow #2
Orson Card
SF
3 stars
442 pages

a sequel to Ender’s Shadow.

All the Battleschool children, except Ender, are back on earth. Achilles kidnaps a bunch of them to take over the world, tries to kill Bean. Bean hooks up with Peter Wiggins, who reveals himself and the world changes.

I doubt I will read any of the novels after this one. Ender’s War and Ender’s Shadow were engrossing, not this one. Just politics “in the future”, oooooohhhhhh.

Invasive Procedures

Invasive Procedures
Orson Card
Aaron Johnston
thriller
2 stars
352 pages

a renegade geneticist is nearing completion of his plan to ‘uplift’ humanity, with himself in control. A Biohazard Agency agent stops it all from going down. I suspect that Card’s name was on this more for sell’ability than anything else. A nice light read.

Heartfire

Heartfire
Alvin Maker #5
Orson Card
fantasy
3 stars
336 pages

A good ending, imo, to the Alvin Maker series. Alvin has gathered a group of people with knacks who believe in the Crystal City like he does. But the book ends as they are setting out. Card does not make the mistake of actually showing the Making of the City, for that will be Heaven on Earth, and no man knows how to accurately write that out.

Red Prophet

Red Prophet
Alvin Maker #2
Orson Card
Fantasy
2 stars
311 pages

This takes the viewpoint of the Indian who becomes The Prophet mentioned in 7th Son. A bit too much of “redman is just SO in touch with the land and practically perfect and the whiteman is nothing but evil”. Other than that, it was a good story.

Seventh Son

Seventh Son
Alvin Maker #1
Orson Card
fantasy
3 stars
241 pages

an alternate history of the USA. Frontiers time, about a boy who is the 7th son of a 7th son. He can do things, and it becomes apparent that he is to walk a greater path than most. This book ends when he is 10. There are several more in this series, I look forward to reading them.