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4.2 out of 5 stars
Earth Unaware (First Formic War)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2013
I'm only halfway through but felt prompted to write this anyway. As another reviewer has alluded to, Earth Unaware decidedly lacks the concise prose and elegant style of Ender's Game, leading me to think that Orson Scott Card actually wrote almost nothing of this prequel. Whereas Ender's Game is driven forward by the interactions between the main characters, Earth Unaware contains large chunks of detailed and repetitive exposition, as if the reader is assumed to have no more than a 10 minute attention span and must be continually reminded of key facts and plot points. Think what Kevin J Anderson did with the prequels to Frank Herbert's Dune and you get the picture.

Characters behave inconsistently: in one scene, the protagonist argues his family should be willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the human race, yet not long after, he changes completely and is willing to sacrifice everything for a single person. The explanation of why this particular person is in a position to need saving at all also seems very laboured, lasting the best part of an entire chapter when a single paragraph would have sufficed. Sadly I can't help but be left with the impression that things happen when they do because the plot needs them to happen in order to progress, not because it makes logical sense, and talking of plot, it goes at a fairly turgid pace with little in the way of real tension or excitement. I am beginning to suspect this is another of those "take the material for one book and pad it out into a trilogy" efforts.

Equally there are numerous schoolboy physics errors. Note to author: rocks and small asteroids are not held together by gravity, but by electromagnetic forces (i.e. the fact that they are 'solids'). It makes no sense at all to talk of spacecraft "coming to a stop" out in the Kuiper Belt. Even if the operation of a mining laser (yes, OK, laser light carries momentum) created sufficient reaction force to require the ship to be held in place by thrusters (iffy), the reaction force would not fall to nothing when pockets of ice are hit, leading to the ship 'leaping forward'. It's like the author has imagined drilling through a piece of concrete with a hammer drill and then suddenly reaching a layer of butter, and thinking the same thing would happen. I could go on but I think the point is made.

I will keep going simply because this book fits into the Ender's Game universe but if it were a standalone novel it would be a struggle to maintain interest.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2013
I find it hard to believe that Card had anything to do with this book, other than to take his cut of the royalties. It is poorly written and riddled with errors. It confuses speed and acceleration throughout, keeps talking about spacecraft coming to a dead stop, ships can't dock or undock because they are going too fast and a trip from the Kuiper belt to the Moon takes just a few months when the speed or velocity or whatnot mentioned in passing would seem to indicate something of the order of five to ten years depending on the trajectory. Lastly the Formics apparently have facial expressions that are easily interpreted by humans as soon as they encounter them! Amazing! Description and characterisation are also clichéd.

If you liked Ender's Game or Speaker for the Dead et al then avoid this rubbish like the plague. I've read it and I can't un-read it, but I wish I could.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book does start slowly and really only picks up momentum after nearly 200 pages - but this is to be expected at the start of a multi-book series, where the characters and situations are being established. As a big fan of Orson Scott Card's Science Fiction I was very glad that he was venturing back into Ender's universe and although not up with the best, this is in no way a disappointment and can be enjoyed by those who haven't read any of his work and maybe have just seen the recent film, with no problems.

I thought this first book shows exactly how human civilisation could easily misinterpet the actions of any alien species and you get the sense of the inevitability of hostilty and war. The characters that we meet are often people we would like and trust - the community of the El Calvador is warm and very familiar. But they are no better at dealing with the arrival of an alien species, than the manipulative and calculating "corporates", who are set up as the "bad guys".

In the end though, the friendly Italian and Hispanic communities may be just as much to blame for starting hostilities and the inevitable slide into war - they are just as much at fault in the way they interact with the Formics. Their intial reaction is disgust and fear, rather than any attempt at communication and understanding. But as readers, we can all too well understand why they behave as they do and the emotions that govern their responses to something totally alien and apparently unresponsive.

This is a story of big ideas - how we can possibly engage with another species - but as usual with Card, he makes it very personal and small-scale - dealing with family matters to which we can all relate. Forget about the science, the situation of being born in space and so on - we can all relate to how this small group of people react to something so strange and how their human nature leads them to react so badly, that war becomes inevitable.

You might imagine that contact with an alien species will be conducted by trained scientists who are earth's leading experts in the field of communication and extraterrestrial life - but the reality is that it will probably just be ordinary people and we will be judged on how these ordinary people cope and react.

I see this as a promising start to the series and can't wait to read the next one.
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on 23 November 2014
I liked the story and I would probably read any prequel/sequel to Enders Game even though this lacks the refined plot of the shadow saga. What ruined it for me was the technical stuff. OSCs strong suit has never been technology or the science part of SF but doesn't he have a staff that reads through books published in his name? A staff including just one person with knowledge of space science or physics at 10ht grade level? Appearently not. Sad.
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on 12 July 2015
Really good read and a great prequel to enders game, if you like sc-fi novels this is definitely a great one to pick up.
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on 6 July 2015
Great book, and in great condition. :)
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2013
I have read all of Orson Scott Card and I am currently working my way through the graphic novels. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if I were to get bored with the Ender thread, but apparently not. This novel held me spellbound as usual. In particular, because this is a back story, I can enjoy the foreknowledge of what will happen next, and Card's skill as a writer meant that this knowledge enhanced my reading. I would highly recommend this to someone who is familiar with the series. If not, then the book will be a good read, but I would suggest going back to Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and read through the novels from there. You will most certainly not be disappointed.
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on 28 April 2015
Orson Scott Card one of the best
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Victor Delgado may only be a teenager, but he and his father are the best mechanics on the ship. The big corporate miners have stores of spare parts and resources on their ships. As free miners, Victor's people make do with what they have. If something needs fixing, they pull out the junked parts and use their imaginations. Victor is a genius innovator. His inventions keep the family operation running smoothly in the Kuiper Belt. His life forever changes when Edimar "Mar" spots something odd in space.

Fourteen-year-old Mar is an apprentice spotter. Her job is to watch for movement in space: comets, asteroids, anything that might pose a collision threat to the ship. Mar notices an insanely fast mass moving in the far distance. Its velocity decreases over time and natural objects in space do not slow down on their own. Her gruff father would belittle her if this turned out to be nothing, so she contacts Victor. He agrees with her assessment. This object could very well be a near-lightspeed alien ship.

First contact is deadly. The aliens seem to be descended from insectlike creatures, so the free miners begin calling them "hormigas" (ants). These technologically superior creatures have no regard for human life. They have unimaginable firepower, a proven malicious intent, and are rocketing toward Earth. There is no way for the free miners to warn Earth and Luna and everyone in the Belts of what is coming. If ever there were a time to think "outside the box", this was it. The fate of humanity will rest on one of Victor's crazy ideas.

***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! My synopsis only touches the alien sections of this incredible story. This novel began as a back story to "Ender's Game". If you have not read Ender's infamous story, please do so! "Ender's Game" is one of the very best science fiction novels of our time (imho). You do not have to read "Ender's Game" in order to thoroughly enjoy this book. After all, this tale takes place long before Ender is even born. Yet for those who have read about Ender, you will receive glimpses of major players in their younger days. For example, Ender knows that humanity lives due to the brilliant tactical maneuvers thought up by Mazer Rackham. In "Earth Unaware" I am allowed to see which special military team would choose Rackham as a possible candidate, who would train him, and how.

It is obvious that Card had given some serious thought into how the whole asteroid mining industry would work. This was not just a few ideas slapped together and presented to the public. Card & Johnston explain the economic infrastructure that exists to make survival in the Belt possible. They explain the amazing tools the miners use in their everyday lives. Then the authors up the ante by having Victor test a new gadgets and ideas that he dreams up on the fly. How the items work and why they were needed is detailed for the reader.

Fans of Robert Heinlein would especially enjoy the "Ender's Series", as well as this new story, "Earth Unaware". The meticulous thoughts and beyond-his-time-ideas in which Heinlein penned into his novels can be found in Card's as well. As with Robert Heinlein, the name of Orson Scott Card has made my short list of "Must Read" authors. And this new Formic War story is going to win awards - just watch. *****

Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
I had some trepidation about reading this following the mixed reviews, but as a huge fan of Ender's Game and the rest of the books based in that world, including the Shadow series, curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see how Card and Johnson developed this historically earlier story describing Earth's first encounter with the Formics.

I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed - the story moves along at a cracking pace with lots of exciting set pieces, but is rooted in well-developed characters and their motivations and interactions, as with all Card's work. As far as Johnson's input goes, I couldn't distinguish what his contribution may have been - good news if you're a Card fan, perhaps not such good news for Johnson if he wants to develop his own identity as a writer!

I think this story is on a par with the Shadow books - exciting, involving, full of compelling characters and interesting revelations. Having said this, I don't think any of the subsequent books really compare to the original Ender's Game in terms of sheer emotional impact, something which I think Card probably agrees with.
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