Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Earth Unaware

If you try to read Earth Unaware as a stand-alone book you will be disappointed. It ends seemingly in the middle of a great invasion of earth. There is an entire subplot about ultra-special military commandos that has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot.

Yep, this is obviously the first in a series. From the author's web site, the sequel has been completed for sometime, but is just waiting for a later release.

This is also geared at fans of the Ender series. We get the first look at the "Formics" and their invasion of earth. We also view a young Mazer Rackham. He would later go on to be a mentor and an important figure in the formic wars in Ender's Game.

The story in this book centers around a "free mining" ship that is mining an asteroid. They happen to spot something unusual in the distance that looks like an alien spacecraft. However, they just sit on the information. It just so happens that some evil corporate types want to test some of their weapons by blowing up the same asteroid. They bump the miners off the asteroid, destroying their communication equipment and hurting a miner in the process. The miners are now drifting through space, trying to rendezvous with another ship. However, when they get there, they find the ship is destroyed. They hunt for survivors (and find a few). They also have a live encounter with some of the formics. Now, they really need to tell the world. To do so, one boy goes back to the moon in a cargo ship, while the main ship eventually hooks up with the evil corporates and some "nice corporates" to try to battle the formics. They are not successful, with one ship destroyed and the others leaving. Eventually, the boy (Victor Delgado) makes it to the moon, but gets caught in bureaucracy. He tries to post the "alien video" on the nets - but we are shown lots of "fake video" making it seem unlikely they will succeed.

The book centers primarily around Victor. However, the most interesting character is Lern Jukes, the nominal captain of the corporate ship. He is the heir to the corporate fortune. However, he does not feel respected by his father. He wants to show a successful mission. However, he is constantly torn between doing what is "right" and what will bring "corporate success". He finds himself often justifying behaviors that he knows are "wrong". Yet, he has difficulty bringing out a full justification. He is upset that the crew seems to disobey his orders, often killing people or letting men die in the name of his safety. (However, it usually turned out that if they wouldn't have done that, everyone would have ended up dead.) In the end, he discovers that he is not even in control of the ship - his father had set up the security officer as the one ultimately in control.

All in all it is a good "first act" of a thriller. There is not a whole lot of "deep meaning" here. For the first part in a trilogy, there are not a whole lot of loose ends. (It seems the formic ship does a good job of blowing away potential loose ends.)

I wonder how much of the book was by Card, and how much by Johnston. My gut says "This is Card's Universe", so Johnston probably wrote the majority, with Card only helping out to give it some credibility. I can see him saying. "Yo! Scott! This Ender movie is coming out, and you have people hungry for more, and you are stuck creating new universes. Here is my idea for the prequel. You make some edits and lets release it." Card then rewrites a few sections and the book fits in with his style and it gets released in a hurry.

It does fit well with Card's style. I like almost everything that he has written, but love very few. He is a good "safe" author. I'm not likely to be overly disappointed. While I read plenty of science fiction in the 80s and 90s, I never read any of Card's SF work. However, at the time, I had known of him well, and read many of his works. I remember a Mormon humour book and a few good articles in Commodore 64 computer magazines like Ahoy! It wasn't until a few decades later that I heard somebody mention "Orson Scott Card" as one of the science fiction writers they really loved. Hmm... (However, the person wasn't somebody that I tended to have common tastes, so I brushed it aside until later.) Ender's Game was ok. It wasn't awful, but didn't drive me to read more. However, Speaker for the Dead was great, and that got me on the whole kick.

At the end of the Earth Unaware audiobook, there is a brief interview with Card. He mentions that he is a huge fan of audiobooks. (I share that with him.) He also mentioned that his favorite authors are Jane Austen and J.R.R. Tolkein. (I definitely don't share that with him. Those are the two most sleep-inducing authors I have attempted to read.)

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