It would unfair to Ender’s Game fans if I were write this review for Earth Unaware without comparing it to Ender’s Game, but it would unfair to Aaron Johnston and Orson Scott Card if I only reviewed Earth Unaware in comparison to Ender’s Game. Keep that in mind.
Unlike most of the Shadow series and the short stories, Earth Unaware doesn’t follow any of the major characters depicted in Ender’s Game. If you’re looking for the story of Mazer Rackham: The World’s Hero you have the wrong book. Mazer Rackham only makes a small appearance and it’s not anything particularly interesting at that; it’s just enough to keep this prequel connected to Ender’s Game. Hold tight though, Orson Scott Card promises that Mazer Rackham will become a much more prominent character in the second installment of the Formic Wars Trilogy (On a side note, Aaron Johnston told us in a recent interview that the next book has already been submitted to the publisher).
If you’ve read the Formic Wars: Burning Earth comics, you’re in good shape. Earth Unaware’s storyline only covers the first three and a half issues, leaving plenty of pages to be filled with rich background and story. If you haven’t read the comics you won’t be missing anything from the storyline, but consider the rest of Formic Wars: Burning Earth and Formic Wars: Silent Strike to be early spoilers for the rest of the trilogy as well as a striking visual aid on the difference between free and corporate miners.
On the surface, Earth Unaware is a story that’s been told and retold in the publishing world of science fiction. An alien invasion takes places and the human race responds. What differentiates Earth Unaware from earlier storylines are the characters presented in the novel. Different chapters are told from the perspective of various characters which keeps readers turning pages and eagerly waiting to learn who survives (and doesn’t survive). If there’s one thing you need to know about Earth Unaware, it’s what Aaron Johnston writes in the novel’s afterword “We knew from the get-go that we weren’t writing Ender’s Game. This wouldn’t be the story of a single hero; it would be the story of many.” Each character is motivated by familiar and personal relationships in a way that allows readers to experience the emotions and rationale of each character. No character is as brilliant, witty or compassionate as Ender, which is refreshing considering Bean’s development in the Shadow series. Most, if not all the characters, have minor successes which will keep readers cheering for the fight for the survival of the human race.
Earth Unaware is an enjoyable read for any fan of science fiction. If Ender’s Game made you want to play laser tag, Earth Unaware is going to send you into the paintball field to play Capture the Flag. The story is strong enough and distant enough from the original story to stand apart from the Enderverse. Certain passages will remind Ender’s Game fans why this is a prequel for Ender’s Game, but consider that a bonus for observant readers. I recommend Earth Unaware to all and I look forward to reading the second and third installment of the Formic Wars Trilogy. I really did love it.
[If I had one complaint, it would be that I’m not sure whether Aaron and Card are familiar with the colloquial use and meaning of the word “zogging.” If they are familiar with the meaning, I’m really not sure what to say.]