‘Earth Afire’ by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston is the second novel in the First Formic War Trilogy and the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel ‘Earth Unaware’. This prequel to ‘Ender’s Game’ tells the story of the first formic invasion 100 years before ‘Ender’s Game’.
Like ‘Earth Unaware’, the story’s perspective changes with each chapter. This allows for a nice pace between the action of war and suspense built on readers’ care for key characters. At 400 pages, ‘Earth Afire’ is well-edited and contains no slow parts or excess story. This novel could work well as a reader’s introduction into the Enderverse. There is enough back story neatly incorporated into this novel that readers need not have read ‘Ender’s Game’ or ‘Earth Unaware’ to follow along.
Fans of ‘Ender’s Game’ will love ‘Earth Afire’ for Mazer Rackham’s heavy presence in this novel and the fact that several aspects of ‘Ender’s Game’ are mirrored in ‘Earth Afire’, including the precocious Bingwen. Other aspects of ‘Ender’s Game’ are foreshadowed, including the Dr. Device and the battle school. Fans of the extensive Enderverse library will enjoy the detailed description of the formics. There is enough information provided in ‘Earth Afire’ to have a healthy discussion about the individual formics’ will, and the Hive Queen’s truthfulness with Ender. Both of these topics were touched on at the end of ‘Shadows in Flight’ and will likely be a major plot device in whatever Enderverse novel follows ‘Shadows in Flight’.
Most of Card’s and Johnston’s characters are very likable. Without a doubt, readers will fall in love with Bingwen the same way they did with Ender Wiggin. However, the character of Lem Jukes will surely leave a sour taste in the mouth of readers. I enjoy that there is no clear source of this sourness. Readers are left to ponder whether Lem’s distasteful actions are the result of his father’s manipulations or his own insecurities. This room for discussion is the reason why Lem Juke’s character development is my favorite part of ‘Earth Afire’.
Overall, ‘Earth Afire’ feels like less of an extension of ‘Earth Unaware’ and more of a second chapter of First Formic War Trilogy. If you loved ‘Earth Unaware’, I suspect you will miss Victor and his family. Although they are included, Mazer Rackham and Bingwen take the spotlight in this second novel of the First Formic War Trilogy – not that it’s a bad thing. My one complaint is that ‘Earth Afire’, unlike ‘Earth Unaware’, is missing Card’s signature sass. Reader’s will find fewer sassy lines to quote in ‘Earth Afire’ than in any other Enderverse installment. With that said, I enjoyed ‘Earth Afire’ so much that I know I’ll give it a second read before the week is over. ‘Earth Afire’ by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston is a must read for fans of the Enderverse and all science fiction readers. A possible budding romance or two also opens the door to young adult readers who have never enjoyed science fiction. The final cliffhanger will eagerly bring all of these readers to the final novel of the First Formic War Trilogy, ‘Earth Awakens’, at a later publication date.
‘Earth Afire’ will be released tomorrow, June 4th. Pre-Order ‘Earth Afire’ here.
Disclaimer: A special thanks for Tor Books for providing ‘Earth Afire’ for review. All opinions are my own.