Monday, August 6, 2012

Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

I've always loved Card's works, thought lately it seems as if he's merely milking the Ender franchise for all it's worth. Can't blame him, really. It's made him a very commercially successful author, but it seems that he really has no other worthwhile stories to tell any more - it's vaguely reminiscent of all of the books of apocrypha that Christopher Tolkien put out using his father's notes.

None of the stories after Speaker for the Dead have really had that tense, or intense, gripping story that we found with Ender's Game, unfortunately. I thought perhaps that Earth Unaware, subtitled, "The First Formic War" would be more exciting than what he's produced lately, but it fell flat, too. For me, anyway.

The story takes place, for the most part, out in the Kuiper belt of the solar system, where a ship full of Spanish space miners, El Cavador, is the first to notice the approach of a massive alien spacecraft. Our prime protagonist is Victor Delgado, a precocious (are you seeing a repeated pattern here at all, folks?) teenager who is a whiz with mechanical and electrical gadgets. Victor makes the mistake of falling in love (tho he doesn't notice that he has) with his cousin on the ship. The miners practice a very strict exogamy, so she is transferred to a ship manned by Italians as soon as the ship's council becomes aware of the potential problem. (Are we stealing from Heinlein now, Scott? Read Citizen of the Galaxy, folks)

Some scout ships of the Formicans approach the Italian ships some days later, and end up destroying them all, leaving few survivors. This is probably the most intense portion of the book, as the crew of El Cavador conducts a massive search and rescue operation, and Victor hopes to find his love interest alive.

The whole scenario is also more complicated by the presence of a corporate mining concern's research vessel, the Makharu, in the area. They've invented what they're calling a glaser - gravity laser - which is designed to vaporize asteroids to make it easier to extract metals. The first tests are a success, but they decide to hijack El Cavador's claim to a larger rock to perform more testing, ending in the death of one of the Spanish ship's crew members, and setting up a possible confrontation between the captain of the ship, Lem and the independent miners, who could now blackmail him or ruin his father's company by lawsuit, if they didn't have  bigger, fry.

The whole story has a very juvenile centered tone. Card has always written pretty much G-rated novels. It's understandable to have Victor indulging in teen angst, but when 30 plus year old Lem does it, it's not really all that attractive. Looks like this one is setting up for a number of sequels - in fact the afterward spells it out. I'm not sure Card has done a good job of making me care about what happens to his new characters and the Earth, incidentally.

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