How could it have taken me this long to read the second book the First Formic War trilogy? I read Earth Unaware over a year ago. That’s embarrassing. At any rate, I finally read it and as with pretty much all Orson Scott Card books, it far surpassed my expectations. Spoilers ahead!
One of the reasons I loved it so much is that it picked up exactly where the first book left off. Victor made it to Luna and is working with Imala to convince the people of both Luna and earth that the same alien creatures responsible for thousands of human deaths in space are now heading for earth. The hurdles they have to jump through even to speak to someone of power who can help them are frustrating and time consuming. Every day lost is a day they hormigas (otherwise known as buggers) are getting closer. They’ve shown no mercy in blowing up every ship and space station they encountered in the Kuiper Belt and beyond, and they will certainly not show any towards earth, either.
Let’s start with a rundown of the characters in this book.
First we have Bingwen, a young boy from a poor village in China who has seen, like over two million other people on Earth, the vids uploaded by Victor and Imala which show the hormigas. Hardly anyone actually believes they are real, but Bingwen does. He’s young, bright, and the way he is bullied by older classmates who he must ultimately physically fight remind me of a young Ender.
Next is Victor. He survived the six-month long trip to Earth via quick ship to warn the people of Earth about the hormigas and no one will believe him. He has to recount his story dozens of times to dozens of people who are hoping to catch him in a lie but they can’t because he’s telling the truth. Imala counsels him through this, and one line of hers stuck out to me in particular:
“All that effort,” he told her, “all that time spent in the quickship so that Earth could prepare, so that countries could muster enough resources to take action, and nobody is doing anything.” He wanted to cry. He wanted to reach down through space and shake someone. “How can they be so fundamentally wrong?”
“Because the world doesn’t think like a free-miner family, Vico,” Imala said. “We’re not one people. We’re splintered, too concerned about our own people and agendas and borders. We’re one planted, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at us.”
Spooky. Makes you wonder what would happen if any of this were to really happen someday…
Lem and Ukko Jukes also make a reappearance. The infamous father-son duo are again, not surprisingly, doing more harm than good. Ukko Jukes is stationed on Luna and is more concerned with keeping up appearances for his multi-billion dollar company than in listening to Victor and Imala. It takes them forever and a minute to get just five minutes to speak to him but still he is reluctant to offer them any help. But when Victor informs Ukko that his son, Lem, was responsible for the murder of his uncle in the Kuiper Belt, they finally get his attention.
We also get to find out what happened to Victor’s mom, Rena, and the other women and children of El Cavador who were forced to evacuate the ship when the men on board chose to try to fight the hormigas and destroy their ship. They women are overstaying their welcome on a depot operated by a Chinese mining corporation, and Rena is worried about where they will go next. Food supplies are dwindling, there is not enough work for the women to do to keep their stay, and at this point they are just a burden taking up room and oxygen. When an incoming vessel of pirates, or vultures, requests the use of some of the men on board to help them scavenge a nearby ship that was destroyed by the hormigas, at first the Chinese decline. But Rena steps up and asks if they would be willing to take skilled women miners rather than men. It’s the only thing she can think to do to get what’s left of her family off this ship and on their way to safety. It’s bold and risky but as the undeclared leader of the women and children of El Cavador, it’s what she decides to do.
Lastly, the most anticipated chapter (at least for me) was Chapter 5: Mazer. Oh, how I have been waiting for this, ever since Ender’s Game when the name Mazer Rackham was just a myth, a legend among the children of Earth who had not yet been involved in a bugger war. Everything you/I wanted to know about Mazer is here: his past, the woman in New Zealand he had to leave behind in order to fulfill his duties as part of a team teaching the Chinese forces how to operate the heavy equipment recover copters (HERC’s), foreshadowing his involvement later on when the buggers touch down in China.
Oh, and Wit O’Toole shows up too. Remember him? We liked him until he told Mazer he didn’t have what it takes to be an MOP? Yeah, that Wit O’Toole. Imagine the look on his face when he tunes into the live feed on the net of the first responders helping survivors in China and who does he see but that Maori guy he rejected…oh yeah, you don’t have to imagine it, because it actually happens 🙂 Mazer turns out to be everything you wanted in a hero (which we knew he would be!) and more and his character really shines in this book.
I’m glad I waited a little while to read this because I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much if I’d read it immediately after Earth Unaware. For fans of the series, this one definitely does not disappoint.
*quoted material via Earth Afire, by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston