Earth Awakens, Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, Reviewed by Mike Phelps

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Earth Awakens, Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

Mike Phelps

Earth Awakens is the finale of the First Formic War trilogy, but also serves retroactively as the fertile ground from which Card’s classic Ender’s Game series springs. Prequels can be funny because at once they break new ground and are shoehorned by preexisting material and expectations. This Formic trilogy will apparently be followed by a Second Formic War trilogy with the first book due out in 2016. Earth Awakens foreshadows the continuation of hostilities with the Formics as well as Battle School. But before that Lt. Mazer, Bingwen, Victor and the other major characters from the first two books are back to take on the invaders.

Card and Johnston boil down the alien invasion and humanity’s response as a struggle between individuals fighting against a collective onslaught. Thirty years ago this would have been seen as a depiction of the Cold War between the West and the Communist bloc. You could draw general parallels today between the ongoing struggle between individual liberty and the power of the authoritarian state. As Earth’s governments falter in their response to the invasion the handful of civilians and soldiers band together and launch an ambitious attack on what they believe to be the Formic mother ship.

The details of the invasion and the efforts to stop it are secondary to the larger issues Card raises. The theme of this trilogy and especially of Earth Awakens is that a handful of individuals, including a miner in the asteroid belt, a school kid from China and a New Zealand Special Forces operator join forces. The rag-tag bunch plays a powerful role in defeating a single-minded alien hive without individuality or passions. This is the freedom and individualism of the West versus the totalitarianism and collectivism of the East writ large. Going against the current culturally standards, Card also includes big business capitalists in the ant-alien coalition. This is a refreshing change since science fiction authors often put big business in league with invading aliens as part of a grand conspiracy.

Earth Awakens like the two previous books in the series work in isolation from their famous source material. Perhaps not up to the same level as Ender’s Game and the early sequels, fans of earlier books will appreciate the finishing touches that point the way to the future they’ve already fell in love with.

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