This week I decided to review Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. The book focuses on several viewpoint characters that over time become merged into two groups It opens with a young boy named Bingwen from a remote Chinese village watching the video of the Formic in action that Victor Delgado transmitted across the net trying to warn Earth of the incoming Formic ship. While the Earth’s governments insist the video is a hoax Bingwen, an apparent child genius, finds a number of signs in the video which indicate otherwise and manages to convince his grandfather to help him stockpile supplies in case the Formic do attack. Meanwhile Victor Delgado is forced to flee Luna with Imala Bootstamp, his lawyer who aided him in sending the Formic warning, due to the crimes he committed in travelling to Luna and trying to warn Earth of the coming invasion. And in deep space Lem Jukes acts to gain full command of his vessel and diverts to recover a wrecked ship which he hopes will contain useful data, including a record of the disastrous Battle of the Belt while Victor’s mother Rena tries to hold the survivors of their destroyed ship together and find them a new home, eventually signing on with a deep space salvage vessel. Back on Earth, Mazer Rackham’s unit is sent to China to train Chinese pilots to fly the new HERC transports and be trained in the new Chinese Drill Sledge high speed tunneling vehicles. The UN refuses to believe that the Formics could be hostile and sends a delegation to meet them. The delegation is destroyed and the Formics send a number of landing ships to China with one ship landing near Bingwen’s village. Mazer’s unit begins search and rescue efforts without authorization and rescues Bingwen and his grandfather, then begin seeking a way to penetrate the defenses of the nearby Lander. Then Witt O'Toole, who has illegally led his unit into China to attack the Formic, meets with Mazer and Bingwen after the deaths of Bingwen’s grandfather and the rest of Mazer’s unit. They plan an attack using the Drill Sledges to bypass the shielding around the Formic Lander, while in space Victor and Lem meet in person for the first time, and race to exploit a possible weakness that Victor discovers in the Formic mothership’s defenses to board and cripple or destroy the ship before Lem’s father Ukko can send a fleet of drones armed with Glasers, the predecessors of the DR Device from Ender’s Game, against the Mothership which is orbiting Earth.
I give this book a 7.5 out of 10. There are too many important battles and events which I feel should be seen as they are happening rather than being described vaguely after the fact for my taste. Also, I question what the point of the Bingwen character is. He seems at first to be similar to Ender Wiggin from the Ender books which start a century after this book though he later seems to be better at political manipulation than battlefield tactics. I can’t help but wonder why none of the older characters thought of his ideas, especially since one of them is almost identical to a tactic Witt O'Toole used earlier in the book to retroactively make his unit’s entry into China legal. It feel almost like they had Bingwen come up with this plan instead of someone else because they had a child genius quota to fill in the cast.