This week I decided to review Earth Awakens (a prequel to Ender's Game) by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. When the book begins, Captain Wit O’Toole and Mazer Racknam have been arrested by the Chinese military for using a nuclear weapon to destroy a Formic lander. When the remaining members of their team try to come up with a plan to free them, Bingwen, a Chinese orphan taken in by Racknam, decides to send a public message giving all the credit for the mission to the general holding the pair, despite the general having opposed the idea of the mission, thus forcing him to either release the prisoners or reject credit for one of the few victories in the Formic war to date.
Meanwhile, in space, Victor Delgado and Imala Bootstamp have confirmed that their theoretical technique for sneaking a vessel to the Formic main ship works and Victor boards the Formic vessel for a scouting mission. But, back on Luna, Lem Jukes discovers that his father Ukko is planning an attack against the Formic ship using drones retrofitted with gravity lasers despite the risk that the attack might destroy Earth along with its target. And after trying to convince his father to abort the mission, Lem discovers that the launch time has been moved up, leaving no way for Imala and Victor to escape the enemy vessel safely before the attack arrives.
In the endm Lem decides not to warn them of the attack feeling that not knowing of their impending deaths is better than them knowing they are doomed and powerless. But the attack fails and the Formics swiftly deploy reinforcements to Earth for a vicious counterattack. While Bingwen struggles to survive in a civilian refugee camp and eventually begins a journey to a school that will eventually become Battle School. And O’Toole’s team and Racknam attempt a desperate mission to capture some of the material that forms the gas that is one of the most powerful, and horrific, weapons in the arsenal of the Formic ground forces to use in developing a counter agent.
Meanwhile, back in space, Lem is organzing a blockade armed with a new form of gravity-based weapon to block any further Formic transports heading for Earth. But when Victor and Imala return and confront him for his actions, he puts Victor in charge of forming a plan to take the Formic base ship. Racknam and his allies are summoned to join the mission and, while the strike team struggles to seize the enemy ship, Lem’s fleet must fend off returning Formic vessels seeking to reinforce the guards facing the strike team.
I give this one 8 out of 10. It continues to do well in avoiding the trap many prequels fall into, because, while we know the general results of the conflict, we know few of the details of how we get from where the book starts to that result and we only know the fate of a few characters. The battle sequences aren’t perfect but they don’t harm the story much, either. But I question the point of one sequence of events involving Lem and his father. For the most part Ukko is portrayed as hard but honestly believing that what he is doing is best for humanity as a whole. Then we discover that he has basically used Lem as a pawn and sufferer of collateral damage in a loyalty test. I see no point to this chain of events other than firmly establishing Ukko as cruel and inhumane, and I fail to see how it benefited the overall story.