EARTH UNAWARE, by Aaron Johnston and Orson Scott Card

I’ve been waiting a long time to read about the first Formic wars in the ENDER’S GAME universe. Full disclosure: the fact that my good friend and former college roommate was the one who wrote it made it that much more exciting to finally hold.

Aaron Johnston returns us to the future where the Buggers — sorry, the Formics — attack Earth. In true ENDER’S GAME style, EARTH UNAWARE centers on the hearts and souls that are changed during the events that unfold, rather than letting character arcs play a secondary role behind the plot.

Unlike ENDER’S GAME, this book is not really a standalone novel, like I’d been hoping — it’s clearly the start of a new epic series. While I was bummed I didn’t get more of the First Formic War in this story, I was enthralled by the tale of first contact, and fell in love with the cast of characters the novel introduced.

Most of this story takes place out in the Kuiper Belt among asteroid miners and corporate suits, and moves through various disasters to a tense cliffhanger. All the while it is introducing us to the complex souls that will take us through the next books, and they surprised me with their actions many times. These are not caricatures; we’re meeting real characters with as much depth to their souls as anyone I know.

Military strategy is at the heart of a secondary thread in this novel, and harks back to the lighter moments of ENDER’S GAME, where we see the brilliant mind of the title character as he plans for battles.

Lest I damn with faint praise, the plot is great — and I wanted more of it. Reading about the hazards of life among the stars is compelling, and much more so when aliens are on their way through the neighborhood.

I don’t know how many books this new series will be, but I hope Aaron hurries.