Audiobook Review: Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

7 07 2013

Earth Afire (The Formic Wars, Bk. 2)  by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

Read by Stephen Hoye, Arthur Morey, Stefan Rudnicki, Vikas Adam, Gabrielle de Cuir, Roxanne Hernandez, Emily Rankin

Macmillan Audio

Length: 15 Hrs 13 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Earth Afire had everything in it that I was hoping Earth Unaware would, alien invasions, crazy schemes, last ditch battles and lots and lots of Mazer Rackem. While the story sometimes took way too long to develop, I found it utterly enthralling and full of the action I was longing for.

Grade: A-

When I first discovered that there was going to be a prequel series to Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game is a great novel and one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time. Yet, one of the aspects that wasn’t in Ender’s Game that I really would have liked to see is direct battle between earth forces and the Formic Invaders. So, I began Earth Unaware like a giddy teenager rapidly rubbing his hands together just knowing he would be seeing big mother ships, Alien Invasions, space battles, and lots and lots of Mazer Rackem. Then, my giddy hand rubbing became slower, and slower and eventually stopped. Sure, the life of the deep asteroid mining clans was fascinating, and the power of big corporations to get away with almost anything in the lawless expanse of deep space tickled some of my latent antiestablishment genes, but where were the big battles and alien invaders. I knew they were coming, but it seemed that Earth Unaware was more of a slow burn that a supernova explosion of action. And, there was a noticeable lack of Mazer Rackem. I mean, why name a character Mazer Rackem, make him a hero of the formic war, and basically give him one small sequence in the first novel of that very war. It just didn’t seem right. Luckily, Earth Unaware was only the first of a trilogy, which meant there was certainly a lot of alien killing, space battles and Mazer Rackem to come, right? Right?

After a race to earth between a young asteroid miner and the incoming alien ship, Earth has been warned about the coming alien menace, and thinks it’s a joke. Alex Delgado has been locked up in the mental ward on the moon, waiting to be deported back to deep space. Yet, when he appeals to the last person in the universe he wants help from, inconvertible proof of the alien vessel is found, yet Earth governments still do nothing, As the Formics reach Earth, and begin their invasion, with Earth’s governments bickering among themselves, it’s up to a key group of individuals to find a way to stop this threat. Earth Afire had everything in it that I was hoping Earth Unaware would, alien invasions, crazy schemes, last ditch battles and lots and lots of Mazer Rackem. While the story sometimes took way too long to develop, I found it utterly enthralling full of the action I was longing for.. The little frustration I did feel surrounded Alex and his naiveté and whininess. Honestly, even when a character is right, he doesn’t have to go all annoyingly high pitched and whiney like “Why isn’t anyone listening to me?” as he shouts “The aliens are coming, and you can believe it because I said so!” Where the book shines is the boots on the ground scenes involving Mazer and his New Zealander team fighting in mainland China and the MOPS team breaking into China to get their hands on some aliens. It’s fascinating to watch these characters speculate on the nature and motivations of the Formics, which those of us who have read Ender’s game know. It’s weird because it gives us insights into the alien’s actions that those we are reading about don’t have, offering a fascinating look at the defenders thought processes. After the first novel, which while having some cool moments, was a sloggish set up novel to the series, it was good to get down to some action. While the cliffhanger ending left me a bit annoyed, overall I felt that Earth Afire hit all the right notes.

The narration of the Enderverse novels is truly one of those truly great audiobook experiences, and Earth Afire maintains that tradition. The core of the production is the works of Stefan Rudnicki, Stephen Hoye and Author Morey, all of who deliver what you would expect, quality riveting performances. Rudnicki has such an understanding of this world, it’s hard to imagine any Endervese production without him involved. While I have loved Vikas Adams in the past, I was a bit concerned early in the production, as he voiced some kid’s voices. It’s very hard for adult men to voice kids without getting all squeaky and annoying, and honestly, that was how Adams started but as his POV moved away from the group of kids, and became about the relationship between one Chinese boy and a soldier, it was some of the best work of the production. While I was remiss to move away from alien battles on Earth, Emily Rankin handled the POV of Imala, Victor’s mother and leader of the refuges from the first battle with the Formics. She made these scenes compelling and another highlight for me. Roxanne Hernandez had the difficult challenge of portraying Rena, who was Victor’s counterpart. Her narration interplayed with Stephen Hoyes which did cause a bit of adjustment, but in the end, it was totally worth it. She brought a much needed edge to the reading, and allowed us to see a different side to some of the characters. All together I feel Earth Abides is a title that should be listened to to get the full impact of the world, particularly with this group of wonderful narrators.

Note: Thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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