Audiobook Review: Earth Unaware

Audiobook Review: Earth UnawareEarth Unaware by Aaron Johnston, Orson Scott Card
Narrator: Arthur Morey, Emily Janice Card, Gabrielle de Cuir, Roxanne Hernandez, Stefan Rudnicki, Stephen Hoye, Vikas Adam
Length: 13 hrs, 59 mins
Series: The First Formic War #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on July 17, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gifted

A hundred years before Ender's Game, humans thought they were alone in the galaxy. Humanity was slowly making their way out from Earth to the planets and asteroids of the Solar System, exploring and mining and founding colonies.

The mining ship El Cavador is far out from Earth, in the deeps of the Kuiper Belt, beyond Pluto. Other mining ships, and the families that live on them, are few and far between this far out. So when El Cavador’s telescopes pick up a fast-moving object coming in-system, it’s hard to know what to make of it. It’s massive and moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light.
But the ship has other problems. Their systems are old and failing. The family is getting too big. There are claim-jumping corporates bringing Asteroid Belt tactics to the Kuiper Belt. Worrying about a distant object that might or might not be an alien ship seems…not important.

They're wrong. It's the most important thing that has happened to the human race in a million years. This is humanity's first contact with an alien race. The First Formic War is about to begin.

Earth Unaware is the first novel in The First Formic War series by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.

I’ve read Ender’s Game two or three times, and I love it. Needless to say, the fact that it was getting a prequel series filled me with curiosity and trepidation in about equal measures. While finding out about first contact with the aliens could be interesting, Card could definitely much it all up with his asshole opinions. Turns out, though, that this was mostly neither. Card didn’t assault me with a religious message, but this book also just was not that good.

The first chapters of Earth Unaware are simply interminable. I cannot for the life of me fathom why Card and Johnston thought that it would be an awesome idea to start the book the way they did. Up until the time the aliens make an appearance and the action scenes begin, this book was incredibly boring.

The entire novel is told in alternating third person limited. Most of the time, the narration follows three main characters: Victor, Lem, and Wit. However, interspersed between these are brief sections from the points of view of other characters. These I found a bit obnoxious, particularly when the novel lost the nice orderly method of starting a new chapter for each new perspective. Also annoying is the fact that Wit’s storyline never really syncs up with the others, though I do know why he’s included.

Alright, now that you have the gist of it, you need to hear about the first chapter. We begin with Victor, a teenager and accomplished mechanic.When we meet him, he is in the midst of all of the angst. He and his second cousin, Alejandra, have been accused of inappropriate feelings for one another, much too close for cousins. Because of their improper closeness, Alejandra is being zogged, married off to someone on another mining ship.

Victor at first whines about the unfairness of this accusation, pissed off that no one understands that they are but friends. Then, he thinks of a time when Alejandra gave him ‘a look,’ and decides that she did have feelings for him. As he continues to ponder this, he decides that he too loves her, and that she has been sent away for the best, and that he too must leave El Cavador, their family’s mining vessel, sometime soon because he cannot get over her surrounded by memories of her. Also, I feel like they must be trying to make some sort of statement, since, otherwise, the same feeling could have been established without their being related.

That is the entire first chapter. Honestly, I have NO clue whether Card and Johnston want people to root for the two of them or to be disgusted at the thought of second cousins in love or what. Worse still, it became apparent that this incredibly unpleasant plot device had been put in place solely to up the melodrama of the novel. This gives everyone a reason to mope about and be sad and do stupid things in an attempt to find her. All they do with her character is kill her off, without the reader ever meeting her. Later in the book, Victor even realizes that he didn’t love her like that after all, a revelation that incensed me even more after having had to listen to so much of his weepy angst over their separation.

Another thing that bothered me about this opening and the novel in general was the sexism. When charges were brought against the two, Alejandra was sent away from her home to be married off hastily as punishment, and Victor had no change in status, except for extra sympathy from some and anger from Alejandra’s father. Really? Apparently, future humans do not believe in the strength of women at all, having regressed from the current climate. With the notable exception of El Cavador’s captain and a teenage girl who works the eye (which watches for threats to the ship), the women all stick to traditional female roles, like parenting. None get to help defend the ship. Two strong female characters do not make up for suggesting that in the future most women will be forced back into a powerless role. Also, highlight for spoiler: both of the strong female characters, along with all the men, die because of the emotional decisions of the female captain.

Lem, too, is annoying; all of his sections consist of his bitching and moaning about his daddy issues. *yawns* Wit was my favorite perspective, but it felt like Card and Johnston continually forgot he was there. Much was made in his introduction of the recruitment of Mazer Rackham, a name I recognize from Ender’s Game, though I do not remember the significance, but nothing else is made of him for the rest of the book, which is incredibly sloppy.

If, however, you feel compelled to read everything set in the Enderverse, then I recommend audio over print, because I definitely think I would have had to DNF the physical book.

Macmillan Audio procured an almost full cast for this production, using a different voice actor for the different third person perspectives. Most of them do a pretty good job, though I really think they could have chosen better voice actors in several cases and done a better job with accents. The worst casting error in my opinion was Victor. He’s supposed to be a teenager, but the voice actor sounds much older. The crew of El Cavador is hispanic, but only some of the voice actors used an accent when reading. In the cast of accents, it should really be all or nothing.

The best narration was done by the guy who voiced Wit. He has this incredibly deep voice that perfectly matched the gruff soldier. However, he also was a whiz with accents and could change the depth of his voice to match the different characters. It seems as though the producers knew this guy was the best, because he, for some reason, voiced for two characters’ perspectives, while everyone else just voiced one. Sure, one of them only had a very short section, but, still, couldn’t they hire someone for that?

14 responses to “Audiobook Review: Earth Unaware”

  1. Through all of those paragraphs I was getting so pissed off! Why the hell was she punished and he just went about his merry way. I’m happy you touched on that, when you started talking about the sexism of it all is sighed out loud “yes!” It making me so angry in this review just screams to me that I would want to punch the book. I haven’t read Ender’s Game but I hear amazing things about it, I’ll have to read it…eventually. Great honest review Christina! This is why I love your blog 🙂

  2. I love full cast recordings! Though I hate whiny protagonists. Especially if they’re boys,hah. What I’m taking away from this is that I really need to dust off that copy of ENDER’S GAME that’s been languishing on my shelf forever. Every fellow scifi fan I know loves it.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  3. Kayla Beck says:

    You know, I’m tempted to listen to this just because it has the full cast thingy going on. I can’t find nearly enough of them, and I’m a lot more forgiving of sucky books. 😀

  4. Giselle says:

    Barf. Cousins in love? I also notice a trend in futuristic dystopian books that women are taken back to the olden days. Like Wither, where all we seem to be good for is make babies and clean. Wither is only one example though there are SO many! It’s a little… wtf-ing? Anyways, I have been wanting to read the Ender’s Game for so long. I didn’t know there was a prequel series but honestly I’m not sure I would like this one. I only listened to 2 audiobooks ever and one was Graceling with full cast, too and it makes such a cool experience! I doubt I would have liked it as much if it was just 1 person.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I can imagine women regressing in a post-apocalyptic scenario perhaps, but why on earth would they be repressed if everything’s hunky-dory? There ARE so many. Ugh, Wither.

      Oooh, Graceling. *happy sigh*

  5. Misty says:

    I just can’t bring myself to read anything by Card. I know everyone loves Ender’s Game, and I’ve been told I would (and am curious about it), but I just can’t get past HIM. Normally I can separate an artist from their work well enough to at least try it and appreciate it for what it is, but I just can’t seem to with Card. Maybe because he is SO very vocal about his assholedom…

    • Christina says:

      I do not blame you. His views now incense me when I come across them. I had to review this for something or I never would have picked it up. I’ll still read old Card, though I certainly won’t pay for it. I don’t know. He upsets me.

  6. Kat Balcombe says:

    Yeah, no. I just, just…have no words apparently.

    Although I’m with Kayla, I do like the idea of a full cast audio, they are incredibly hard to find. I get excited when I find one that has two, let alone a full cast.

  7. city says:

    thanks for sharing.

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