cover image The Swarm

The Swarm

Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. Tor, $25.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7562-9

Card and Johnston continue to flesh out the early years leading up to the events of Ender’s Game with this first installment of the Second Formic War trilogy. Following 2014’s Earth Awakens, humans have beaten back one invasion from the alien Formics and are preparing for the larger onslaught yet to come. A sprawling cast works on numerous fronts to develop the weapons, technology, and tactics to defend Earth, but they’re often stymied by bureaucracy, corruption, and self-serving, ambitious leaders. The real mystery, however, is what exactly the Formics are attempting to accomplish in the asteroid belt, and whether humankind’s best and brightest, including Mazer Rackham and Victor Delgado, can figure it out in time. The authors carefully construct their story on a solar system–wide scale, the numerous plot threads unspooling at a leisurely speed while still maintaining tension. Despite this being a military piece at heart, the action is often overshadowed by long explorations of scientific developments, discussions of morality and philosophy, and bureaucratic obstructions, such as Mazer’s court-martial at the hands of a hostile superior officer. It’s a solid continuation of the ongoing epic, moving all the pieces into place for the next entry. (Aug.)