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The Swarm: The Second Formic War #1    by Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston order for
by Orson Scott Card
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I really enjoyed The First Formic War trilogy written by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. That series is a prequel to Card's Ender novels occurring a century before Ender's Game.

Now fans can continue to follow the same characters in The Second Formic War books, beginning with The Swarm. It's as good as what came before. And Earth has learned that what it faced before was only a scout ship and an advance party of terraformers, rather than the mother ship with an invasion army - those are still to come!

Victor Delgado (asteroid miner and mechanical genius) is now paired with Apache (ex-Lunar Trade Department auditor) Imala Bootstamp aboard an old Somali ship, where his Venezuelan family's survivors took refuge after their own ship was destroyed. They come upon Formics working on an asteroid. Many other alien asteroid outposts are soon discovered and Victor and Imala (who had been on the verge of marrying) are conscripted.

Brilliant Maori soldier Mazer Rackham (whose previous heroics are now highly classified) is assigned to the International Fleet, his efforts (as always) hampered by political infighting and military incompetence. Mazer's superior, Colonel Vaganov, is particularly corrupt (in cahoots with a defense contractor) and blinkered, focused solely on personal advancement. He sets Mazer up for a court-martial.

Inventive young Bingwen suffers horrendous testing at the hands of cruel Captain Li, who controls (almost) his every act. He and Mazer are eventually reunited. Lem Jukes continues to struggle with his father Ukko, who is now Earth Hegemon. And a new lead character, Buddhist biochemist Wilasanee believes that 'the Hive Queen is a bodhisatta, a creature on the path to Buddhahood.' She despairs when her dissertation is rejected but eventually comes to Lem's attention.

The story develops on many fronts, with key advances in Earth's technological development and understanding of their enemy. But will it be enough? They still face seemingly insurmountable odds. Of course we know that Ender will save the day, but it's fascinating (and highly entertaining) finding out what comes before.

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