These guys put together one heck of a story. The book starts out a bit slow and seemed to be a prelude to a soap opera. The asteroid miners are working the asteroid belt and fire back to Luna Station minerals for sale which they use to support their families. Victor is a part of said family, making a living in outer space, which some bigoted people call “space borns” and look down on them.
Card creates a world with new rules of society levels that is clearly a condemnation of the current social strata of rich/poor, have/have not.
Victor and Janda are cousins and yet they’re falling for each other. To handle this, the families separate them, sending Janda on a trip with the Italian fleet.
At this point I thought there was going to be a soap opera plot. Janda though is never developed as a character. Instead, the main character is Victor, who has a talent for machines and space mechanics and lacks a lot of social skills which is at times humorous.
Fathers and Fathers:
Victor respects his father (“father” is always initial caps when spoken by a son, interestingly) and Father has taught him everything he knows. When an alien spacecraft is discovered, Victor and Father go into action to find out what it is and what to do about it, at times to deadly result!
Lem is the son of the manufacturing conglomerate Jukes Enterprises and runs a ship that is testing a “glaser”, a machine that destroys matter with an energy field.
Lem is also a result of a fatherly upbringing. Unlike Victor, Lem feels controlled and manipulated by his father and wants to prove the father wrong by making a show of himself and how he operates his ship. Turns out that his father has manipulated the ship and crew to Lem’s shock and dismay.
Themes of family, fathers and sons, and ultimate sacrifice for the good of the group (and certain characters who say heck with the group, look out for yourself) are in constant conflict, which makes the book interesting, thought-provoking and intelligent.
Lastly we have the military MOPs, (Mobile Operations Police), an elite corps of soldiers, and in the training cycle we meet Mazer Rackham, who you might remember as the guy who beat the Formics in the Ender’s Game trilogy of books. Here he is new and he is trying to get into this elite corps. I won’t spoil it, but let’s say he has less than great luck to make this happen.
We meet Wit O’Toole, the commander of this unit who acts as a “father” of sorts to his crew but puts up with nothing and expects all to meet a set standard. Similar to Victor’s father and Lem’s sire, Wit takes on the role of forcing standards, demanding obedience and getting it or else.
Great start to hopefully a good series of books on the Formics and how the invasion started and what happens when people who are in the know and want to warn Earth are scoffed at and invalidated while the Formic threat draws closer.
I would have liked more characterization with some people in the book as I did not feel a lot of love for them: “Imala” the accountant who hates her job, Janda, the girl who dies early in the book (and who also has father issues, it turns out) and her sister, the astronomer who discovered the alien craft.
The “tech” of the story is realistic and could happen as we continue to struggle with machines and computerized gadgets, as well as the money-grabbing corporations that Card clearly is gunning for.