Authors: Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston
The Swarm is listed on Goodreads as the first book of the Second Formic War saga but I wouldn’t recommend reading this book unless you’ve previously read the Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, and Earth Awakens books set in the Enderverse. The protagonists in this book are across the board from that earlier series, including preteen super-soldier Will Bingwen, New Zealand super-soldier, Mazer Rackam, teenage super-mechanic Victor Delgado and inheritor of a weapons empire Lem Juke. At this point in the series chronology, Earth is ramping up its defenses via the International Fleet and the Hive Queen is placing her soldiers in preparation for an invasion of our solar system.
The afterward of this book by co-author Arran Johnston states that much of the book was conceived of to tell the story of Mazur Rackam’s two court martial cases that are referenced in one page in the book that started all of this, Ender’s Game. The Rackam sections were definitely my favorite parts of this book, although at times they veered a bit too close to Ayn Randian tales of the great man overcoming the endless bureaucracy surrounding him. Also successful in this book are the sections discovering the alien menace’s strategy taking place in the asteroid belt. Both of those sections felt like worthy enough stories to justify a prequel book where the outcome is already written elsewhere.
I was much less interested in everything to do with Victor and his entire family. The way they were shoehorned into everything that was taking place throughout the solar system felt very lazy and his entire family, girlfriend and crew were very boring. (As an aside, although this book was co-written with another author, the same problems have been present whenever characters fall in love in this series. No matter who the characters, they fall in love very young pretty much instantly, talk about making lots of beautiful babies and never take any surprises from there. It is consistently the worst written aspect of the series). I’m also not a fan of reading Bingwen’s character, but felt his character arc at least contributed to some of the decisions the International Fleet will make in later books.
The rest of the characters, including Lem, a group of space pirates and a Thai girl who wants us to sympathize and understand the Hive Queen were all fine- I didn’t love any of their stories but felt they added at least a bit of variety without derailing the book. As the book rotated through point of view characters, I enjoyed a couple, hated a couple and thought the rest were fine. That’s about as middle of the road on a three star review as I can remember.