The Ergosphere
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
 

Book review: "Earth Unaware"

After reading "Ender's Game" and so many of his other works, I thought that it was mighty hard to go wrong with Orson Scott Card.

I can now say that it is a sinking feeling to find out just how wrong I was.  At least, when he affixes his name to something as a co-author.

I read "Earth Unaware", and shouldn't have bothered finishing it.  Is OSC phoning it in, or what? Based on what's in the book, I'm assuming that his contribution was his name and some of the characters which show up in later novels.  His co-author Aaron Johnson has no concept whatsoever of orbital mechanics, radio propagation, or even basic physics like elementary particles.  The least one can do if one can't remember the difference between gamma rays and cosmic rays is look it up, and it's excruciatingly obvious that he didn't bother.

There are scientific howlers throughout the off-earth parts of the book.  An alien ship moving at a large fraction of lightspeed... takes weeks to travel inside the orbit of Jupiter, and human ships of far inferior capability nevertheless match velocities with it!  This ship generates radio noise of sufficient intensity to block non-laser communications... yet humanity appears to have forgotten how to make and use radio telescopes, because it hasn't been detected, pinpointed and intensively studied because of those very emissions!  Dust particles and gas in the Kuiper belt are a hazard to space-suited persons outside ships moving at speed... ignoring the fact that the solar wind sweeps dust into interstellar space, and the solar wind itself is moving as fast or faster than the velocities given in the book!  Oh, best of all:  the simple expedient of orienting the ship so that the hull intercepts anything from the direction of motion never occurs to the author.

If Card cared for his reputation, he'd ask Tor to remove his name from this book.  If Tor had any integrity, they'd stop selling it as SCIENCE fiction.

 
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