Earth is getting clobbered by giant ants from space in this
second part of the second prequel trilogy to the child-warrior Ender’s Game
series (The Swarm, 2016, etc.).
There’s a self-inflicted element, however, in the damage caused
by the Formic invaders. The International Fleet’s officer corps is riddled with
useless careerists, lackeys, cronies, and favored offspring. The IF high
command refuses to share vital intelligence and grows ever more paranoid and
ineffectual. It fails to grasp the Formics’ Hive Queen’s vast intelligence and
tactical brilliance, instead sending an official denial that she even exists.
Terrorist pirates operate freely in the solar system’s outer reaches. And
politically there’s a bid to oust the relentless and capable Ukko Jukes as
Hegemon. It’s not all gloom and doom, though. Clever, ruthless, well-connected
Col. Li details Special Forces’ Mazer Rackham, along with Chinese child-warrior
Bingwen and his Rat Army, with identifying the incompetent officers, which Li
will then find subtle ways to eliminate. The Rat Army also notices certain asteroids
that move mysteriously or vanish and deduces that the Hive Queen has some deep
unknown purpose—including, it seems, taking human captives. Almost without
exception, the characters are familiar from the previous installments and
engaged in similar hair-raising tasks. Since we know from chronologically later
installments of the grand architecture that Earth will, somehow, win, the main
source of tension lies in exactly how the authors are going to pull these
particular chestnuts from the fire. And a case can be made for the story as
commentary on the current climate of militaristic nationalism.
Churns agreeably, if with minimal forward momentum.