‘The Hive’ by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston is the second novel in the Second Formic War Trilogy, a prequel series to ‘Ender’s Game’.
Following the hard-fought first invasion, the nations of Earth struggle to regroup and band together under effective leadership to stop a formic mothership on the edge of Earth’s solar system.
Mazer Rackham, Victor Delgado, Imala Bootstamp, Bingwen, and Ukko and Lem Jukes return to play a crucial role in the war.
The chapters which follow Lem Juke are easily my favorites. Each prequel novel brings him farther from his self-obsessed rich boy persona and into a young man driven to do right by others and prove himself worthy of his fame and fortune. No longer the playboy son of the Hegemon, Lem becomes the antihero of the second invasion. I never expected to delight in his character as much as I did, but I find it refreshing in a series that hypes geniuses like Ender, Bean and Bingwen.
At nearly 400 pages, ‘The Hive‘ is approximately 70 pages shorter than its direct sequel, ‘The Swarm’, but what it lacks in length in makes up in descriptive writing. I know readers are doing to enjoy the many scenes Mazer and Bingwen share together, the nods to the battle school’s development and the technology used in later novels. (I suspect there might also be a small nod to Card’s long-awaited novel, ‘Shadow’s Alive’, but that’s remains to be proven!)
“Your children are the monsters of our nightmares now.” (Ender to the Hive Queen in ‘Ender’s Game’, page 320)
At times ‘The Hive’ becomes more horror fiction than science fiction. At its best, ‘The Hive’ gives readers their first real, detailed description of the formics in all their terrifying and gruesome glory. It’s gross in a really fabulous way; fans won’t be disappointed. In previous Enderverse novels, readers are largely left to imagine the formics’ repulsion. Take Xenocide as an example.
“Instead she seemed majestic, royal, magnificent. The rainbows from her wing-covers no longer seemed like an oily scum on water; the light reflecting from her eyes was like a halo” (‘Xenocide’, page 189).
I find it very clever that these different descriptions of the formics create harmony in the Enderverse, rather than contradiction. The nightmare description of the formics helps to justify the third invasion in ‘Ender’s Game’ while also underlining Ender’s loving character.
My only complaint against ‘The Hive’ is that it’s a slower read than any of the other prequel novels. Thank goodness this book doesn’t waste pages trying to double as a standalone novel. Other novels in the prequel trilogies do that much better. Therefore, I recommend first-time readers start at ‘Earth Unaware’ or ‘The Swarm’.
With that said, even though I found it to be slower-paced than the other prequel novels, ‘The Hive’ is far from the slowest novel in the Enderverse. It’s simply that ‘The Hive’ spends a lot of pages setting up what will be the conclusion of this epic prequel trilogy.
Overall, ‘The Hive’ left me really excited for the final forthcoming prequel novel. I’m a little nervous with how the last novel will tie in ‘Mazer in Prison’, but I trust that Aaron Johnston has it all figured out. He hasn’t disappointed me yet.
‘The Hive’ will be published on June 11. Purchase it from your local bookstore or pre-order it on Amazon. If you’re anxious to start reading right away, you can read the first chapter for free online.
Disclaimer: A special thanks to Tor Books for providing ‘The Hive’ for review. All opinions are my own.