I recently picked this book up on the Amazon Kindle Lender’s Library and I was pleasantly surprised by it.
Earth Alone builds the picture of a war-torn Earth shattered some years prior to to the start of the book by a surprise attack by alien “scum” from another planet and, I felt quite convincingly, builds a backstory around a war of attrition fought by the scum menace after a successful nuclear attack by humanity on the scum home planet. Earth Alone follows the story of Marco Emery, a young recruit in the Human Defence Force, the global military that aims to defend the planet from the scum attacks.
Firstly, I liked the rationale behind the change of alien tack – realising that wholesale levelling of cities results in nuclear Armageddon on their own turf, the aliens turn to the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ method of wearing humanity down. The alien threat is certainly portrayed as menacing and, while Marco and his cadet friends begin training, it’s always hanging like a black cloud above them. The effects of the scum attacks keep the characters focused – there’s reflections, too, on the personal impact of the alien attacks on Marco, the main character that he reflects on frequently.
So far, so Ender’s Game, which is by no means a bad comparison to make. Earth Alone does well, I feel, to make the cadets in this book significantly older than the small children who are drummed into battle in Ender’s Game. Taking adolescents into the military also brings its own (mostly hormone-fuelled) unique considerations, too, that the characters must contend with.
Marco, the protagonist, is portrayed as a bookish, quiet and mature-for-his age young man who clearly has a heart of gold, but too has limits and his own weaknesses. The rest of the platoon we’re introduced to each have their own characters – some appear trigger-happy and some thoughtful, while other boastful but underneath we see glimpses that they all share one characteristic – they’re all scared kids about to fight in a war that predates them, and their fear is rightfully placed. I feel Marco’s bookishness is a bit meta-aware (a character who wants to be a writer and works in a library, in a book can sound a few alarm bells) but it’s not too much that it impedes on the story; rather it does build up his character. However, maybe more graceful means of imbuing Marco with a sense of learnedness and culture could’ve been explored.
Daniel Arenson does a good job in writing a book that is a breezy and unchallenging read while bringing across the aspects of the character and action that’s needed. It’s certainly a competent effort, even if this book certainly resides in the shadow of Ender’s Game. The real hardship faced by the recruits and the journey of them – and of their commanding officers – is portrayed well enough, and the world the alien scum left behind is well-imaged. There’s a certain sense of humanity on the ropes, and on the defensive.
It’s quite clear early on that Earth Alone is designed as an introduction to a series, and I’m fine with that. The action is kept throughout, without too much introspection and it’s not a bad read, so I’d happily read on!
Buy Earth Alone on Amazon Kindle UK!