Friday, May 21, 2010

Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

As a fan of science fiction, there are certain authors I just should have read. The list is gradually getting longer, but it includes names like Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K. LeGuin, Larry Niven, etc. The list is rather large. But near the top of it should come Joe Haldeman, famed author of The Forever War, Forever Peace, “For White Hill,” and a number of others. Yet, somehow, I had never read anything by him. Not one sentence. So, having been in a space opera/hard science fiction mood lately, one of his newer novels, Marsbound, looked like a perfect introduction.

Carmen Dula is heading to Mars with her family and a small group of scientists and families. After all of the work she put into preparing to go, she is beginning to have reservations about the whole thing. Her knack for getting into trouble and an overbearing leader make for a stressful environment for Carmen, and she snaps, heading out on her own. But when she leaves herself in mortal danger, her rescuer is not quite what she expected.

Haldeman does a great job of creating an environment for his story that feels very real. He grounds everything in scientific detail, without making you feel like you are reading a textbook, simply incorporating it into the daily life of our characters and making the scientific marvels of tomorrow ho-hum devices that spark no surprise in our protagonist. He also manages to pull off some very well-rounded characters that feel human in all the right ways.

The novel isn’t perfect, however. Carmen gets in trouble a lot, as I mentioned before. At first, it seems like it’s just an endearing personality trait, but eventually it does reach the point of being unrealistic. An otherwise smart girl can only make so many extremely stupid choices before it all feels too coincidental. The novel also feels a little disjointed at times. There are three distinct sections to the novel, and the almost feel like three separate stories, interconnected but not of the same immediate tale. This can make for tough transitions.

That only detracts a little, however, from what is otherwise a very fun story. While it would seem this isn’t Haldeman’s best, it was more than good enough to have me looking for the sequel. A fun, short novel with engaging characters and an exciting plot.


No comments:

Post a Comment