Sunday, 17 January 2010

"Marsbound" by Joe Haldeman

It's easy to think of legendary Science Fiction authors in the past tense.  If you're like me, you may have encountered classics like "Forever War" decades after they were written.  If you're a fan of used book stores and are reading an older edition of  "Forever War", the "other works by" page at the front or back of the book might give you the idea that Haldeman hasn't done anything in a while.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Joe Haldeman has been hard at work for decades turning out a great body of novels and short stories, including quite a few Nebula and Hugo award winners.  Along the way, he's revisited the world of "Forever War" a few times (in "Forever Free" and "A Separate War"), and written two novels ("Planet of Judgment" and "World Without End") set in the Star Trek universe (original series), which I can't wait to track down.  He wrote the screenplay for "Robot Jox" as well (here's hoping the film version of "Forever War" will fare better).

"Marsbound", published last year in paperback, is a story about a girl who comes of age just as humanity is establishing its first colony on Mars.  In Philip K. Dick's novels (such as "The Divine Invasion" or "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch"), the lives of human colonists are both harsh and tedious, but mostly the latter.  Theirs is a life of awful isolation and drudgery from which they try to escape, and rarely succeed.

The colony in "Marsbound" is a more hopeful affair, an energetic team of  pioneers and their children.  There is hard work, and drudgery, and the conditions are dangerous, but there is also comradery, humor and even romance.  Carmen is coming of age at the perfect time to find her place in the world, and to witness and participate in amazing events.  The main character of "Accidental Time Machine" finds his way out of the doldrums of his wasted youth and eventually hits his stride (a brisk jog settling into a comfortable walk).  Carmen finds her pace (and place) early, and sprints through the amazing times in which she lives.

This is a hopeful and human novel, and well worth reading.

2 comments: said...

I talked to Joe Haldeman recently about his latest, Starbound, and he told me that the series started out as a novella -- and was originally rejected by the editor! Now, it's winning critical acclaim, and Joe has been named to the Grand Master Award, the highest award in science fiction. Also, Ridley Scott (yes, THAT Ridley Scott) is considering turning The Forever War into a 3D movie. (If you're interested, you can read my Joe Haldeman interview for free at )

Tony said...

Thanks for sharing that, it's a very interesting insight. I've read "All My Sins Remembered", which was a novel assembled from short stories. It was good, but flawed in the sense that its roots were a bit too visible. It's amazing that Marsbound manages to be so seamless, I guess it's another testament to Haldeman's skill. I look forward to reading the second and third books, and to checking out your blog. Cheers!