14 December 2009

Books: Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

Back in September of 2008, I read Joe Haldeman’s The Accidental Time Machine. I liked the book, mostly because I’m a sucker for time-travel stories. Less I’m a fan of is the so called hard-core science fiction of say Arthur C. Clark or Isaac Asimov and others. It wasn’t that I found these writers bad, I just got bored with all the techo jargon that comes with it: the mathematical equation the ship needs to get into orbit of a planet. I was brought up on Star Trek reruns where all of that was just magic, anyways.

Anyways, I enjoyed Haldeman’s style of writing, even if I could not figure out how he figured out how one could travel only forward in time and not back.

Now, what will probably be my last book of the year, I took on Marsbound, an entertaining and often humorous tale where conflict and mystery await on the planet of Mars. Set in an unnamed future time -I’m guessing somewhere around the end of the 21st Century - we meet 18 year-old Carmen Dula and her family, who’ve won a lottery and are bound for the first Mars colony. While not sure she wants to do this - after a trip on a space elevator to space station, there is another six month journey to that red planet. But while her doubts begin to creep in, she eventually finds some comfort in the arms of Paul, the pilot of the John Carter Goes to Mars.

But the daily grind soon sets in, and she also manages to make an enemy of the general administrator of Mars named Dargo Solingen. After a flare up between them, Carmen ventures out onto the Mars surface for a walk. But a slip up and trip down a hole propels Carmen into an adventure she never thought possible. There is intelligent life on Mars and they’ve been watching.

As typical it seems of Haldeman, his detail is good, but never gets in the way of the story. And the fact that it’s told from the 1st person point of view gives the reader a chance to discover everything just as Carmen is. And while this is, at its base, a standard sci fi plot idea -first contact - Haldeman balances with some great action, a huge dose of humor and with an easily described world that makes you focus more on the characters than the whole science of what could be a boring story about space travel to Mars.

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