06 February 2011

Books: Starbound by Joe Haldeman (2010)

In the continuation of Marsbound, the sequel takes Carmen -The Mars Girl - and her husband, three self-proclaimed "spooks" and two Martians on a trip to encounter The Others at Wolf 25.

In the first book, Carmen Dula and her family who are heading for the Mars colony, after winning a lottery. There she meets the pilot Paul, who she will eventually marry. While on Mars, she runs afoul of the administrator that eventually leads her to take a walk on the Mars surface and there she encounters the Martians.

The only problem is these Martians are not really from Mars, but a species created by the "Others" to watch Earth and the humans who inhabit it. Predictably, things go awry and the "Others" try to destroy Earth. Only the sacrifice of a Martian saves them.

Now aboard the Ad Astra, the crew begin a long, perilous journey to Wolf 25 (which I kept calling Wolf 325 from TNG episode The Best of Both Worlds) to try and come to some sort of reason with these creatures.

The sequel starts off great, and as a people watcher, I was interested in Haldeman's take on psychological effects of a long space travel on the crew. Everyone of the characters must face a challenge to stay sane, all while thinking that the encounter with the Others may end in their deaths.

About half way through the novel, we encounter an avatar of the Others, whom the crew call Spy, and the stakes are on the rise. But its here where I also began to get bored with the book.

Unlike Marsbound, Haldeman tells this story from the point of view of all the crew, which was very distracting because there were times I did not know who was talking, and mostly because the characters had similar voices.

The ending, while surprising, leaves you wondering what the point of the whole story was. I mean first contact stories are always interesting, and you can tell them in only so many ways, but while the story of the crews morale on long-term space travel is also interesting, I sort of got bored with it and eventually could careless how the story ended (with the idea of a third one book somewhere down the pipe).

Still, Haldeman has an engaging style to his writing, and he does not boggle down the story with too much science babble.

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