Friday, September 4, 2009

Marsbound, by Joe Haldeman

Marsbound, by Joe Haldeman
2008, Ace
304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-441-01595-5

If you're looking for a book to curl up with in your Snuggie, immersing yourself in a slow read while sipping hot cocoa by the fire, Marsbound is not for you. The one thing that consistently impresses me about Haldeman's work is that it reads quickly without leaving you breathless.

For this piece in particular, I'm still amazed at how a 66-year old male war veteran accurately depicted the thoughts and feelings of a 19-year old female virgin.

Carmen Dula (said virgin) travels with her family from Earth to a budding colony on Mars for a five-year stay via a space elevator (see cover art) for part of the way, then a shuttle for the final leg. The realistic portrayal of space travel was refreshing, since science fiction today is saturated with so many fantastical theories on the subject. It really does take a long time to travel between planets--even within the same star system--when you don't have things like wormholes and (dare I say it) FTL technology.

Haldeman also tackled some interesting technical points without making it boring. Communication time lag, freeze-dried meals, how to take a crap in a space elevator, zero-gravity sex (does Carmen get some kind of an award for being the first woman to lose her virginity in space?), and how to survive on a planet with rampant dust storms and no atmosphere, to name a few.

Of course, a story about Mars wouldn't be complete without Martians. However, the Martians in this story aren't really Martians at all, they're just living on Mars, much like the human colonists. This is where I found the only downfalls of the book. The physical aspects of these aliens were unique, their purpose was intriguing, and the events that led up to "first contact" were humorous. That is where the creativity ended, though. Much of what followed, I'd seen a million times before (well, at least a hundred), and the aliens seemed to get less intelligent the more you learned about them, making me not really care what happened one way or the other.

Also, the ending didn't satisfy me. It was clear that certain things were purposely left open for a sequel (surprise! the sequel comes out in 2010, with a third book already underway).

That being said, I would still recommend this book, if for no other reason than Haldeman's dry wit that he effectively sprinkles throughout. A good weekend read.


Jonathan said...

I love your use of anti-cliché in the first paragraph. Good stuff, there. I'm definitely going to have to pick this up.

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

Your description leaves me torn. It would be interesting to read, but with so many other books on the shelf to read, I think I'm going to have to pass for now. Thanks for the great review.

Anonymous said...

I'd read it, but I wouldn't be waiting in a line to buy it, based off of your review. I think I may add it to my list of future books to read from the library. :)

Good review though.

Jai Joshi said...

Great review, I'm torn between wanting to read about zero gravity sex and revulsion. I might just check this one out.


Joe Sharp said...

I read bits and pieces while Lydia left the book on the nightstand, and I really didn't like it. He has a very well-crafted style, for sure, but his storytelling isn't as impactful as other writers.

Including Lydia herself.

Lydia Sharp said...

Thanks for all your feedback, guys. :) I'm still new to writing reviews.

Haldeman is one of my favorite authors, so my opinion is slightly biased, even on a piece that left much to be desired regarding the plot. I will admit that his style is not for everyone, but there were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments for me. I'd read it again, just for that.

Wandering-Quill said...

Nice job, Lexi :)

I know what you mean about being biased toward certain authors. (Frank Herbert comes to mind) But this sounded interesting enough to maybe grab from the library, but not something I'd want to buy.

Nicely written review. :)