Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
I bought this as a light read and since I've only read a few older books by Joe Haldeman ,Mindscape, and all my sins remembered, I would have to say I didn't come into it with great expectations. The pace of the novel is rather sedate, which is good for a light read; it's not a novel that starts the reader by hitting the ground running and ramping up the pace every few pages. My impression of the character was that she was written from the point of a 17 year old and possibly because of the sex scenes the age was changed to 19. But that feeling might be wherein lies the beginning of problems with this novel. Still overall I enjoyed the novel and I think that if someone is looking for a light read in science fiction that this one should fit the bill.
Carmen Dula is our heroin of this story and as mentioned she's 19 years old. Her family is headed to Mars, because they are one of several families who were lucky with the lottery for this trip. Carmen is resistant to the idea of going but seems to feel she's being dragged along and I would think at age 19 she'd do something more than grouse about it. Instead she acts like a 17 year old who grudgingly has to go along; so she'll try to make the best of it. But then later after she's met Paul the man who will pilot the craft from Earth Space to Mars there will be an intimate scene and perhaps the story then calls for an advanced age to make this one fly past some of our inner censors. But then if this were true Young adult fiction then the young girl who acts 17 would be 17 and the sex scene would be deemed less necessary or maybe toned down. But the choice here was to leave that in and that ends up making Carmen Dula look like an immature young woman and confuses just what audience this might be written for.
For this reader having Carmen show up as immature still causes the sex scene to be jarring and doesn't help efforts to give the character more depth. The relationship seems to be a device to put the character at odds with other characters and set the scene for the portion where the real story starts. And that's where another problem crops up.
The first hundred or so pages are at a rather slow tedious pace and would have worked quite well for me if the character development had been accomplished more efficiently. Some character development is there and there is a whole bunch of world building and setting the stage and giving the reader a feel that this whole trip into space is real. It's almost too real; though we don't really get much of the science behind the space elevator, we get a protracted picture of what it's like to travel on one. There is a lot of time spent on developing the passengers, the Dula family and the other families that are going along. This is all good except that there will be a point when few of these characters play much of a part in the rest of the story; while at the same time we don't get enough understanding of the character of Carmen Dula; unless the whole first part of the book was supposed to demonstrate how immature she is. This imbalance hurt the story for this reader.
The next part of the novel is the interesting part but then the reader has to wade through the issues caused by that early relationship before anyone else begins to believe Carmen witnessed the things she does witness. Still Carmen looks immature because it took a tantrum to put her in danger where she would make a great discovery. The other characters treating her like a spoiled immature girl forces her to continue to break the rules when her own life and the lives of all the children are placed in danger.
This is really a story of first contact and then one that leads to a more sinister contact that might be a danger for all of Earth. And by the third part Carmen finally has matured at least to her age level possibly because she has to face the consequences of her actions though I was never clear about that. It's not the easiest thing to see, but mostly it's not the easiest of things to be certain that Carmen even fully appreciates how much difficulty her actions have caused. And that gets thrown away a bit with the realization that this was all an eventuality with or without Carmen.
Over all Marsbound becomes a complete novel within itself with a somewhat complex moral message and sets the stage for the possibility of more stories. It also becomes another addition to the Mars books that started proliferating when there were rumors of eventual missions to Mars in our future.
Good Simon Pure Science Fiction that plays more on characters working within accepted technologies and delves only on the surface as regards how things are made and work, which makes for a perfect matching with character driven stories; though these characters could have used more development or at least maybe a bit more exposure before the plot thickened and drown them out.
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