Earthbound by Joe Haldeman

Earthbound (A Marsbound Novel)

You’ve probably noticed that I read a lot more fantasy than science fiction.  It’s not necessarily a deliberate choice; rather, I’m drawn more to the types of stories that are told in fantasy novels.  There are some sci-fi writers that I do follow, though, and Joe Haldeman is one of them.  His most current novel is Earthbound, the last Marsbound novel.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“The mysterious alien Others have prohibited humans from space travel–destroying Earth’s fleet of starships in a display of unimaginable power. Now Carmen Dula, the first human to encounter Martians and then the mysterious Others, and her colleagues struggle to find a way, using nineteenth century technology, to reclaim the future that has been stolen from them.”

This trilogy has been kind of up and down for me.  I enjoyed Marsbound, wasn’t all that thrilled with Starbound, and am now trying to figure out how I feel about Earthbound.  I think that it falls somewhere between the first two in terms of quality.  While it didn’t have the first contact thrill of the first book, it also doesn’t have the endless space voyage of the second one.

This story takes place entirely on an Earth that has been deprived of power by the Others.  Long used to what they call “free energy” that is being siphoned off from an unknown and faraway planet, humanity is suddenly forced to rely on each other more than they have in a long time.  In this future, many people live much of their time in virtual reality, although the only person we meet who fits this description is Carmen’s brother Card.  Card eventually goes a bit crazy without the ability to escape reality.  I think that Haldeman could have done more with this concept if he had introduced more people like him.

One of the things that I missed was the inclusion of aliens.  The first two books had well defined Martians who interacted with the humans on a regular basis, but this novel focuses almost exclusively on humanity.  I suppose that this is sort of ironic, given that most humans in this era are out of touch with each other and, in fact, may be “alien” in their own way.  Again, Haldeman could have done much more with this concept, perhaps even playing with the idea of “first contact”.

The novel’s other large lack is that the plot doesn’t really go anywhere.  Earth loses power, the main characters wander around trying to find a safe place to hole up, and that’s about all that happens.  The book’s final event essentially negates anything (however minor) that happened in the entire preceding story, and it left me very disappointed.

I don’t have much to say about Earthbound, because the author didn’t have much to say in the novel.  Lack of plot and lackluster action made it a hard book to get through.  I know that Haldeman has the capacity to write novels that are much better than this, so I’ll keep reading his books in the hopes that Earthbound was an unfortunate fluke.

Also by this author: The Accidental Time Machine, Camouflage, The Coming, Guardian, Starbound

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on January 25, 2012.

Series: Marsbound
ISBN: 9780441020959
Publisher: Ace
Page Count: 261
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher
Author Website