Joe Haldeman
Marsbound Cover

Reviewing The Full Trilogy


I read this entire trilogy for the 2014 'Pick and Mix' challenge...

#1 - Marsbound

Quite a good book and a very good opener to the trilogy. One of the more interesting aspects was the way Haldeman subtly managed to change the voice of the protagonist as she grew up from a teenage girl into a young woman. At the beginning of the story, Carmen Dula is leaving her Florida home to go live on Mars for a few years with her family. By the end of the book, she is a 'Martian', quarantined away from her home planet, and now facing a mission to another star system to try and deal with a vastly superior alien threat.

#2 - Starbound

A solid middle volume. The pace slackens a bit from the first novel but, considering it's mostly about a team of human emissaries traveling to another star system, it cruises along pretty well. There is some weird pseudo-science stuff that is essentially explained away using Clarke's Axiom; "Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic". Apart from that, the rest of the science in the book seems pretty solid while not getting in the way of keeping things moving forward, (note: I am not a rocket scientist so please don't lambaste me if the science is actually completely wonky).

Overall, this is a good book that carries the reader nicely from the end of Marsbound into the beginning of Earthbound.

#3 - Earthbound

The third book in the trilogy is a solid closing volume. The team has now returned from their trip to meet with The Others to find that the Earthly quarantine has been lifted. In this book therefore, most of the action takes place back on Terra. And there is a good amount of action. Haldeman paints a brutal and, to my mind, realistic picture of how things might progress should a scenario like this ever come to pass. Despite the grim narrative, the novel does end on a hopeful note.

The Trilogy (spoiler warning!)

A word about the entire trilogy: Haldeman takes the first-contact trope and stands it a bit on its' ear; Instead of humanity being initially out-classed by a vastly superior race and then somehow figuring a way to triumph through, y'know, "good old-fashioned human ingenuity & stuff", Haldeman imagines a scenario where humanity is not up to the task of overcoming the stacked odds. I've read many negative reviews of this series and, frankly, I don't get it. Does everyone want a happy ending all the time? The writing is smart, the characters are fairly well-developed - especially the protagonist, and the plot moves well throughout all three books. The situation is, quite honestly, about the most likely thing that we would face if another species happened to be keeping an eye on us. Think about it; A race of beings that have the ability to travel through interstellar space would realistically be so technologically advanced compared to us that, if they wanted to wipe us out, and we tried to fight back, it would be like a pack of squirrels trying to stop a bulldozer.

I give books #1 and #3 four solid stars each. Book #2 gets 3.25 stars and I average the trilogy at 3.75 overall.