Earthbound

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This is the third book in the Marsbound series. The Others have just turned off all electronics on Earth, and now we need to survive. One problem with this book is that it jumps straight into the action — I had to go back and re-read Marsbound and Starbound in order to understand what was happening in this book. That was ok because those two books are excellent, and I enjoyed re-reading them. In fact, those two are probably a little better than this one.

Overall Earthbound is pretty dark, and there isn’t a lot of hope presented — its just a series of scenes where the main characters attempt to deal with an all powerful adversary. Perhaps if the Others weren’t so powerful this would be a better book, because you just know that everyone is doomed. I also respect authors who are willing to kill off lead characters, but that happens a lot in this book, which sort of bothered me. Perhaps that’s what combat is really like though — people you have an attachment to just stop being there. There’s no warning or explanation.

The end of this book isn’t very satisfying. There better be a sequel or I’m going to be annoyed.

Earthbound Book Cover Earthbound
Joe Haldeman
Fiction
Hachette UK
December 19, 2013
320

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.

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Starbound

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This is the newly released sequel for Marsbound which I really liked, so I was excited when this arrived the other day. This book is much like the previous one stylistically, being written as a set of mostly first person diary entries. However, the people writing these entries are older now, and this feels less like a teen fiction novel. There is also more than one narrator in this book, unlike the first, with generally each chapter being narrated by one of three people. This can be a bit jarring at first, because it takes a while to realize that a new person is narrating and that’s why the point of view changed. You get used to it though. This book is also quite Heinlein like in this level of sex, which is similar to Marsbound, but not true of all of the Haldeman books I’ve read — I think it might be a relatively recent change to his style.

Overall a good book, I enjoyed it, and I can’t wait for the next one in the series (which Joe finished at the end of 2010).

[isbn: 044101979X;9780441019793]

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Buying Time

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This book isn’t Haldeman’s best work (checkout The Forever War, The Forever Peace, or Marsbound for examples of his really good stuff). I found the characters largely unsympathetic, and the plot quite slow. The book is also odd in that it was written in 1989, but is full of stuff you’d expect to see from a Heinlein novel like The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress — global conspiracies, Russian space colonies with vigilante law, that sort of thing.

Interestingly, the plot twist is much more smoothly done than many other Haldeman novels, which is nice.

[award: nominee prometheus 1990]
[isbn: 0380704390]

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The Hemingway Hoax

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A Hemingway scholar sets out to forge a lost Hemingway manuscript, with unexpected consequences. This is quite a different premise from other Joe Haldeman books I’ve read. In fact the feel of the initial part of the book is quite different, but this very quickly turns into a Haldeman story that people who have enjoyed his others will like. Its a bit more explicit about sex and wounds from combat than Haldeman normally is, but that is all there to further the plot in this case. This was a quick engaging read which I really enjoyed.

[isbn: 0380708000]

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Camouflage

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This is a book about two shape changing beings living through their centuries on Earth. It mostly follows on of them, but the other is important to the plot as well. Once again its an enjoyable read like many of Haldeman’s other books. Similarly to other books it also explores what it is like to be isolated from the rest of society, with most of the book being written from the perspective of one of the shape changers. I really liked this book.

[award: winner nebula 2005]
[isbn: 0441012523]

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The Accidental Time Machine

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Joe Haldeman does good work, and in general I have really liked his books. They’re easy to read, fun, and interesting. Better than that, they’re all quite different in the topics they cover, so he’s not in a rut. The only exceptions have been There Is No Darkness, which wasn’t very good and Forever Free, which I thought was lazily plotted. This book is no exception to the rule, and I really enjoyed it. One theme to Joe’s work that I am noticing is that the “sex scenes” are always anti-climatic, which is interesting to note.

I’d like to have heard more about the One Year War, but there is scope for that to be another separate book. I don’t think this book suffers from the lack of coverage, and its mostly tangentially interesting because I’d like to see how a society transforms itself in that way.

[award: nominee nebula_novel 2007]
[isbn: 978044101667;0441016162]

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Old Twentieth

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This is actually a relatively simple story, but padded out with a series of historical interludes. These are presented as when the main character is exploring a VR world, but most of them don’t directly further the plot. However, they also don’t make the story drag along, and are some of the most entertaining parts of the story. Relatively light reading, like The Coming and Marsbound. I enjoyed it.

[isbn: 0441013430]

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Space Soldiers

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This is a collection of short stories about soldiers in space. Its not the strongest such collection I have read — Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow, Body Armor 2002 and Dogs of War are all better.

  • The Gardens of Saturn (Paul J McAuley): veterans with jacked up nervous systems encounter genetically engineered people in deep space.
  • Soldiers Home (William Barton): veterans and other castoffs from conflict struggle to find meaning in continued existence.
  • Legacies (Tom Purdom): a not particularly interesting story about the psychological impact of losing a parent to war. Oh, except we don’t really talk about the impact. We talk about the bureaucracy around getting permission to treat. Dull.
  • Moon Duel (Fritz Leiber): an interesting concept (interstellar criminals abandoned on the moon). A bit dated, but ok apart from that.
  • Saviour (Robert Reed): another good concept, but I don’t think this story is particularly well written.
  • Galactic North (Alastair Reynolds): a relativistic chase across deep space with a confusing terraforming gone wrong subplot.
  • Masque of the Red Shift (Fred Saberhagen): this is the second Berserker story I’ve read (the other is “What Do You Want Me To Do To Prove Im Human Stop” from Battlefields Beyond Tomorrow. It was ok, although I suspect I was meant to know more about the universe than I actually do.
  • Time Piece (Joe Haldeman): read before in Dogs of War, and I didn’t like it back then.
  • On The Orion Line (Stephen Baxter): I think this is the best story of the bunch. Its about expansionist humanity and their battle with aliens who can tweak the laws of physics.

[isbn: 0441008240]

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The Coming

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This book wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be — some of Joe’s other work has been excellent (The Forever War, Forever Peace and Marsbound being examples). However, some of his other books are very weak, such as Forever Free and There Is No Darkness. This book is an interesting experiment in story telling style, where many different very short chapters are told by different characters. Each chapter follows on directly from the previous one. However, this style makes the story confusing to read until you can remember the names of all the characters. Worse than that though, the idea behind the story isn’t terribly strong, and the resolution is weak as well.

Overall and ok read, but not Joe’s best work and not a book I would recommend.

[isbn: 0441008763]

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