Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

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n252390.jpgJoe Haldeman's 2008 novel Marsbound is a book for young adults of all ages.  Set in the distant future, the book follows young Carmen Dula (who's not yet nineteen when she first appears) and her family and friends as they get to travel to Mars, from where they'll spend five years (her parents being part of a scientific research team stationed on the planet) .

 

 Through Carmen's eyes, author Haldeman channels Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein (whose own young adult SF stories obviously influenced Marsbound's tone)* as he goes into specific technical detail on what travelers on a space flight would go through (zero gravity, cramped quarters, thin air and "shared" water).  Along the way, we follow Carmen as she undergoes various life-changing experiences (her first love affair; coping with getting her college degree), without losing the reader's sympathy or interest, even when she makes a mistake or two.  She's also got a great sense of humor.

The middle portion of the book shifts to the "first contact" theme, as Carmen and her friends meet actual (potato-head shaped) Martians, including the engaging, dry-witted Red (Carmen's nickname for him).  And just when the reader is digesting that subplot, Haldeman suddenly shifts dramatic gears (and locations), with the eleventh hour appearence of a mysterious beam of light from Neptune to Earth, which the Martians (who are actually descendents of another race that, like Earth, settled on Mars) have some kind of connection to. 

That last jarring development aside (and having Carmen, Red and the others watch everything that occurs during the climax, rather than actually do anything, doesn't help either), Marsbound is a fast moving, exciting book that, for it's first two thirds, shares with the reader the same inherent sense of adventure Carmen and the rest of the cast (or any other astronaut/space traveler) would undergo.  The characters (even the Martians) are likable (with one exception) and believable, and Haldeman's scientific research effectively grounds the book's premise in (reasonable) reality.  Add the likable lead protagonist Carmen and Marsbound, despite slightly going off course in the last few chapters, is an immensely enjoyable read. 

You can reserve Marsbound (and its just-published sequel Starbound) here and here from the library's online catalog.

*(Note: Fans of authors  Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Scalzi, among others, may get a kick out of the book's influences and in-jokes as well.)

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This page contains a single entry by Ed published on April 22, 2010 9:14 PM.

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