STARBOUND by Joe Haldeman
“It was a most strange feeling. The water was only a little more than a meter deep, but it had splashed all over me. I had never been completely wet except in the process of being impregnated, so with the approaching footsteps I felt somewhat indecent, and was also embarrassed that I had splashed so much precious water out of the pool.
I did feel lighter, even though my feet were on the floor, which is to say the bottom of the pool. Then I moved sideways and tipped overâ€”I was suddenly floating and had no weight at all! I inhaled some water and had a little coughing fit, but of course was in no danger, since my breathing spiracles are distributed evenly around my body surface. The noise did upset Carmen, though, who was the first human on the scene. She cried out my name and Snowbird’sâ€”of course she couldn’t tell us apart without our clothingâ€”and seized my head and pulled me upright. ”
Review by Ann Wilkes (MAR 20, 2010)
Armed with nothing but diplomacy and time on the long flight to plan strategies, Starbound‘s Ad Astra crew of transplanted Martians, humans from the Mars colony and trained spies from Earth heads to its possible doom at the Wolf 25 system. Their mission is to negotiate peace with an alien force that has delivered Earth a warning. A sequel to Marsbound, Starbound follows the thread of the woman dubbed “Mars Girl,” aka Carmen Dula, on what may be a fools errand or the saving of humanity.
In Marsbound, Carmen was the first to discover Martians living below the surface of Mars, by pure chance on an unauthorized and unaccompanied stroll outside the dome. The “Martians,” as it turns out, are not native to Mars at all. They were created by The Others, whom the Martians know next to nothing about.
The most fascinating aspect of the Martians, aside from their four legs and their Mr. Potato Head-gone-wrong heads, is that they have three classes based on function. There are red, white and yellow Martians. And they do not reproduce as we do and have no sexes.
The whites are the thinkers; they specialize in science and philosophy, while the yellows are the memory class, which records every experience in minute detail. Red is the leader class, of which there is only one at a time.
The Others, who are never named, reveal themselves to the humans through a message forcibly delivered through the yellow class. It’s a warning, triggered by the humans’ presence on Mars. The Red, nicknamed Red by Carmen, sacrifices himself to save the Earth from the bomb the Others had turned it into. The Others are still watching. Earth cannot defend itself against an enemy that can so easily destroy an entire planet.
In Starbound, Haldeman’s engaging descriptions of life aboard a ship and the psychological effects of close confinement over a long period makes this novel fascinating, to me, an avid people watcher. The characters faced the challenge of staying sane, even while taking part in what may be a futile attempt to save their planet, their species from annihilation.
At the halfway point things get even more interesting when they encounter an avatar of The Others. I enjoyed the interplay between the various passengers as well as their disparate ways of dealing with the rising anxiety as they near their destination. And, of course, he throws in a several loose cannons on the crew.
Haldeman tells the story from each of the characters point of view at one time or another, favoring Carmen’s. Almost every new chapter has a different narrator. Sometimes this device can add to the depth of a story. However, there were several chapters in which I wasn’t sure who the narrator was three pages in due to lack of clues and similarity in voice.
On the other hand, the plot of this novel, indeed the series, is top-notch. I love first contact pieces and there’s only so many ways you can play them out. Or so I thought. Haldeman managed to pleasantly surprise me with twists on this theme that are truly unique. The intrigue and mystery were ever-present, building to an ending I didn’t see coming.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 19 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Ace Hardcover; 1 edition (January 5, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Joe Haldeman|
Ann Wilke’s Interview with Joe Haldeman
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:|
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