Monday, December 26, 2011
Earthbound by Joe Haldeman
Color me surprised! At the end of Starbound, I really thought Haldeman wouldn't publish a sequel. Now, I just think he shouldn't have.
It's a pity when an author gets to the point where he has nothing new to say, yet tries to say something, anyway. Haldeman's early works were wonderful, with The Forever War as a prime example.
The story begins with Carmen and her friends at the NASA space center, where they come under attack by various enraged Earth folk, who may perhaps blame them for the problem with the Others. The Others have destroyed Earth's moon to create an asteroid belt around the planet to discourage space travel, and when that didn't work, they turned off all electricity for the world. Nothing that requires electrical power works, and this results in massive deaths from the obvious causes.
One thing for all my hoplophilic friends to note, Haldeman makes the common error of saying that the spacefarers were attacked by people with "automatic" weapons. I can barely imagine a scenario in the future when fully automatic weapons will be more easily accessible than they are now in the U.S., and Haldeman really hasn't laid the groundwork for that situation, so it's likely he's referring to "assault style" semiautomatics here.
There were a number of little "glitches" in the story, when something functioned that shouldn't have, with electricity turned off completely, that bothered me, as well.
When the Others briefly return the power, the merry band makes their way on a NASA jet to Camp David, where the interim president hopes to recruit them, then to California, where one of their members grew up on a farm commune that might be doing all right without modern conveniences, then takes a trip to Eugene, Oregon to bargain for some resource books, then attempts to return to California, but end up in a plane crash when the Others unexpectedly turn off power again.
At one point in the tale, the governor of California sets off a bunch of "hell bombs", nuclear weapons which make everything within a radius of five miles highly radioactive, along the entire state border, to cut the state off from the rest of the world. Just do the math, people, and divide the amount of miles along CA's border by 10 (2 times the radius), and you'll wonder how even a state as large as this one gets enough fissionable material to create that many bombs.
The story "wanders" about just as aimlessly as Carmen & Co. do, nothing significant happens. Give it a pass.