Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Book: Marsbound by Joe Haldeman

Marsbound, a new novel by Joe Haldeman, was published earlier this month (Ace Books, 2008).

According to Locus Online, Marsbound, “possibly first of a trilogy, [is] about a teenaged girl whose family is among the first settlers on Mars, where she discovers aliens inhabiting underground caverns.”

A more detailed description appears on the cover flap of the new hardcover book: Young Carmen Dula and her family are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime--they’re going to Mars. Being picked from the lottery is considered an opportunity not to be missed, even though Carmen isn’t so sure she wants to bother with it anymore. After training for a year and preparing to leave on the six-month journey through space, she finds that the initial excitement has given way to nervous trepidation--and frustration.

Once on the Red Planet, however, Carmen realizes things are not so different from Earth. There are chores to do, lessons to learn, and oppressive authority figures to rebel against. And when she ventures out into the bleak Mars landscape alone one night, a simple accident leads her to the edge of death until she is saved by an angel--an angel with too many arms and legs, a head that looks like a potato gone bad, and a message for the newly arrived human inhabitants of Mars: We were here first.

According to Haldeman’s LiveJournal entry for January 11th, 2008, the book has a complex history: “The thing had three incarnations, and when I put them together I somewhat screwed up the chronology, so I'm carefully charting it out as I go along. (The incarnations -- first a novella version in Dozois's Escape From Earth anthology, where the protagonist is a teenager ["The Mars Girl"], then the novel itself, Marsbound, where the protagonist is older, being serialized in Analog right now, and a somewhat longer and more complex book version, recently changed to accommodate the sequel Starbound, which was not in my original plans.)”

Interestingly, Haldeman’s LiveJournal entry for February 15th, 2008, describes how he chose the title Marsbound. Other titles he considered included Menace From Mars, Mars Threat, Mars Giveth, and To Mars.

You can read an excerpt from the book Marsbound at publishing house Penguin’s website or through Amazon’s Online Reader.

Haldeman's original novella, “The Mars Girl,” which appeared in the anthology Escape From Earth: New Adventures in Space (2006) and was a finalist for the 2007 Locus Poll Award for Best Novella, was reviewed by John DeNardo at SF Signal, Paul Kincaid at The SF Site, and Elizabeth A. Allen at Tangent: Short Fiction Review.

The expanded novella, rechristened Marsbound, was published as a three-part serial in Analog in early 2008 and reviewed by Jason Sanford and the blog The Elephant Forgets.

The new full-length book, Marsbound (Ace Books, 2008), was reviewed by Paul Haggerty at SFRevu.

In reviewing the three incarnations of Marsbound, several critics have drawn similarities to Robert A. Heinlein's two juveniles, Red Planet (1949) and Podkayne of Mars (1963). Haldeman’s LiveJournal entry for May 19th, 2008, speaks to the issue and is worth reading in its entirety. Here’s a small piece: “My bathtub read currently is Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars. My next novel, Marsbound, has some superficial similarities, and I thought before it comes out I'd better reread the Heinlein one, to see what I might have unconsciously plagiarized, after 42 years. ... I'm sure some critics will claim that I stole all the ideas from the Heinlein book, but not if they actually read both of them."

For the technologically inclined, Marsbound can be purchased as an eBook through Fictionwise or Amazon's Kindle, and as an unabridged audiobook through Audible.com or Apple's iTunes.

A Vietnam veteran, amateur astronomer, and Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author, Joe Haldeman is an adjunct professor teaching writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. He and his wife, Gay, were Guests of Honor at ArmadilloCon 30, held this past weekend in Austin, Texas.

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