Haldeman, Joe. 2008. Marsbound. Ace Books. 296 pages.
It wasn't a lot of luggage for six years; for the longest journey anyone has ever taken. We each had an overnight bag and a small titanium suitcase.
Carmen and her family--mom, dad, brother--are preparing for a trip. A long trip. To Mars. This young teen girl isn't exactly thrilled--at the beginning--with her parents' luck. The 'luck' that won them this opportunity to live on Mars for a set number of years. This soon-to-be-college freshman will have an angsty time of it. Attending all four years of college using virtual reality technology. (I just hope they don't charge additional tuition for being out of this world. Out of state charges can be bad enough.) What hope does a young girl have for finding love and happiness in such a small community? Better than you might think in fact. Carmen finds special companionship with the pilot, Paul, who's made this earth-to-mars trip several times. And this relationship is just one of many reasons why Carmen finds herself at odds with one of the leaders of the colony. Is Dargo really that awful? Maybe, maybe not. We do mainly get Carmen's point of view. And Carmen is of an age where she's at odds with most authority figures and most rules. But Dargo does seem a bit grouchy.
Marsbound is a strange little book. It's oddly paced. At times it seems that things are detailed so exactly, so precisely, that the pace comes to a complete stand still. A book set on Mars, a book about humans making first contact with "Martians"? You'd think it would be a bit more exciting than this. Carmen is the first to make contact with these aliens. They save her life. Twice. The fact that this alien race introduces a new sickness to human children is only a small factor when it comes down to it. (They also save the other children.) The aliens, as we meet them, seem happy to meet with the humans. Understanding that the humans are naturally curious about them. Carmen along with a handful of Martians and other humans who've made contact with them will be kept under quarantine on "Little Mars" a space station. A location where they can easily communicate with the human powers-that-be. Carmen's life isn't exactly going according to plan.
There is some action--but in my opinion, it's of the too little, too late kind. This book is more about personal hygiene and awkward sex than about the gravity of the situation: humans making contact with aliens, trying to learn to communicate and understand alien cultures, facing life-threatening situations, etc.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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