A Marsbound Novel
by Joe Haldeman
Reviewed by Ann Wilkes
Earthbound is a post-apocalyptic tale with enigmatic, all-powerful aliens holding the earth's fate in their . . . well, gaseous something or others. Carmen Dula, who made first contact with the Martians by falling through the roof of their underground home and breaking her ankle, her space pilot significant other, Paul, the three spies they shared their trip to the Others with, her brother Card and Snowbird (a Martian) are back on earth after the Others have pulverized the moon.
When Earth tried to fly a ship through the thick debris field that surrounds the planet, the Others shut off the earth's "free" power. They're determined to keep humans earthbound.
In Earthbound, the group fight to survive and preserve as much of the humanity around them as they can. The perils are non-stop. Carmen must even lose her own brother while still coming to terms with missing out on seeing her children grow up. There are ambushes, deprivations, battles won, lives lost and hopes dashed.
The twelve passenger seats unfolded into lumpy beds, angled like chevrons. Some of us rested or napped. Paul took a pill. The plane was on autopilot, but if the Others turned off the power we'd be on a glider looking for a flat place to land.
We were over Hudson Bay, after about six hours, when we made contact with the president's people. I couldn't hear what was going on, but I presumed they were livid. They gave us a plane and we hijacked it to Russia. Paul was grinning broadly as he gave them monosyllabic replies.
The avatar of the Others pops in and out, sometimes rescuing them, but mostly just apathetically observing, adding just the right touch of creepy.
The storyline, as I said in my Starbound review, is a truly original first contact scenario. The Others play the long con or take their time with new relationships. These novels only show us a glimpse at the first tentative steps - at least from the humans' perspective. Who knows what they decide in a thousand years?
The plot moved along at a fast clip with lots of action. However, I wanted more character development and richer descriptions. I did like the ending, though.
If you've read the other books, you'll definitely want to read this concluding volume. If you haven't, you could download all three on your Kindle or other e-reader and read them in a weekend. Aside from dialogs that need more tags, Earthbound is a very easy read. I hope we hear from the Others again, perhaps with an all-new cast in our distant future.