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Worlds (1990)

Worlds (1990)
3.47 of 5 Votes: 5
038070823X (ISBN13: 9780380708239)
avon books (ny)
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Worlds (1990)
Worlds (1990)

About book: SF books written about the near future have a habit of retrospectively turning into alternative histories. This is the case with Haldeman's Worlds which was published in 1950, predicting the Vietnam war in surprisingly accurate detail - apart from the bit where the Communists are defeated, of course. But the book isn't really about that. Instead Haldeman has set up a group of orbiting "Worlds" ranging from hollowed asteroids to tin cans, each with a variant culture, form of government and economy. Starting there, we follow the protagonist to Earth where she starts doing post-graduate studies at New York University and gets caught up in radical politics. As part of the academic program she goes on a world tour.Haldeman spends a great deal of time in a fairly short novel describing the Earth his protagonist sees. It's a common enough trick in SF and elsewhere; bring in an outsider to give perspective on what is ordinarily so familiar as to be beneath notice. And what Haldeman is describing is really just the world as he saw it back in 1950; the fact that the USA is run by Lobbies that get votes only from their members - direct elections having disappeared - is just making explicit what Haldeman thinks is in practice happening anyway: Pressure groups dictate policy and even politicians according to their size and spending power and run things in their perceived best interests, which may or may not conform to the perceived best interests of the majority. The policy makers are therefore shadowy figures that avoid public naming, let alone direct election. Then we proceed around the planet on a whistle-stop tour, giving Haldeman's the protagonist's impressions of the rest of the world, with greater or lesser detail, depending on the country.This gets a little dull as it doesn't really drive the plot (there is one, it's about a plot) anywhere. After it ends, the book accelerates into an action adventure that winds up to a conclusion that doesn't seem all that likely.(view spoiler)[WWIII is started by an individual acting alone in a manner there are safeguards against now and most likely were in 1950, too. (hide spoiler)]

I'm sad to say my first NetGalley read was not a very good one. Joe Haldeman may be an award winning writer, but I get a feeling this was not his best work. There are a LOT of issues with this novel but let me see if I can sum them up.1. The authorial voice jumps around. I think Haldeman was trying to set the book up with a autobiographical/biographical tone but sadly where it might reinforce the novel it actually distracts from it. Sometimes it's a friends diary or retelling of events (good), sometimes it's a weirdly omniscient 3rd person (bad), and sometimes it's random stuff like recordings (eh). The jumping from 1st to 3rd person isn't creative or helpful.2. While the setting has nuggets of interesting material such as the orbital colonies, the book then shifts to a travelog of Earth and long drawn out moments where the novel drags to a dead stop. When the main character O'Hara has to deal with life threatening events, interesting, when she goes on and on about her classes or where she's visiting/drinking/sleeping with, boring.3. The book pushes all the action to the last 1/4 of the novel. No seriously as soon as O'Hara notices just how bad things are getting around her...someone dies, she becomes famous, and then BOOM. Book over. That's no way to pace a story.4. For an America that had a 2nd Revolution they book glosses over it. This is important. Denver is a autonomous territory, the US has sold the Cape to the Worlds as a main shuttle port, and there is a trade cold war going on over hydrocarbons. This should have been BIGGER. It was more interesting learning about the different Worlds culture early in the book, that was one of the few things keeping me reading.So I had to power through the last half of the book only to have a series of events at the end stretch my believably of what was going on. Add to that Haldeman seems to think that rape = drama and I was over it. The book just gave me a bad taste in my mouth.The ONLY reason why this book isn't a 1 star is because there was some token, if good, effort to do world building that really should have been expanded upon. But alas.Done.
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Zeb Kantrowitz
At the end of the twenty-first century, half a million people have gone to live in orbit around the earth. They live in forty-one satellites (each called a World), some to get away from religion persecution, and others trying to create the perfect ‘World’. The largest of the Worlds is New New York. New New (as the inhabitants call it) is a captured asteroid that has been hollowed out. Each year, a few candidates are chosen to be sent to Earth for a year. In that year they learn about the economics that exist between the Worlds and the major earth countries. Marianne O’Hara has been chosen because she plans on being an Earth liaison specialist. During her stay on Earth, she gets involved in two movements. One group is contemplating declaring the Worlds a Republic; the second is planning a third American Revolution.The power in America is concentrated among a few privileged families. Because of this oligarchy the average citizen has little or no control over their own life. There are many groups who want to overthrow the government but their plans for a new America are at different ends of the political spectrum. Should this third revolution take America’s eye off the SSU (the successor to the Soviet Union), there is a chance that the SSU will strike against their age old enemy.Thinking that Worlds have gotten to independent, there is also a group who want to ‘teach the Worlds a lesson’, and put them in their ‘place’. Marianne having grown up in a closed World, is a naïve waif on this planet of radical politics. She is unwittingly brought into a conspiracy that could be destructive to both America and the Worlds.Much of this book, the first in a trilogy, is spent explaining to the reader the relationship of Earth to the Worlds (both economically and politically) and between the Worlds. It’s well thought out and explained, and is reasonable to a point. I’ll have a better opinion after I’ve started the second book.Zeb Kantrowitz
Somehow I missed that this is a re-issue of a 1981 novel--which is actually kind of a relief as a number of scenes just seemed dated or out of place in a way I can't fully articulate. I've read several of Haldeman's other books--the classic Forever War with its sequel Forever Free and analog Forever Peace (which I think is actually the most interesting of the three). There's something about the set-up of the Worlds/Earth culture clash that now seems kind of retro to me, though I enjoyed it for most of the book.I especially enjoyed the way the novel was told in disparate pieces through diary entries, correspondence, one-sided calls, etc. though this same way of storytelling made it difficult for me to "get to know" the characters; they always seemed at arm's length in a way they weren't in other Haldeman novels. That said, I think this book is especially interesting for how it describes futuristic culture-clash, and would definitely recommend it on that basis.
I've always liked this author and some of his novels are classics of the genre, but this was something of a disappointment. The premise is a common one in Sci-Fi: in the future, humanity has gradually expanded into the solar system and, over time, the off planet colonies and orbital habitats begin to experience increasingly tense relations with the home planet. However, the political tensions are mostly kept to the background of the novel as Haldeman focuses on one citizen of the New New York habitat as she travels to Earth to spend a postgraduate year of study. Unfortunately, most of her experiences aren't very interesting. She meets a few men, sleeps with a number of them, does a little sight seeing, etc. Some time is spent in the beginning of the book in describing a few of the orbital habitats and their cultures, but it's mostly a missed opportunity to delve into the truly bizarre. The one hedonistic culture comes across more staid and boring than shocking. Another problem is that the book was written in the early 80's when the PC hadn't really taken off in popularity and smart phones and the internet were in their infancy. Because of this, there are things in the novel that are anachronisms in this day and age, let alone a society in 2082. For example, a suicide note was left in a TYPEWRITER, in order to find out the latest news, the main character hunted down a newspaper rack and dropped some coins in it to buy a paper, to talk with the folks back home, people sit down with a pen and paper to write a letter to be mailed, etc. All in all, not one of his stronger efforts.
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