Story of the week: Joe Haldeman's Marsbound

Since I love to live life on the edge, I'm selecting a novel I haven't even finished as my story of the week: Joe Haldeman's Marsbound. The novel is being serialized in three parts in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, with the first installment in the combined Jan./Feb. 2008 issue and the second in the brand-new March issue.

Marsbound focuses on a family colonizing Mars in the near future and is 100% hard science fiction, which means the story features reasonable extrapolations based on science as we understand it today. However, as genre readers know, over the last 15 years a number of Mars colonization books have been published, with Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy being perhaps the most famous. What makes Marsbound such a unique and thrilling read is that the story is told through the point of view of an 18-year-old girl. As with all teenagers teetering on the brink of adulthood, the main character worries about mundane things like college, growing up, and sex, along with life-altering events like whether she'll survive the actual trip to Mars. Add in that the main character sees the universe through youthful eyes, but understands things as an adult, and you have the perfect narrator to describe a space exploration story. (I say this because the core of any exploration narrative is a combination of youthful wonder and adult hard work.)

With Marsbound, Haldeman--best known for his Hugo and Nebula award winning novels like The Forever War--has in many ways written an updated version of a Robert Heinlein juvenile novel. But instead of being aimed at teenage boys of the 1950s, Marsbound is uniquely suited for teenagers of the 21st century. I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a new trend of science fiction novels which appeal to readers of all genders and ages (in this case, from ages 15 and up due to some sexual content). I also look forward to the novel's final installment. If Haldeman finishes the story as well as he began it, Marsbound will no doubt be one of my favorite novels of the year.

UPDATE: For my review of the last installment of Marsbound, go here.