News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home

Volume 15, Number 17
November 8, 2009


culture

Also in this section:
Strangely Familiar: a multimedia show, a scene to be continued
Photography: the good stuff by Kermit Nourse
Movies: My Life in Ruins
Cool Internet sites
Sparky the Wonder Dog
The Panama News Acrostic
The Poets' Corner
Books, Science fiction
Auditions for the Theatre Guild's Christmas show


The Martians may be friends, but other questions remain
a book review by Eric Jackson


Marsbound

by Joe Haldeman
ACE Science Fiction, New York (2009)
273 pp in paperback, $8.95 (the price you pay here)
ISBN 978-0-441-01739-3

Do you remember one of the precursors of the "Birther" paranoid fantasy, the one about how "Red China" controls the Panama Canal?

The concern about Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa controlling the ports of Cristobal and Balboa got inflated well past the bounds of reality, but those who first raised questions were hardline conservatives but not at all wingnuts. A retired US Army general who had served down here noted the ties between the corporation and the Chinese government, and the blurry line between China's private and public sectors in general, and maintained that it's never a good idea to base one's defenses on what a potential adversary apparently intends at this moment but on what it would be capable of doing were it so disposed. A company that could be drafted as a People's Liberation Army front holding large port complexes at either end of the canal left the general with an uneasy feeling. All the stuff about Chinese troops stationed here, and China handling canal pilot assignments or running the locks, came later, from others on the far right.

Joe Haldeman, the astronomy major who got wounded while serving with the combat engineers in Vietnam and came back to become one of the grand masters of science fiction (five Hugos, five Nebulas, three of his works having won both), tells us a tale about capabilities in Marsbound. How much protection could we get from snooping, suspicious, zero-tolerance authorities on "our" side --- and how much can people like that hurt us? And what about our strange but sincerely friendly space alien neighbors? Do we want to take their friendship at face value, or maintain a distance? And if the first contact with extraterrestrial life goes well, what about the second one?

Marsbound is a good book, a work of hard science fiction but also a work of philosophy. It explores themes of friendship, enmity, freedom, authoritarianism, privacy, predestination and planetary security. Especially if you are of that great nation whose independence was secured by French intervention yet got to the point of "freedom fries" and epithets about "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," Joe Haldeman weighs in on some of the great issues of our times, obliquely in a tale about future times. He does so with great skill and subtlety. Isn't that what good literature is supposed to do?

As it turns out, this novel of Haldeman's did not get nominated for any of science fiction's top awards. For one thing, "first contact" is a much-worked theme in the genre. In any case, if you read this and also Haldeman's greatest masterpiece, Forever War, you should get some idea of the distinction between good and great. The sad thing is that none of the Hugo or Nebula nominees for the past two years have made it down to Panama's bookstores. But it's a good thing that someone, for whatever reason, decided to import this book of Joe Haldeman's.


Also in this section:
Strangely Familiar: a multimedia show, a scene to be continued
Photography: the good stuff by Kermit Nourse
Movies: My Life in Ruins
Cool Internet sites
Sparky the Wonder Dog
The Panama News Acrostic
The Poets' Corner
Books, Science fiction
Auditions for the Theatre Guild's Christmas show

News | Economy | Culture | Opinion | Lifestyle | Nature
Noticias | Opiniones | Archive | Unclassified Ads | Home 

Panama Hotel: Luxury apartment rentals in Casco Viejo, Panama City
Panama Real Estate: Original travel and investment articles on The Panama Report
Make the Executive Hotel your headquarters in Panama City
Find the boat of your dreams through Evermarine

© 2009 by Eric Jackson
All Rights Reserved - Todos Derechos Reservados
Individual contributors retain the rights to their articles or photos

email: editor@thepanamanews.com or

e_l_jackson_malo@yahoo.com

Cell phone: (507) 6-632-6343

Mailing address:
Eric Jackson
att'n The Panama News
Apartado 0831-00927 Estafeta Paitilla
Panamá, República de Panamá