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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Ack-Ack Macaque
Gareth L. Powell
Progress: 249/792 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Isaac Newton
James Gleick
Progress: 20/289 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 454/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 232/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages
I Am a Cat
Graeme Wilson, Aiko Ito, Sōseki Natsume
Progress: 410/638 pages
Worlds - Joe Haldeman 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.

WWIII is started by an individual acting alone in a manner there are safeguards against now and most likely were in 1950, too.

There are two sequels and indeed this book could be viewed as ending having set up the situation necessary for the second book and perhaps should not be judged alone. I would happily read these subsequent volumes and indeed anything else Haldeman wrote but I'm still looking for something as radical, original and mind-blowing as The Hemmingway Hoax which turned me on to Haldeman in the first place.