Mindbridge - Joe Haldeman

D_Davis

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2008
Messages
1,348
Mindbridge - Joe Haldeman

After I read The Forever War, I knew that Haldeman was a good writer. After reading Mindbridge I am prepared to declare him a great writer. Mindbridge is a perfect example of how solid writing and interesting execution can turn even the most basic of genre convention into something worth reading, engaging, and all together entertaining. It tells the story of humankind's trek into outer space, and our first contact with a strange and brutally vicious alien entity. By traveling to distant planets in far away galaxies, groups of geoformers, called Tamers - highly trained para-military personnel - work to determine how hospitable a planet might be for human settlers. The method of space travel used, called “sling shotting,” is interesting and sets up a number of cool scenarios.

Human scientists have discovered a kind of teleportation (called “translating”), limited in the amount of matter that can be teleported, and by how long the teleportee can stay teleported before being sling shotted back to headquarters. During a routine (it's never a “routine” anything, is it?) translation, a small force of Tamers stumbles upon a strange alien creature (called a “bridge”) that grants those who have touched it limited telepathic capabilities - thus bridging their minds. What the Tamers don't know is that by interacting with these bridges, they have opened themselves up to outside forces and set in motion a chain of events that could spell doom for humanity.

The two main characters are Jacque (he dropped the “s” so people wouldn't call him zhockes) Lefavre and Carol Wachal, both Tamers. Lafavre is especially sensitive to the alien telepathy, and Wachal is especially adept at kick alien ass. Like in The Forever War, Haldeman spends a great deal of time with his characters, and illustrates their relationships, personalities, and idiosyncrasies in nuanced ways. Jacque's and Carol's relationship here feels authentic, and what begins as nothing more than sex for “scientific” purposes (to see how a bridge might influence the act of coitus) naturally turns into something more meaningful and endearing. Haldeman has a good grasp and understanding of basic human interactions, and nothing any of the characters ever do seems out of place or disingenuous.

So we basically have a novel dealing with first contact populated by some space marines and scientists - brains, brawns, beautiful women, and studly men. Pretty typical stuff, the makings for a dozen space operas. However, the way in which Haldeman conveys all of this is interesting, and does wonders to propel the plot forward at a breakneck speed. Mindbridge reminds me of the television shows Law and Order and Homicide, and I mean this in the best possible way. These shows tell their stories in episodic fashion. The plots are built with short segments in which only the most crucial and important aspects are shown. They leave out all of the boring stuff in order to compress “real time” events and tell a concise and interesting story within the episode's time limit.

This is exactly what Haldeman does with Mindbridge. He leaves out the boring parts (why don't more genre authors do this, especially now with all of those multi-volume, five-hundred page monstrosities choking the shelves of Borders Books?). Mindbridge contains over fifty segments. Some of these are the chapters detailing the main narrative; there are fifteen of these. The others feature a wide array of methods taking care of the infodump. There are newspaper articles, articles from peer reviewed scientific journals, charts, graphs, memoirs, technical briefings, and help wanted advertisements. Each of these fifty parts offers something different, and each is only a handful of pages. The way Haldeman builds his book with a series of small, interconnected pieces makes it a fresh and exciting read.

Mindbridge is good science fiction, it is good space opera. It also contains one of the greatest action sequences I've ever read in a book - mind blowingly good (just wait until you read it, I am sure you'll agree). Mindbridge does not strive for any deep insight into the human psyche. It is not built upon a novel and totally original idea. However, it is a perfect example of how a common plot can be made engaging and exciting through solid writing and creative execution. I'm sure we've all read dozens, perhaps hundreds, of stories detailing humankind's blundering discovery of an alien race and the subsequent, violent alien invasion. There's nothing new here. But like the best kung fu films, the treasure is in the details, in the execution of it all, and Haldeman executes his story with the precision and skill of a great master.​
 

power to the J

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2007
Messages
141
Never read it, but this sounds interesting. I'll have to add it to my freakishly large 'to-read' list.
 

D_Davis

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2008
Messages
1,348
Never read it, but this sounds interesting. I'll have to add it to my freakishly large 'to-read' list.
I just added 6 new books to mine last night.

Mindbridge is fantastic. A really great read, totally entertaining.
 
Top