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Old June 12 2012, 12:55 PM   #819
Christopher
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Re: So What Are you Reading?: Generations

I just finished reading the Bantam ST novel Planet of Judgment by Joe Haldeman, which I haven't read in a long time. I'd forgotten how much it got right about Trek continuity, by the standards of the time. Either Haldeman was a fan, or he really studied the James Blish adaptations in detail. (He even includes Blish as a character in the novel, as the scientist James Atheling; Blish wrote literary criticism under the pseudonym William Atheling, Jr.) Haldeman added a number of ideas of his own that are hard to reconcile with continuity, but that make good sense, like the use of high-tech body armor on dangerous missions and helmets for the security staff (an idea actually adopted in the TOS movies). When I read this book in the past, I wasn't aware of Haldeman's experience as an Army veteran, which heavily influenced his most famous work, The Forever War; but now I can see how much his military experience informed his portrayal of the crew's procedures in crisis situations.

It's also quite an epic and ambitious story, both in terms of the great hazards the characters face (and ultimately the civilization-wide stakes they must contend with) and the attempt to explore and develop the main characters; this book was the first attempt to depict the details of McCoy's divorce, for instance. Unfortunately, the writing style is somewhat cursory and compressed, so that events that should be big and emotionally powerful just get a few brief sentences of description before moving on. So it doesn't feel as profound and epic as it really should, which I suppose is why I've always only liked this novel rather than loving it. Also, Haldeman goes to some lengths to introduce several supporting characters and their relationships -- the borderline romantic triangle of Atheling, Sharon Follett, and Andre Charvat -- and then never really does anything with it, as those characters fade into the background when the climactic events draw near.

Still, for all it's flaws, it's one of the two strongest Bantam Trek novels by a good margin, surpassed only by David Gerrold's The Galactic Whirlpool.
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