The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This trilogy is Joe Haldeman’s only serial work to date. It is a marvelous extended meditation on the United States and that country’s founding, flaws, and errand. Haldeman’s sense of the protagonist Marianne O’Hara began with a short story titled “If I Had the Wings of an Angel,” published in 1991, as Haldeman finished the trilogy, but written earlier.

Worlds is a biographical, often epistolary text set in 2080. It introduces the young Marianne O’Hara, a citizen of New New York, one of the asteroid “Worlds” near Earth. O’Hara’s story begins with her awakening sexuality and subsequent creation of a clan, or line family. She marries two brilliant engineers, Daniel Anderson and the hunchbacked John Ogelby, both outsiders from Earth. O’Hara, a polymath twenty-two-year-old with two Ph.D.s, travels to Earth for postdoctoral studies in American culture. In old New York she meets poet Benny Aarons and acromegalic Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Jeff Hawkings, whom she eventually marries. Shortly after contact with a violent revolutionary group known as 3R (“third revolution”), O’Hara is stabbed during a rape attempt. She has a nervous breakdown when the violence she experiences personally is mirrored by the growing threat of war between the Worlds and Earth. Earth sees the Worlds as resource colonies; they see themselves as the independent nations suggested by their names, which include Tsiolkovski, Uchüden, Von Braun, and Mazeltov. O’Hara tours Earth’s major countries. She is further traumatized by a second rape attempt and the 3R’s murder of Aarons, who had become her friend and lover. After playing clarinet in a New Orleans jazz band for one night, she is kidnapped by a wealthy power in the now-anarchist nation of Nevada.

War finally breaks out. As bombs fly and the deadly Koralatov 31 virus is released, Hawkings rescues O’Hara and puts her aboard a shuttle for New New York. He is left to fend for himself.

As its title suggests, Worlds Apart is split in two. One narrative line concerns Hawkings, now called “Healer,” who remains alive because of his acromegaly. The Koralatov 31 virus has killed off other humans over the age of eighteen....

(The entire section is 916 words.)