The World's Trilogy Critical Essays

Joe Haldeman


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

These three novels cover a crucial period of Haldeman’s career as a mature writer and his development as a novelist and storyteller. They contain the major themes present in all of his fiction. The trilogy is hard science fiction in the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert. The reader will find documents, diagrams, letters, and simulations that anchor Haldeman’s created Worlds. There is a strong sense of political, cultural, and emotional life in these texts. Haldeman’s extrapolations predict limited mechanical, cultural, and social advances. The twenty-first century has new medicine, sophisticated computing power that makes artificial intelligence possible, flat-screen television, holovision, broadcast power, slowboat star travel, and floating vehicles. Earth, however, is a stew of brutality, rape, murder, war, and, finally, cannibalism. It is a pit of violence.

In the Worlds, new cultures form around various family geometries, such as line families, triune marriages, and open marriages, that change interfamilial relations. The link between gender and power is nearly destroyed. The Worlds also give birth to two destructive fundamentalist religions: Devonism and the Church of the Eternal Now. Unlike Heinlein, Haldeman directs an enormous amount of rage at religion.

O’Hara is close philosophically to Benjamin Franklin, another highly competent yet deeply flawed human being constantly caught up in dramatic events. In...

(The entire section is 567 words.)