cover image The Coming

The Coming

Joe Haldeman. Ace Books, $21.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00769-1

Acclaimed Nebula and Hugo award-winner Haldeman delivers a disappointingly weak tale of the turmoil wrought by a message from outer space. Thin on plot, character and suspense, very little about this novel convinces, except details such as the prevalence of Spanish phrases in casual conversation and some techno gizmos. Clear as astronomy Prof. Rory Bell's name, the message ""We're coming"" is broadcast from only a 10th of a light-year away to mid-21st-century Earth. The message senders will arrive in three short months and will tolerate no attempt to block their ""peaceful"" landing. While Rory engages in political battles within her university and against the U.S. president's hawkish reaction to possible alien invasion, another, wider-scale battle among the European nations seems destined to launch WWIII. Meanwhile, a local mobster threatens to expose Rory's husband's illegal homosexuality, which would destroy both his and Rory's credibility. Unfortunately, relating the narrative by more than 20 different characters drains any tension from the story and results in disjointed, stalled storytelling. The concluding revelation about the aliens' nature and intentions, threadbare from overuse by other writers, arrives mercifully quickly. (Dec. 11) Forecast: Haldeman's widespread and well-deserved reputation for exciting and thoughtful work plus marketing to his core SF audience will put lots of books on shelves, but fans of the author and newcomers to his work will withhold the positive word of mouth that can help propel titles to major success.