A Masterclass in Dystopian Science Fiction: The Worlds Trilogy by Joe Haldeman

A Masterclass in Dystopian Science Fiction: The Worlds Trilogy by Joe Haldeman

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Joe Haldeman’s Worlds trilogy, paperback editions from Avon/ AvoNova. Covers by Vincent Di Fate

Are you working from home? Quarantined? Hanging out with a doomsday cult and wondering if the end times have actually arrived? You’re not alone. (Especially if you’re in a doomsday cult — those guys are surprisingly chummy.) But here at Black Gate, our work continues. Classic SF and fantasy isn’t going to promote itself to an increasingly chaotic world. That’s our job.

Today I’m looking at a forgotten trilogy from an author who is very definitely not forgotten. Joe Haldeman became an SFWA Grand Master in 2010, the highest honor one can attain in our field. In 2012 he was inducted as a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and he’s won virtually every major science fiction award. His most famous novels include The Forever War (1974), The Hemingway Hoax (1991) and Forever Peace (1997).

In 1981 he wrote the opening novel in a trilogy about life in an orbital habitat, Worlds. It was followed by Worlds Apart (1983) and Worlds Enough and Time nearly a decade later (1992). All three were shortlisted for the Locus Award. The Portalist calls the trilogy “an epic sci-fi saga… a masterclass in dystopian science fiction,” and last July they published an excerpt from the first novel to help promote the release of digital versions of all three books from Open Road Media. Here’s an excerpt from Xavier Piedra’s helpful recap of the whole series.

Joe Haldeman’s beloved Worlds Trilogy remains a masterclass in dystopian science fiction. Mostly known for his critically-acclaimed novel The Forever War, which netted the author both a Nebula in 1975 and a Hugo Award in 1976, Haldeman excels at painting exciting interstellar battles and creating complex characters.

In the Worlds trilogy, the majority of humanity lives in metallic, floating environments called ‘Worlds’ which orbit Earth. Each individual World hosts its own population, culture, form of government, and policies to maintain order. Although the Worlds are outside of Earth’s atmosphere, for economic purposes they maintain contact with humans still left on the planet.

The story focuses on a brilliant young woman named Marianne O’Hara who was raised in the World of New New York. When Marianne takes a trip down to the planet’s surface to continue her studies, she’s drawn into the political conflict between Earth and the Worlds. Each subsequent book in the series follows Marianne as she becomes a major leader in the effort to prevent both the destruction of Earth and the Worlds above.

Worlds, the first installment in the series, not only sets the stage for the universe the story takes place in, but also introduces Marianne as a naive student. Marianne’s character arc over the three novels is a satisfying ride that will engross readers as she grows into a fearless leader. Initially, Marianne wants to further enhance her political science skills. But after her trip to Earth reveals awful conspiracies and political secrets, she feels she has an obligation to help expose the truth to both the people on Earth and in the Worlds.

Read the complete excerpt from Worlds here.

All three books were originally published in hardcover, but only Avon published all three volumes in paperback (with great covers by Vincent Di Fate). Here’s the details on the Avon paperbacks.

Worlds (239 pages, $3.95 in paperback, December 1990)
Worlds Apart (227 pages, $4.50 in paperback, June 1992)
Worlds Enough and Time (329 pages, $4.599 in paperback, June 1993)

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Covers by Walter Velez

Open Road Media has no less than 26 Joe Haldeman books available in print and digital editions, including The Forever War, the complete Worlds Trilogy, and even half a dozen Thieves’ World anthologies containing his stories. You can read free previews of them all here:


Our previous coverage of Joe Haldeman includes:

The Tomorrow’s Warfare Anthologies, edited by Joe Haldeman, Charles G. Waugh, and Martin Harry Greenberg
Infinite Dreams by Joe Haldeman
Birthday Reviews: Joe Haldeman’s “Blood Brothers” by Steven H Silver
Study War No More, edited by Joe Haldeman

See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

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Tony Den

Sold, based on the book covers!
Now let me head to the text and read about this…

Tony Den

The text held up fine John. I liked your intro paragraph. This series intrigues me, I will keep an eye out for it when trolling the second hand book shops.

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