Guardian by Joe Haldeman
Published by Open Road Media
Publication Date : September 27th, 2016
Available as eBook – 304 Pages
Source : NetGalley (Thank you!)
During the Alaskan gold rush, a woman pursues a destiny that will change the world in this alternate-history novel from a sci-fi legend.
In the tradition of Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land), multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner Joe Haldeman set a new standard for military science fiction and hard sci-fi with The Forever War and his phenomenal Worlds series. Now the Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master dabbles brilliantly in alternate-history fiction with the world-altering adventures of a remarkable woman during the gold rush in late nineteenth-century Alaska.
Sent from her Georgia home to Philadelphia to escape the carnage of the Civil War, Rosa Coleman studied astronomy and mathematics, ultimately settling into a new life as the wife of a wealthy man and mother of young Daniel. But when she discovers an unforgiveable secret about her reprobate husband, Rosa takes the boy and flees to the West on a desperate escape that takes them from Dodge City to San Francisco one step ahead of the Pinkertons hired to bring them back home.
On the run in a strange and exhilarating new world, Rosa and Daniel find a haven where they might never be found: the wilds of Alaska among the dreamers drawn to its magnificent wilderness by the promise of gold. It is here that her spiritual guide first appears to Rosa in the form of a raven—an incarnation of the trickster god of Native American and Eskimo lore—suggesting that her destiny lies not in sparkling riches but in something far greater. This mystical harbinger has come from a distant, alien place, and will set her on an astonishing course . . .
I’ve been sitting on this book for a while. I finished it almost a month ago unsure of how to review it, not even sure of my rating. It was definitely not what I was expecting, and I wasn’t sure if it was something I was happy having read. I eventually settled, after stewing on it for a while, on having enjoyed it. It was a.. soft book to me. Something subtle and cleverly sneaky in how it wraps around you. It’s about a woman’s journey to a momentary experience and less of how it affected her. Which was an odd turn on the head of the idea that a single magical moment/journey defines a lifetime. It’s almost the more realistic take on what would have happened to someone in her position experiencing something like she did.
For the bulk of the book we follow Rosa’s flight across America after discovering some truly horrifying things about her husband. She takes her son with her and eventually they end up in Alaska during the heat of the gold rush. Along the way she is nudged gently into certain directions by a raven, repeatedly showing up calling “No Gold”. I’m still not sure how or where that raven came from, perhaps I missed or perhaps it was that intentionally vague. The story is also formatted in a way that she is telling us what happened. It’s a written account she created based around her memories and diary entries.
There is a level of tension underneath the slow crawl of the story that keeps it moving, or did for me. The whole time I’m terrified, as Rosa is, that her husband will catch her. What will be the retribution that she suffers at his hands. All the while you’re soaking up the white and frequently noisy world of Alaska through Haldeman’s descriptions. My sister, a park ranger, was working in Alaska at the time of me reading this. I almost wanted to call her and ask, “Do you know anything about the gold rush in Alaska? Can we talk about this book I’m reading?” (I didn’t, of course because she doesn’t enjoy reading as I do and frankly would have found me insane, but the urge was there).
Ultimately it feels like that story your grandmother or the old lady that visits her tells a little bit of every time you see them. You can’t stop wondering about, going over what happened in your mind. How did action A lead her to action B? What else did her actions affect? Where did she go, and holy hell can I learn more about that please?
I’m definitely interested in more of Haldeman’s work. This was almost a tease of his writing I feel, it rang a lot like Arthur C. Clarke to me so I’m definitely on board with finally picking up The Forever War from him. Might be worth picking up if you enjoy the older style of science fiction or if you enjoyed Marie Brennan’s Memoirs of Lady Trent, and am okay with a slower more atmospheric tale.