A Novel of the Near Future"" and the first of a projected trilogy--which means that Haldeman (The Forever War, All My Sins Remembered) has decided to go in for socio-political doomsday scenarios in a big way. . . with mostly sluggish, preachy results. Orbiting the Earth of 2084 are the ""Worlds,"" inhabited asteroids, most prominent of which is the utopian New New York, home of female protagonist O'Hara. Fresh from a torrid love affair, O'Hara travels to Earth for postgraduate study as interplanetary tensions rise: yes, it's the progressive Worlds vs. a reactionary USA controlled by Lobbies (just what they sound like). And, while exploring old New York (rapes, mass murders, and smog) and then taking a world tour with FBI tough-guy Jeff, O'Hara herself becomes a pawn in the conflict: she declines to join a sinister underground army; she's kidnapped by the Lobbies in a blackmail attempt against the Worlds Jeff rescues O'Hara, of course--but the warfare escalates: the Worlds black out Earth by cutting off solar energy, the underground army nukes Washington, WW III occurs. . . and O'Hara returns to New New York, now bulging with refugees. No real surprises, then, as Haldeman fills out familiar future-holocaust speculation with a cardboard cast of thousands, tedious chitchat, and predictable political postures. Disappointing work from a writer whose great storytelling gifts are seriously undermined by his flatfootedly didactic tendencies.