Forever Peace

October 12, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

peaceForever Peace by Joe Haldeman


Much has been made of this book not being a sequel to The Forever War. Despite its similar title, and despite it appearing in omnibus editions with that book and Forever Free, it exists in its own universe, and covers themes not touched on in The Forever War. The only connection I could find was a town called Mandellaville, but that’s more an Easter egg than an actual connection.

The story is about Julian Class, a soldier in the US army fighting a war in South America. This is a future war, where the soldiers are locked in to battle suits, which in turn control battle suits out on the field. The good news for such a setup is that when a suit in battle is damaged or destroyed, its pilot survives (usually); the bad news is that it creates dependencies and other psychological effects on the soldiers.

The first half of the book is largely a rehash of the themes and details from The Forever War, showing life as a soldier in a future army. With the second half, the true story begins, forcing me to readjust what I was getting from the story. What precedes this shift is necessary, but it makes the novel feel like two stories: a war story; and a futuristic thriller.

Haldeman shifts between first and third person sections in this book (there are no chapters, only section breaks), which struck me as off. Some of those sections allow for a viewpoint other than Julian’s, but most of them could be told from his point of view without much change, and I wonder why the author chose to write the story this way. Even for the sections written outside of his viewpoint could have been included in the first person, since the story references the future in vague ways, suggesting the story is written as a reminiscence of Julian’s. It makes the story feel like Haldeman sat down with an idea and started writing just to see where it would go.

The story is thoughtful, and the second half shows that the author can write plot-centric stories as well as military stories, but it feels schizophrenic. I enjoyed it enough to give it three stars, and I would recommend it, but with some hesitation. It’s good, but not OHMYGOSH good.

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