06 January 2013

Forever Peace

As usual, horrendous barcode FAIL.

Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
1998 Hugo Award Winner
Got it from: Public Library
351 Pages

From the back copy:

“2043 A.D.: The Ngumi War rages, fought by “soldierboys”—remote control war machines run by soldiers hundreds of miles away.  Julian Class is one of these soldiers, and for him, war is indeed hell…”

Quietly, deeply grotesque
The violence is tarantino-esque.  There are no wounds.  If a soldier doesn’t die, the injury, the pain, the experiences are permanent, emotional, and deeply, deeply unsettling.  Despite being a war fought by long-distance controlled robots, the fighting, and the death, though infrequent, is personal and visceral.  Also think, No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers’ quietly grotesque masterpiece.

Similar to Forever War, the narrative is exceptionally somber; the telling almost has a dead-pan quality as if a victim were being interrogated while still in shock.  Of course, this only increases the reader’s emotional response to the tale.  Being an intelligent writer, one would expect Haldeman’s Hugo winners to be a heady experience, maybe resembling Le Guin’s novels.  Forever Peace certainly has the same intellectual weightiness, but that combination of visceral intelligence and somber storytelling lands directly in the stomach; it’s as if you’ve swallowed several dirt and moss covered stones, and they’re heavy, and you know they’ll never pass.

But that’s not entirely accurate.  Forever Peace gives you a heck of a lot to chew on.  The same struggle with enlisted men and women assimilated as Forever War, and the difficulty of justifying a war that is just so hard to understand.  There’s also race, bioethics and this history of the universe to keep you mentally on your toes.  I took it in relatively quick and I think that may have been a problem.  It’s less than 400 pages, but  I could have spent a month on it and only begun to digest this intellectual tome.

Although it isn’t strictly a sequel, it is a marvelous companion piece to Forever War.  Despite how depressing Forever Peace can be (I felt I was constantly battling feelings of guilt, anger and sorrow) it is an absolute must.  It’s also a great piece for someone making their way through the history of the genre.  There is a certain quality to their scheming and the voice certain characters that reminded me of a number of other authors, especially Heinlein and while the books stands firmly on its own, it has an undeniable contextual appeal for being deeply-rooted in the genre.

Forever Peace also made me a little depressed.  I just finished it today and I wanted to get this review done quickly (which accounts for the brevity) so it doesn’t have to sit in my head any longer than it naturally would.  This is serious SF that should not be taken lightly and it’s one of my favorites.


Universe 5/5
Social/Political Climate 5/5
Dialogue 4/5
Scientific Wonders 5/5
Characters 5/5

Overall 24/25


  1. You didn't find this one as hopeful as I did, eh?

    1. Well, certainly there is some hope there, but it was the depressing moments that really made an impression on me. Maybe if I hadn't written this so hastily, I would have elaborated on it more.

      But honestly, I think this book is more about the casualties and sacrifices of war and what we give up than any peace we get out of it.

      The copy on the back cover talks about this book not being a sequel but an update so it's more relevant to today's society. Personally, I thought Forever War was plenty relevant but I think the copy indicates Haldeman's outlook didn't necessarily change, just that he (for what reason - I don't know) thought the story needed retelling.

  2. hmm...what does it say about me that I was already noting the title at "quietly grotesque" not that I made it far into No Country... I really like the idea of this one.

    ~L (omphaloskepsis)

    1. Haha. I think any parent can appreciate the grotesque :)

      Actually I think this is just your kind of dark though. As Seb indicated, there is a fair amount of hope and more than a few ethical quandaries and quite a lot of intellectual stimulation. You should try it out.

  3. I look forward to reading this. I read The Forever War for a class in college on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic film, and really enjoyed it, and was surprised by how much it made me think. I couldn't tell from your review if you felt one was better than the other, though I fully expect that both are similarly great.

    1. Ack! Don't ask me to say which is better! I feel like this one was somehow even more moving and sad and I cared more about pretty much everything, but that could also just be a short memory. I remember really loving Forever War and now I'm looking back at the HEP score and wondering why the heck I only gave it 21.

      Anyway, if you liked Forever War you'll feel the same about Peace. Don't pass it up.

  4. I recently finished Forever War, my first Haldeman experience. I really enjoyed the intensity of it and the use of time dilation. I plan to read Forever Peace within the next few months.

    1. You'll appreciate the same intensity here... Enjoy!


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