Forever Peace (1997)
Spine Front Cover Book Details
Author
Joe Haldeman
Publication Date 2003
Format Leather-bound (235 x 160 mm)
Publisher The Easton Press
Genre Science Fiction
Product Details
Series Masterpieces of Science Fiction
No. of Pages 326
Paper Type Acid-neutral paper
First Edition No
Personal Details
URL This book on Amazon.com
Rating 7
No. of Reviews 94
Credits
Frontispiece/Illustrator Adrian Chesterman
Introduction/Foreward George Zebrowski
Original Details
Original Publisher Berkley Pub Group
Original Publication Year 1997
Plot
Such vision!!

The war between the rich and the poor worlds, partly economic and partly racist, is a plausible description of what could happen if the "3rd World" actually stood up and demanded economic justice. In Forever Peace, the Ngumi, a fictitious alliance of Third World forces, fight the exploitation of the rich world. Scifi ideas are explored against this background.

"Browns, blacks and some yellows" fighting for a decent life against "whites and other yellows". Hugely imbalanced war, technologically and economically. Sounds familiar? In 2003, the war to keep the darkies in their place has already begun, Iraq being the first round.

The difference is that, in the real world, us darkies are ruled by proxy monsters usually installed by the White world; sacrificing us to the interests of Western finance; and sinking the black/brown world deeper and deeper into a mire of greater poverty from which we will likely never recover, as the white man's economic noose settles tighter and tighter around our throats. We can only hope --- perhaps this desperation might lead to the rise of a moral and able leadership, like the "Ngumi" in Haldeman's "Forever Peace".

The "nuking of Atlanta" -- so prophetic, so similar to the real-world attack on America (Sept 11), giving the American ("Alliance") militarists and religious fanatics carte blanche to embark on an indefinite war against some segment of the Third World.

Other descriptions in the book also uncannily resemble real-world America after 9/11. news of a man * suspected * of being a terrorist and summarily executed. Wars raging in distant lands with doctored sanitized war-news coverage at home. Rising racism and xenophobia. Descriptions of jailed brown people, sickening reminder of Guantanamo Bay.

I like the hope of a better world in Forever Peace. But I have the nasty feeling that, in the real world, the West will find it easy to keep the Third World controlled and impoverished, with proxy leaders and various pretenses.

The crucial events in the book, the rebellion against the Western war-machine, come from educated Americans who are drafted as soldierboy-controllers and who find the U.S./Alliance atrocities abhorrent. This is maybe modelled on the Vietnam era protest phenomenon, which Haldeman knows intimately.

In the real world today, unfortunately, the American ruling classes have found a way around this. The U.S. has a large class of poor half-educated people who can serve in the military, without being a threat to the military, should they develop a conscience. The draft is not necessary if you have enough people whose opportunities are so limited that the military seems attractive to them.

It has been said that readers don't relate well to Haldeman's characters. This seems to be a general weakness in Haldeman's writing.

On the other hand, the motivations and beliefs of the characters in "Forever Peace" are often well-drawn and realistic. Some examples --

(1) I know black Americans today with the same political approach as Julian. My friend XXXXX is aware that much of US foreign policy is based on racist aims and motives, but he takes the pragmatic approach of silence. Sometimes he is bothered by U.S. support for white landowners in Zimbabwe, or for fairer Israelis against darker Palestinians, or for the fairer richer people in Venezuela. (In each case the racial component of U.S. support only thinly veiled.) But my black-American friend suppresses these pangs of conscience well, and like a good citizen, says nothing and makes no protest.

(2) The open-minded religious woman, Ellie Frazer of the Twenty, as opposed to the fanatic nuts among the Enders. I personally know religious people of both these stereotypical extremes, and I thought the contrast was described well, if a bit over-dramatic.

And oh, I should say something about the science ideas. They're good. Controlling robots remotely through a connection to your spine, being jacked to each other's brains, the "jill" prostitutes, the description of theoretical physics research. All good.

After gushing over the book for so long, I should also list some negatives: (1) the writing style is not so successful at evoking sympathy for the characters; (2) the second half of the book is short of scifi ideas, this part reads more like an action thriller.
Notes
Collector's Notes

The Forever War made Joe Haldeman's reputation. It was not his first novel - that was War Year, published in 1972 - but The Forever War was published in novelette-sized episodes in Analog, beginning in 1972, and its 1975 novel version won the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. A bit more than twenty years later he returned to the question of future war with Forever Peace - and it won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Awards for best science-fiction novel of the year.

Forever Peace, in spite of the title resemblance, is not a sequel to The Forever War, but it is, as Haldeman said in an interview, "a continuation of the ideas in The Forever War." Both reflect Haldeman's experience as a combat engineer in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded and received a purple heart. But then almost everything Haldeman writes has autobiographical roots, beginning with the non-science- fictional War Year. In 1994 he published 1968, which he described as an attempt to recapture the year he had lost between 1967 and 1969. Haldeman calls The Forever War, 1968, and Forever Peace a "triptych." The three novels, he has said, define "a surface as, in mathematics, three points define a surface. It's a philosophical surface that everyone of our age has been concerned with all of our intellectual lives: the problems of war and pacificism. . . . Why has any of this happened?"

Haldeman has, gone on to say that "being in combat changes your life completely; usually for the worse." The Forever War also was, in part, a response to Robert A. Heinlein's 1959 Starship Troopers. It, too, won the Hugo Award but many readers and critics thought it glorified combat.

Haldeman says some of this in a Caveat Lector, calling it "a kind of sequel. . . examining some of [ Forever War's] problems from an angle that didn't exist twenty years ago." Part of the new angle is virtual combat, with jacked-in "mechanics" who control "soldierboys" from afar. Part of the new is the bounty (and unequal distribution) of nano technology. Part is the apocalyptic Jupiter Project, and its possibilities of recreating "the Big Bang" and "resetting" the universe. Part is the utopian potential in the jacking-in process. Like H. G. Wells, Haldeman cannot envision a change in human character without some intervening cataclysmic event. Mix them all together with Haldeman's rich concern for character and inventiveness, and a suspenseful plot, and the result is Forever Peace.

The novel was published in October 1997 by Ace Books as a 326-page hard cover, reprinted in March 1998 by the Science Fiction Book Club, in October 1998 by Ace as a 351-page paperback, and in November 1999 by Orion/Millennium in Great Britain. Recent books include The Coming (1999) and Forever Free, which is a sequel (2000).

Haldeman combines the virtues of the scientist and the literary artist in one ideal SF package. Born in Oklahoma City in 1943, Haldeman earned a B.S. in physics and astronomy from the University of Mary land. He went directly into the military and, thereafter, to Vietnam. Upon his return and convalescence, he attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop and, in 1975, on the publication of The Forever War, earned his Master of Fine Arts. He has been a full-time writer since 1970.

Haldeman has both taught and edited: as teaching assistant at the University of Iowa and currently as adjunct professor of literature at M.I.T. one semester each year, and as editor of Astronomy. Writing has been his profession and his passion, however, and he has published almost a dozen and a half novels, half a dozen volumes of short stories, and three plays. He also has edited or co-edited more than half a dozen anthologies, including (significantly) Study War No More, Body Armor: 200, Supertanks, and Spacefighters.

In the process Haldeman has won a number of awards, including a Hugo and Nebula for the novella version of his novel The Hemingway Hoax, a Nebula for "Graves," and Hugos for "Tricentennial" and "None So Blind." As a poet he has won SF poetry's Rhysling Award in 1984 and 1990.

Haldeman is a world-traveler and a frequenter, with his wife Gay, of science-fiction conventions and conferences. He is one of the few writers who compose their novels by hand in a journal that Gay transcribes for him each day. Of his writing, John Clute in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wrote: "Throughout his career there has been a sense - not usual in US sf - that JH thinks of his novels as necessary acts in a lifelong enterprise, a moral theatre whose meaning will be defined only when he finishes."

His readers hope that time doesn't come soon.