Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Review: Forever Peace

This Review is for Forever Peace by Joe Haldemann, one of my grumpier reviews.

Forever Peace (Remembering Tomorrow)
by Joe Haldeman
(1/5 stars)

Forever is not long enough to make me want to read this garbage again. Much like "Forever Free", "Forever Peace" starts out somewhat strong but falls apart by the halfway point, degenerating into a lame James Bond, cloak-and-dagger yarn. By the time "Peace" staggers into the rushed conclusion, Haldeman is no longer writing, but merely telling the reader things that happened. His characters have no substance, especially the main character, Julian Class, who is a carbon copy of "Forever War" hero William Mandela, right down to the physics degree. Most distressing of all, Haldeman ignores a cardinal rule of writing, alternating between 1st and 3rd person for no clear reason at all.

The main difference between the classic "Forever War" and the far inferior "Forever Peace" and "Forever Free" is that the "Forever War" focuses solely on one character and the events around him, while the two other books start out focusing on one character and then try to deal with large, weighty issues. Unfortunately for readers, Haldeman is bad at dealing with weighty issues, so the books turn into outrageous tales with plots as thin as a video game.

For instance, the primary thrust of "Forever Peace" is that if people get a hole drilled in their head and network ("jack" as it's called) with a bunch of other people for a few days, then they'll come out as perfect pacifists unable to kill unless in self-defense. As rediculous as that sounds, Haldeman never bothers to deal with any issues surrounding this, assuming that everyone would want to get a hole drilled in their head and bear their soul to a bunch of strangers. In fact, people in island countries like Cuba, the UK, etc. will up and move to the mainland so that those sad few who can't be "humanized" can be isolated on the islands so they don't hurt anyone. Of course in Haldeman's world, the massive task of drilling billions of holes and shifting millions of people around can all be accomplished in two years.

Maybe I'm wrong, but if someone wants to abduct me, drill a hole in my skull, hook me up with a bunch of strangers, and force me out of my home, I might not exactly be first in line. But hey, let's not let reality interfere with the story.

In closing, "The Forever War" was a triumph for Haldeman, but its sequel "Forever Free" and pseudosequel "Forever Peace" are travesties of literature. It astonishes me that "Forever Peace" won the Hugo & Nebula Awards, I hope that it ran unopposed.

Tomorrow Box Office Blitz Continues!


  1. So... no stars?

    The problem I have with future dystopias, etc., like "The Hunger Games" or this premise is this: How would that arise?

    I have trouble getting over the disbelief for some futuristic governments because I can't see how they would work at all. I'm sure Haldeman thought "Oh, yeah, people want to share on the Internet and all" so this seemed like a logical progression, but like you said, it's a HOLE DRILLED IN YOUR HEAD. There are significant numbers of people who object to genetically modified corn or vaccinations of kids, and those are relatively nonintrusive.

    So I agree: I can't see this just happening, even as an outgrowth of current trends. And it's one thing to have a government that's flying killer drones through commercial airspace, as we do now: people aren't personally inconvenienced by that, so it's easy to let slide. Look at the past couple of wars: the vast majority of people didn't care who we were fighting, because only volunteers were dying. But in Vietnam, there was a draft and the popular opinion was far stronger against it.

    So a government that just one day decides it's going to do the things set out in the book better have some way of forcing compliance.

    I guess the thing is for me, whatever system you set up - - magic, dinosaurs, totalitarian governments -- has to have some sort of internal logic to it. If you want to say magic works, stick to the rules of how your magic works and don't go all "REALLY OLD MAGIC SAVES THE DAY" at the end, J.K. Rowling.

    And if you want to have totalitarian governments, have those make sense. In 1984, the totalitarian government operated much like the Soviets, which we know could happen. While I haven't read "The Hunger Games," the premise seems impossible to me: why would people voluntarily send their children off to die (all but one) and live in starvation? Sure, you could say that serfs did something like that, letting the king have all the good stuff, but remember that the king had knights on his side, and that serfs believed that kings ruled by divine right.

    And the Romans had the Coliseum, but as I understand it, it was preserved for Christians and criminals. Average Romans weren't being selected by lot to go kill each other.

    Anyway, I'll be skipping this book.

    1. In The Hunger Games no one wants to send their kids into the Games--well almost no one--but all the "districts" got their ass kicked in the war and so this is the punishment, a way to demand tribute.

  2. That makes no sense. I guess the idea is that you learn what it's like to be someone else and then become nicer to people? It's a simplistic idea, and I couldn't see it actually working. A grumpy review indeed.

  3. So how do you feel about this book---really?

  4. I think Haldeman has a bit of a problem with the structure of all his novels. I loved Forever War, and liked a few others (Camouflage comes to mind), but it seems like I get really swept up in all of them early, then start scratching my head halfway through. At least they tend to be really short.

  5. I had a hard time getting into Forever War and have wanted to give it a second chance. I read about 25% and all I remember is people in training moving from place to place. Too bad about the sequels.



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