Forever Peace – Joe Haldeman

In the bleak future depicted in this novel, the USA and nations allied to it fight a seemingly endless low grade war against a loose coalition of other countries and organizations. Sound familiar? Terror and lies are the norm on both sides. The US uses “Soldierboys”, robots under remote control by soldiers that are “jacked in” (neurally connected) to them from a remote location. The concept of neural jacking is central to the novel, with its effects and side effects explored at length. The USA controls “nanoforge” technology, which allows very cheap manufacture of goods and food. This has created an economic divide not only towards non-allies, but towards the people of the USA. A quasi-socialist system where the populace need not work but then only gets the bare minimum has been instated. On the other hand, the draft is in place, and pretty much everyone has to do five years. The story itself follows one Soldierboy operator, starting with the battlefields of Central America. It quickly moves on from there, to the issues with his girlfriend, who does not have a neural jack. In the second half, however, the protagonist and others attempt to stage a coup in order to end war for good.

This is a follow-up, but not a sequel, to the more famous The Forever War. The Vietnam reaction present in that novel is clear here as well. However, instead of exploring the soldier himself, Forever Peace looks at the social construct of a state that has become an end unto itself. The military-industrial complex is all powerful, and religious and other organizations fight for control of the state, and thus the nanoforges and the people.

Unlike The Forever War and Forever Free, this novel was not nearly as well plotted. The first half is excellent, with a clear direction and a good evolution of the characters. The second half introduces a host of new characters and is too much chase when contrasted to the excellent first half. It is unfortunate, since the degeneration into action thriller does not serve well the excellent and intriguing concepts Haldeman uses to shape his world. A decent read, but I was disappointed with the second half. I was especially annoyed at the whole “saving the Universe” part, which was a cool concept to begin with, but by the end felt contrived and unnecessary.

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