Forever Peace

Joe Haldeman
Forever Peace Cover

Quietly, Deeply Grotesque


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. This is serious SF that should not be taken lightly and it's sure to become one of my favorites.