This retro review of the very disappointing sequel to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is from September 19, 2000.
Review: Forever Free, Joe Haldeman, 1999.
It’s been twenty-some years since the last survivors of the Forever War set up home on Middle Finger which serves as sort of a genetic preserve run by the smug and superior clone groupmind known as Man. William Mandella, wife Marygay, and many of the other old veterans are getting tired of their relatively primitive life on that planet. And they find Man disconcertingly alien and fear that the clones will someday decide to rid themselves of their inferiors. They hatch a plan to fly a starship fast enough to take advantage of relativistic effects and return to Middle Finger 40,000 years in its future. A future where they hope Man will be absent or have evolved to the point of leaving them alone.
Tauran representatives and Man put obstacles in their way, but old human cunning wins out, and they embark for the future. But things are just getting under way when very odd things began to happen. Antimatter begins inexplicably disappearing from their ship. And even odder things have happened to the people back on Middle Finger and Earth . . .
Haldeman can’t be faulted for not wanting to make this sequel to The Forever War a war story. Instead, he gives us a mystery story. Unfortunately, the novel is unbalanced by the payoff he gives us at the end. It’s too glib, too metaphysical to justify the length of the story before it nor is the idea that new. On the other hand, Haldeman could have explored the consequences of his solution more fully which would have lead to a better and longer novel.
The novel opens with a poem about men assuming the powers of gods to bring about peace. Haldeman doesn’t really develop that theme much or make any coherent thematic statements about war and violence and freedom as I hoped he would.