Where I Got It: The library
Who I Recommend This To: If you like mech warriors, then this is a great book.
Publisher: Ace (1998)
Length: 368 pages
Series: The Forever War Book 2
Sites such as Goodreads list this book as a sequel to The Forever War (which was fascinating, far future, fighting aliens), however Joe Haldeman wrote this book 20+ years after The Forever War was published, and it is set solely on Earth with no space travel or aliens. Anyway, unclear if the two are meant to be linked in anyway other than a similarity of title. The world is roughly divided into the technically advanced and educated and the starving, farming masses. Julian Class has a degree, a jack in his head, and was forced into the soldier boy program for the military. For 10 days at a time, he will be jacked into a full-body pod that allows him to operate a mechanized warrior from afar, along with his team. They will know each other intimately for those days, often blurring who is who. Being jacked with another human is one of the most intimate things a person can experience, and if that jack is ever broken or removed, a person often feels they have lost part of their mind, if not their soul.
Julian spends his non-military time teaching at a university. His lover Blaze, and once upon a time mentor, is also a professor. And an older woman, which is a fact that only seems to aggravate Julian’s mother. The world is in constant turmoil by the ongoing conflict, much of which rages in South America. So far, the South American forces are fractured and lack the same level of technology as the American forces. Add to this, a radical religious group that works unceasingly to bring about the end of the world, quickening Man’s reunion with The Almighty.
Haldeman introduces the revolutionary technology of these miraculous boxes that can provide any item requested, provided the raw materials are provided. This allows several governments of the world to provide the basics for all their citizens. Holding down a paid job is not longer necessary for day to day living; now such a paid job provides extras and a sense of self-worth. In Haldeman’s book, this created a society that is largely made up of people leading pointless lives, often enjoying a little bit of crime to obtain the credits needed to purchase such luxuries as alcohol. Only a small percentage of society elect to pursue some career, Julian and Blaze being two such folks.
As the tale unfolds, the nitty gritty side of the mechanized warriors and the unclean war Julian has been forced into become more clear. Haldeman also doesn’t shrink from exploring the suicidal thoughts of Julian, delving into his reasons. There is also sex, which is equally beautiful and messed up (which is often how it is in real life). Blaze and a fellow scientist stumble into a discovery about the Jupiter Project that could end the known world, but how will they convince the right politicians and the scientific world in time? Add to that, Blaze and Julian have friends working secretly towards world peace, and they may just have the key to it…..using the jacks. All told, it was an amazing story wholly different from The Forever War yet just was compelling having grabbed a hold of me (by the short and curlies) from the start and not letting go to the very end.
What I Liked: Mech warriors are destructive yet bring intimacy for the jacked team; Blaze is a strong, educated, and still faulted woman; the various discussions of suicide are done within the storyline; the struggle for peace is not simple and nor would there be a lack of casualties; the sex; I clicked with Julian from the beginning; the fanatical religious group was well-organized and chilling; the women are just as real, flawed, and deadly as the men.
What I Disliked: Well, been staring at this section for 5 minutes and can’t come up with anything. So that means it was a pretty freaking good book. Go get a copy and settle in with a good drink and your favorite posable robot.
This month is The Science Fiction Experience over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Make sure to stop by over there for more great SF.