THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman (Millennium £6.99 1999 pp 254)
I AM LEGEND is a tale of paranoia, like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, but it also provides an explanation of vampirism, and the significance of the stakes etc, meaning that it is SF rather than fantasy. It is also, of course, a portrait of America - the question is what sort of American man is Robert Neville; what sort of woman was his wife, who came back from her tomb to him; what could he do to honour his daughter after her death? And what sort of people were his neighbours who, after their deaths, find him so terrible who was once just an ordinary citizen?
Joe Haldeman had difficulty in finding a publisher for THE FOREVER WAR, and the edition that circulated for years was not the finished work. In his introduction, Haldeman explains that this edition contains his final text, though a quick check shows just a few changes.
For a book which begins in 1997 and ends in 3143, this one reads fast. It is also brutal. It is a book about expediency. A war has begun with a species in a distant constellation soon after long distance space travel has become possible. Thereafter everything must be dedicated to the war. The soldiers are conscripts given weapons and armour as high-tech as possible. Since the best weapon a future soldier could have is its brain, that armour will sacrifice any other part of the soldier's body to keep the brain. There are a lot of prosthetics in the future war.
Oddly, there is less time. Time dilates for the soldier going to the battle zone. Ten years can seem like two. In rare periods of R & R back on earth things are less and less familiar, and worse (because everything is going into the war effort) less and less desirable.
These SF Masterworks deserve their place on the shelves, only when they are not being read.
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