Archive for October, 2014

Joe Haldeman – Forever Free

Friday, October 10th, 2014

There are very few classics, especially those that have a seemingly standalone story, to which a sequel is written. Joe Haldeman did so on his Science Fiction classic The Forever War, although it took 25 years before he wrote it. Such a large difference in time could be troublesome to cover. A writer changes and so would how he writes. Great was my surprise that when I started reading Forever Free (1999) that is fit perfectly with the earlier story in atmosphere and style of prose. I could make such an assessment because I had finished The Forever War only a day before.

Haldeman returns to his main protagonist a considerable amount of years after the end of The Forever War. The pace is similar to that novel although the progress of the story is much slower. Haldeman takes his time to make the reader familiar with the setting and he easily creates a very likeable world and people. The plot develops quickly and soon reaches a boiling point. All that happens remains however on a low level. There is nothing of the shocking and hardcore impacts of The Forever War. It takes rather long before the story gets to the point where it gets interesting.

And this is were Haldeman puts in his great twist that turns everything upside down and takes the story to something utterly different than what the reader would have expected. What follows is more of a mystery quest. It reminded me most of the twist in From Dusk Till Dawn, although there is no resemblance in the story. While that plottwist was exciting it had the opposite effect for me. I did not like it. I had been in the mood for something very different and what I got was not it. Haldeman’s approach to the story he wanted to tell was in my view somewhat silly. I will not tell what it is, but it is a thing people have talked about regarding certain theories while it has rarely been ever used in a novel. It is not even original as another classic science fiction novel used it to great effect and the idea obviously is much older. Unfortunately Haldeman chooses a different approach and like I said it felt silly to me.

So yes, plotwise Forever Free is not a very good novel. It is okay for the first half and poor in the second. The story however is written well, with the quality of Haldeman although he at times takes easy approaches and avoids real drama. Or as the main protagonist took it: “something bad happened, but I did not really care”. Forever Free has some interesting points and reads well enough. Haldeman provides some more insights into the universe of The Forever War, although there seem to be some oddities. He aims to explain a number of things that might have bugged some readers of The Forever War, but honestly these were of very minor importance. The Forever War was not about realism or a flawless story. It carried a message and used the different settings and events to create a powerful impact on the reader.

Forever Free is thus a sequel that should not be. It is not a waste, but it does not add anything either. It does not damage The Forever War as that had a very different approach and theme. While The Forever War made me think about many things for a while, the opposite happened with Forever Free: to quickly forget about it and begin with the next novel.