Book Review: The Forever War

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1974, 288 pages, Science Fiction)

The Forever War is a science fiction classic — and righly so.  Written in response to the author’s experience in the Vietnam War, the novel follows Mandela, a young man conscripted to fight in an interstellar conflict against a little understood alien foe.  It is deeply thematic story, examining the dehumanization of warfare, as well as its bureaucratic aspects.  Despite a philosophical bent, most of the story is told through unfolding action sequences, in which Mandela is trained, dispatched to battle, discharged, reenlisted, and so on.  The catch is that unlike humanity’s previous wars, ‘time dilation’ plays a role in this future conflict.  Due to faster than light travel through the stars, Mandela barely ages while life on Earth unspools for decades, and eventually centuries.  Mandela stays young, a hero in a war that should never have been waged, while everything he’s fought for changes beyond recognition.

The Forever War is a condemnation, a satire, and a love story all at once.  There are sections that drag, and the crushing reality of war can be a hard slog at times, but this book is well worth reading.  Not only does it ring with unfortunate relevance today, but it also offers a deeply satisfying conclusion.  Invest your time in Haldeman’s book and be rewarded with characters and a story you will continue to think about for days and weeks after.

To infinity, and beyond!

It has been remarked upon by those who know me that I seem always to be traveling.  Whether it’s trips to visit family, vacations with the hubby or my globe-trotting Dad, attending conferences or writing workshops, heading out for archaeological field work, or taking trips to visit friends, I get on a plane and head off for parts unknown an average of 2 weeks out of every 4.

In fact, I leave tomorrow for a trip to Seattle.

Though I have this off-hand notion that travel is disruptive and often think ‘oh, if only I had an uninterrupted stretch of time to settle in get some work done’…in point of fact, I’m far more productive when I travel frequently and have only short stretches of uninterrupted work time.  The truth is, I find uninterrupted work time stultifying and dull and tend to spend it surfing the internet or inventing errands and household tasks.  On the other hand, when I know I’m headed out the door on Wednesday, you can bet I work my little fingers to the bone tap-tap-tapping the keyboard on Monday and Tuesday.

I also find travel a great source of creative renewal.  Every time I go somewhere new (or even somewhere not new), I find myself inspired by the people, the sights, the smells, the sounds, the colors, and the energy.  Likewise, I tend to find myself cramming little writing sessions into chunks of time I would consider too short to be useful at home.  When at home, I might deem a half an hour insufficient to get “real” work done and thus better spent reading, cleaning, or watching dross on TV (totally illogical, I know).  Meanwhile, I’ve snatched half hour blocks of time and pounded out thousands of words while doing the following on the road:

— sitting in the lobby at Readercon in Boston

–waiting for visiting hours to start at a hospital in New Orleans

–waiting for my hosts or travel companions to wake up in places as varied as Miami, Seattle, Arizona, Las Vegas, England, and Scotland

–waiting for the plane at the Salt Lake City airport

–waiting for the power to come back on/rain to stop/bathroom to be free in Honduras

For me, I think it boils down to the fact that when I travel, time takes on much great weight and urgency and I subsequently find myself far less likely to squander it.

Drawbacks to travel include jet lag, cost, and…well, I can’t think of other ones!  Can you?

What’s your view on travel?  Do you do it a lot or a little?  Does traveling and the time constraints it imposes make you more or less productive?  Does it help your writing or hurt it?

July is a saucy Minx

July is a flirt.  She flipped her skirt up at me, promised a wild ride, and then snuck out the back door when I wasn’t looking.  Now it’s August and I’m feeling dazed and not a little exhausted.

Two big things happened in July, both of which were great and neither of which helped my writing a jot.  First, I traveled to Honduras to help get my archaeological field project set up and running.  Second, my husband and I bought and moved into a new apartment – the first home we can truly call our own.  In between, I took a trip to Boston for Readercon.

Amidst all this travel, I did manage to squeeze in a little work, though not as much as I would have liked.

1. I made only wee bits of progress on ABSENT, my archaeological time travel novel.  I’m pretty close to finishing the rough draft, but most of what I accomplished in July was editing.  I took a hard copy of the manuscript to Honduras and marked it up in my spare time.

2. BLOOD RED SUN is still out to market, though I did recently get a partial request from an agent I’d be beyond thrilled to work with.  Even if she passes, I’m happy the query excited her interest.  All of my short stories are waiting on decisions at various magazines.

3. I Beta read a novel for a writing buddy (a real door-stopper at over 120K, but a fun read).

4. I did quite a lot of reading (much of it on my lovely new Nook).  This included “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ranson Riggs, “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness, “Hammered” by Kevin Hearne, “Magic Slays” by Ilona Andrews, “The Forever War” by John Haldeman, and “Grave Dance” and “Grave Witch” by Kalayna Price.

All in all, a good month.  August looks to be a little less hectic, but that’s probably just when viewed from afar.  I’ve got a trip to Seattle coming up, in which I plan to do a little research for the dark Urban Fantasy novel I’m working on (I’m tentatively thinking to set it in Port Townsend and Seattle).  I also intend (no, VOW) to finish the rough draft of ABSENT before I leave for Seattle.  That means it will be done by Thursday.  No Matter What.  I’m also facing down quite a bit of course prep, as the new semester begins at the end of the month.

What were your big accomplishments and adventures in July?  What have you got on tap for August?  Do share, dear Reader!