Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Audible Review, "The Forever War"

            I finished this book on Audible not too long ago and decided to expand on the review I put there (hence the list of questions about the book to help give the review some structure for people who do not review movies and books as a hobby).  Strangely this book was recommended to me by my former roommate back in 2014-2015 but I never got around to reading it because I was too busy being a lazy pile of garbage masquerading as a graduate student.
            Anyway, I almost gave up on this book a couple times because (aside from the emotional core of the C-plot) there wasn’t much about it that entertained me, it is kind of a slog.  That “TLDR” said, this is my review of Joel Haldeman’s “The Forever War” or as it could have been called, “Space Viet Nam”.
Unlike "Stranger in a Strange Land" this book has a metric ton of art.
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
            I would only recommend this to a person who really likes science fiction minutia. There are big sections that are just descriptions of the weapons, armor, tactics, materials, and other science related details of fighting a battle. If you like the "tech" part of science fiction than this will definitely appeal.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
            I would have had more characters call out the main character on his bullshit.  It only happens once and it is one of the better things in the book.  There is a chapter in which they give him a psych evaluation and call him a "Failed Pacifist" and that his "tolerance" is only what he thinks is tolerant, that he actually does have bigoted thoughts and they do interfere with his judgement, but he doesn’t admit such things to himself.  That is clever, I wanted more of that.
            Hearing a lot of the main character’s thoughts as a modern audience, his describing himself as "normal" because he isn't gay comes off as bigoted to me.  I have to keep telling myself how it is a product of its time.

What about the voice actor, George Wilson’s performance?  Did you like it?
            George has a strong ability to give distinct voices to all the different characters, it is much appreciated. I think that Plot-C (the love story) works so well in large part because he is such a strong voice actor.

Did “The Forever War” inspire you to do anything?
            Continue with looking at other science fiction titles dealing with war, though other books much lighter in tone.  (I liked “Old Man’s War” a lot more because of its lighter tone, even if it is far less “realistic”).
I will probably get around to all of these before the TV series starts getting put out.
Any additional comments?
            To me, there are 3 big aspects to the book that can be broken up at looked at individually, mostly because the thing changes gears between them super abruptly.
            First, there are the discussions science. Tech is described in detail and at length... Kind of boring unless you really like that kind of harder sci-fi.  The science is surprisingly hard and realistic.  At one point a seismic event happens because of an attack drone hitting the surface of a moon at near light speed and it kind of cracks the planetoid.  That’s cool.  At no point, do you feel like something is unclear in how it works or what it can do.

            Second, the social commentary of leaving Earth and coming back to a totally transformed society in which fashion, urban unrest, poverty, and homosexuality are major cultural forces to the point that it massively alienates the protagonist. This stuff comes off as obnoxious at various points and kind of took me out of the story, which is set 40 years after this book was written; apparently, there will be interstellar flight and explosive growth and shrinkage of the Earth's population in that time which reads as insane.
            Compared to the discussions of science this part seemed laughably out of touch.  It also has a shockingly poor grasp of the UN’s role in international politics, sure it might change with interstellar war going on, but the idea that they institute a worldwide currency based around rationing sounds crazy.  This is another instance in which “YOU HAVE INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL” should have a much bigger impact on how Earth works like how I squinted condescendingly at the film adaptation of “Ender’s Game”.

            Lastly there is the love story, which works completely.  At least it did for me. The story epilogue was sweet and appreciated because this C-plot worked so well.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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