Review of Forever Peace

Forever Peace
Joe Haldeman
Ace Books, New York

Reviewed by Nick Christenson,

September 25, 1997

The title of the book, Forever Peace, might imply that this is a sequel to Haldeman's Hugo and Nebula award winner, Forever War. It's not, the characters and story are entirely different. It cannot be called a sequel except perhaps on a spiritual level.

The book is true to Haldeman's trademark style. The characters are plausible, human individuals, heroic in the classic sense. They and the events, even when hopeful and positive, are painted with a dark brush. No good deed comes without its shadow, no benefit to humanity without some curse, and no characters are without their demons. Nonetheless, this book is not nearly as depressing as some of Haldeman's darkest works, such as War Year or All My Sins Remembered.

The story is that of a draftee and his academic friends who have, at about the same time, stumbled upon the cause of the end of the world and the salvation of the human race. This is a chronicle of their successes and their failings. In the tradition of the best Science Fiction, the reader is imparted with the potential for both greatness and wickedness of the human race.

One of the things that most clearly distinguishes the good Science Fiction authors from the bad is the intelligence of their protagonists. Haldeman has smart people behave intelligently. They figure things out quickly and explore important questions deeply. Characters think about issues while they are ``off stage'' and the experts arrive at conclusions long before they become obvious to the reader. In the midst of this, Haldeman manages to develop his thoughts for us through natural dialogue on the parts of his characters. Many merely good authors don't come close to being able to pull this off.

Haldeman is in top form here. The writing is direct and powerful. The message is transferred with an economy of words and effortless style. Haldeman does use a technique of slipping between first and third person that can be momentarily disconcerting, but he manages to pull it off reasonably well. It's not nearly as dominant or blatant as one would find in Zelazny's more experimental works.

The story line is well thought out and the suspension of disbelieve required is not at all unreasonable. The author manages to explore some fairly tricky and deep territory without being preachy, banal, or contrived. It's a standard Science Fiction device to have two revolutionary technological breakthroughs arrive on the scene at about the same time which get tied together, as in this book. It's always a little tough to stomach such a cliche, even when it's as well executed as it is here. This is the harshest criticism I can level on this book, though, which isn't at all bad.

Overall, this is one of Haldeman's better works, a worthy successor to Forever War, and one that ought to be considered when the Hugo and Nebula award nominations come out.


While not a sequel to Forever War as the title might imply, it shares that book's mixed tone of optimism and depression, and it's themes of exploring the most gentle and most violent parts of human nature. This is a very well written book. It was a pleasure to read and I recommend it highly, especially if you're already a Haldeman fan.