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Forever Free Hardcover – December 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

You can't lose for winning--especially, it would seem, if you're Joe Haldeman. Suffering the same fate as many an author who's dared to pen unconventional sequels to a ferociously loved book (in this case, The Forever War), Haldeman has risked the ire of his many devoted admirers a second time (the first sequel was the award-spangled Forever Peace). But Haldeman's call--not too surprisingly--proves to be a deft one, giving us a book that, while significantly different from its predecessor, turns out to be equally captivating and sensitive, in many ways even more thought-provoking. (Sure, it doesn't match The Forever War for sheer impact, but then again, what does?)

As in The Forever War, the heart of this story is the dry, ironic bite of fighting-suit vet William Mandella, now middle-aged and a parent (along with his love and comrade-in-arms Marygay) to two teen-aged kids. The family leads a spartan life on the cold and desolate planet Middle Finger, which serves as a sort of genetic safe-deposit box for the current incarnation of humanity, an inhuman race of group-mind clones known as Man. But the animals in the zoo are getting restless, and a core group of vets led by William and Marygay plot an unusual escape: hijacking a reconditioned time ship and using it to take a 40,000 light-year tour (over 10 years of their own time) to rejoin the world they know only after 2,000 generations have passed. Much of the action involves the hatching and fruition of this plot, but Haldeman doesn't really mix things up until nearing the end, when he dissolves physics as we know it and calls down the wrath of God itself. --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

In this long-awaited sequel to The Forever War, Haldeman describes the postwar life of retired soldiers William and Marygay Mandella on the half-frozen planet Middle Finger, where they and other humans have been secluded by the newly evolved, superhuman race of Man. The long war with the Taurans is over and William and company are little more than relics, kept around to provide archaic genes should the Man ever wish to alter their own, cloned near-perfection. Dissatisfied with their stagnant lives, William and his fellow vets steal a starship. They plan to travel so far and fast that time dilation will allow them to return only a decade older but millennia in their world's future. Disaster strikes just days into their voyage, however, when their antimatter engines mysteriously malfunction in direct violation of the laws of physics. Returning home in escape craft, Mandella and his mates discover that everyone on the planet has disappeared, leaving only their clothes behind. Further, all communication with the outside universe has been cut off. Despite a slow start, Haldeman builds considerable tension with the mystery that confronts his human survivors of what appears to be the complete disappearance of not only humanity, but also of Man and the Taurans. Some truly weird events have occurred and Haldeman gives them a genuinely spooky feel. Mandella's laconic narrative, so effective in getting across The Forever War's antiwar message, proves just as effective in this sequel. The novel is weakened, however, by what feels like an overly hasty conclusion, burdened by Haldeman's decision to invoke not one but two deus ex machinae in the book's final chapters. Still, this is a well-written and worthy sequel to one of SF's enduring classics. (Dec.) FYI: Haldeman's The Forever War (1974) and Forever Peace (1997) each won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best SF novel.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1st edition (December 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441006973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441006977
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By "bmills100" on January 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Up until this point, I've liked every Haldeman story I've ever read. I don't like to give negative reviews as a rule, but this one is such a disappointment I think it would be a service to warn anyone else who likes Haldeman's normally first-rate writing. The first half of this book is an involving and well-told story, but then ideas just sort of come at you from out of left field, and the book takes off in weird and unsatisfying directions. It's as if there are pieces of three unrelated stories squeezed awkwardly into one book, and none of them are developed completely. This is not a sequel to the classic Forever War, except in so far as it (quite unnecessarily) includes some of the same characters. But even worse, Forever Free's reinterpretation of reality undermines the meaning of Forever War's powerful statements on humanity and war. Not only is this book bad in itself, it will taint your affection for its splendid predecessor. If you like Haldeman and love the classic Forever War, do yourself a favor and skip this one.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Colin F Francis on February 20, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I saw the book yesterday lunch-time at Sydney airport terminal and had a few hours to fill in. The Forever War is one of my very favourite hard sf books and I couldn,t believe my good fortune in spotting the sequel.
ITS AWFUL. Starts off well then descends into soft fairy-tale fantasy. I can't describe how disappointing the book is. I read it straight through in four hours. It really came apart for me when the Time Warp strange events started and was all downhill from there.
What about the unnatural origin of MF and its biosphere? Just mentioned and left. What about the derelict civilisation found by the Taurans? Just mentioned and left. What relevance have the Omnis? Go figure.
Joe, how could you do this?
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Randy Stafford VINE VOICE on September 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's been twenty-some years since the last survivors of the Forever War set up home on Middle Finger which serves as sort of a genetic preserve run by the smug and superior clone groupmind known as Man. William Mandella, wife Marygay, and many of the other old veterans are getting tired of their relatively primitive life on that planet. And they find Man disconcertingly alien and fear that the clones will someday decide to rid themselves of their inferiors. They hatch a plan to fly a starship fast enough to take advantage of relativistic effects and return to Middle Finger 40,000 years in its future. A future where they hope Man will be absent or have evolved to the point of leaving them alone.

Tauran representatives and Man put obstacles in their way, but old human cunning wins out, and they embark for the future. But things are just getting under way when very odd things began to happen. Antimatter begins inexplicably disappearing from their ship. And even odder things have happened to the people back on Middle Finger and Earth . . .

Haldeman can't be faulted for not wanting to make this sequel to The Forever War (Vintage) a war story. Instead, he gives us a mystery story. Unfortunately, the novel is unbalanced by the payoff he gives us at the end. It's too glib, too metaphysical to justify the length of the story before it nor is the idea that new. On the other hand, Haldeman could have explored the consequences of his solution more fully which would have lead to a better and longer novel.

The novel opens with a poem about men assuming the powers of gods to bring about peace. Haldeman doesn't really develop that theme much or make any coherent thematic statements about war and violence and freedom as I hoped he would.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 20, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Haldeman sets this book in the world of his "The Forever War," one of the landmark stories in modern science fiction. This book follows some of the forever warriors into their retirement, a thousand years from their home era. In that thousand years, even their own species has become alien to them. Although their community includes some good-sized towns and villages, they are isolated like no human ever was since the species began.

Since their isolation can't really get worse, the veterans decide to take a one-way trip through time. They'll ride relativistic dilation thousands of years into the future, to see what becomes of humankind. This creates a powerful start to a story that could have been as good as the book that it follows.

I found the story coming apart at the seams, though, just when it should have been working towards its crescendo. Bizarre events start to occur, ending the trip prematurely. A new species pops up out of nowhere, followed by another new species popping up out of nowhere. Then everyone goes home. The end.

The last part of this book just didn't have the human believability that made "The Forever War" so memorable. Taken on its own, this is no better than middling good SF. As a sequel to a truly exceptional novel, I found this disappointing.

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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful By David A. Farnell on November 23, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I read The Forever War a few months back, and I loved it. I wondered why I hadn't ever gotten around to reading it before. Then I read Forever Peace and really, really liked it. Not quite 5 stars, but almost. Then when Forever Free came available in paperback, I saw all the negative reviews, and I thought, "Aw, come on! Must be a bunch of Haldeman haters!" So I ordered it, and I read it.
Trust me, the reviewers are right: This is one to avoid. I remember how, when the movie Star Trek 5 came out, my friends and I went to watch it, and afterwards, depressed, we said, "You know, I'm just going to pretend that one never happened." That's the way I feel about Forever Free. (And its plot is remarkably similar to Star Trek 5, too.) It felt like Haldeman just wasn't trying. Joe, if you read this: I'm not enraged, I'm just disappointed. Really disappointed. You can do better than that.
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