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A bullet train that smacks into a marshmellow
on December 9, 1999
This is one book that starts off well. Let's be clear about one thing: no one, and I mean no one, writes about military science-fiction with the sense of versimilitude that Joe Haldeman commands. The opening portion of the book is definitely military in nature, then Haldeman does the unexpected by deepening the book with moral and practical dilemmas that take it to a whole new level, all the while ratcheting up the tension and complexity of the story.
I don't think that I've ever felt this much stress when reading a story. I found the characters compelling and engaging and I was impressed that Haldeman didn't pull any punches at throwing problems their way. If anything, it almost seemed like he was trying to destroy them.
By the time it reaches its conclusion, the story is moving along like a bullet train -- sleek, beautiful, and fast -- and then it hits a big, marshmellowish deus ex machina. Worse, the ending *literally* takes the form of "and over the next two years, X happened".
It was a real let-down. I think that Haldeman realized that he was 300+ pages into the story and, dammit, there was the end coming up! I can understand that, but he should have made this into a trilogy. There was certainly enough story potential to turn it into one. As it is, we have a truly brilliant book that's crippled by a truly sallow ending.
I think that it's worth picking up. I really do. The ending is poor but the rest of the book is filled with so much brilliance, energy, and passion that I really think that it deserves to be read. Just... flesh out the ending in your imagination when you get to it.