Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Forever Peace

I finished "Forever Peace" really quickly. Partially because it kept my attention well enough that I found myself up reading until three or four o'clock in the morning. Keep in mind that my current schedule has me going to bed around one or two in the morning. But even so, usually I pick up my book and my eyes are exhausted after a couple of pages.

"Forever Peace" is a sequel to Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War". Only, not really. It has none of the same people. Doesn't refer to things that happened in the first book. It's kind of a stretch to say it even takes place in the same universe. What they have in common is a specific technology and an author. And a tendency to recruit smart people for soldiers.

They have two significant technologies that we don't have. The first is a sort of replicator technology. You feed it the raw materials and it breaks it down and reassembles it to make whatever you asked for. The rich countries have plenty of these. The poor countries do not. Although those that are friendly with the rich countries have get a whole bunch of hours of replicator time each week. You can't just ask for a meal or a drink like you do on Star Trek. They're not that speedy. But a restaurant can order their supplies and make food from it.

One of the things being done with the replicators is going on around Jupiter. One replicator is getting energy from Jupiter using warm fusion and beaming it to the other in orbit. That one takes apart a moon and makes more of itself. Once there's enough they can apparently double as the biggest damn super collider you've ever seen.

The second major technology is the ability to plug yourself in and operate machines a few thousand miles away. The US gets to fight wars in Central America and northern South America while the soldiers are in a base in Mexico. They stay connected for ten days at a time and then have twenty days off. While connected, they're not only driving the soldier machine but they're connected to each other. They're connected deep. Any skills one person has they all have, as long as they're plugged in. What you did that weekend and with who... they all know. And if one of the female soldiers is having her time of the month then everyone, men included, is having the same issue. The platoon of soldier machines is really a ten headed creature with one mind.

The first third of the book just sort of tells about the life of our main character. He goes to work in one of the Soldier Boys for 10 days at a time then goes back to the university to teach, hang with friends, and be with his secret girlfriend the rest of the time. It also mixes in parts where the various technologies and social groups are explained.

In the next part of the book things become more interesting when our lead character and his girlfriend are asked to help confirm what a colleague has discovered. That when the super collider around Jupiter is fired up it will successfully create the conditions at the beginning of the universe. And having done so it will create a new universe that will destroy our own. Oops.

They try to publish, but get rejected. Then the guy who asked them to help vanishes. And someone comes to get all the notes from the girlfriend because they're classified. Only, he's not actually from the Pentagon. He's really from a religious group called the Enders who want to help with God's plan to bring about the apocalypse. They want the super collider to destroy everything and have assassins and people positioned in key places to make sure that they can help it along.

So the second part of the book is this discovery, running from assassins, and figure out how to fix things.

The third part still has running from assassins, but it largely focussed around the plan to use the mind joining technology to turn everyone in the world into a pacifist who won't want to kill people or destroy universes. Not a Borg-like hive mind, just... you have to read the book.

This third part is a little awkward. I wasn't exactly rooting for our heroes, but pretty much everyone else are scum. Kinda like voting for President. These are ALL of our choices? Fine, we'll take that guy.

It's a good book. I read it in about a week and didn't really want to put it down. In another time in my life it'd have taken two days. And you don't have to have read "The Forever War" (an awesome book that I also highly recommend) to get it. Honestly, the only thing holding those books together is that Haldeman wrote this book because of something about the first book that bothered him.

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