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THP Supplemental: Forever Free

17 Mar

The Forever War has two sequels, ish. The thematic sequel, Forever Peace, was published in 1997, and won the 1998 Hugo…so we’ll get to that in a few decades. Meanwhile, the second sequel is called Forever Free, and did not win a Hugo, so we’re tackling it now – just as well, since it’s the direct sequel to TFW. If you’re not confused yet, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. The Hugo Project continues…

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Forever Free

Joe Haldeman
published in 1999

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Warning! Spoilers ahead!

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I’m beginning to question my commitment to including the Hugo sequels in this project. They’re a bit lackluster on the whole. Okay, they tend to be infuriating and/or lackluster, but this one was squarely in the lackluster camp.

Short, snarky and spoiler-tastic version: William Mandella and some others are bored of farming on a wintry planet. Plus they’re a bit weirded out by what the human race has engineered itself into while they were off fighting in the Forever War. So they decide to take the time machine of relativity forward even further, sailing off at relativistic speeds and returning 40,000 years later. Except then God gets mad that they’re trying to escape the galaxy (NOT making this up) and throws a wrench in the works. Everybody ends up more or less where they started only the laws of physics are slightly off because God has a crappy sense of humor. Or something.

…yeah. I don’t really know what the point of the book is. I thought it was maybe going in one direction, but then it decided – no wait! Surprise! Deus ex Machina! Or maybe just Deus! Since I’m in a spoiler-y mood, I’ll go ahead and knock off the Rama sequilogy as well and say that I’m over the “God the experimenter” trope. I’m also over the “let’s take an abrupt ninety-degree turn, plot-wise, for the last 20% the book and completely change the game so that the reader is left wondering why the hell I bothered writing the first 80%!” thing that some writers do. Like, say, Haldeman, when writing Forever Free (although Heinlein is a great one for this nonsense, too.)

…oh, I get it now, by the end of the book life in the galaxy is “forever free” from God. Well, good riddance. Zie’s kind of a dick.

The actually potentially interesting bit of the book – 20th-century humans interacting with the genetically ‘perfected’ Man of the 32nd century, as well as the alien Taurans and a smattering of humans from other eras – is more or less a side plot. Haldeman would have done better to focus more on this. I kept getting bored and wanting to know more about what Man was like and what the Whole Tree was like and wanting a movie version with all of the male Man played by Sendhil Ramamurthy (AKA He Who Should Have Been Khan) and the female Man played by…a woman who looks a lot like Sendhil Ramamurthy, since they’re supposed to be genetically identical.

My point is, I would love to see a movie about 20th/21st-century people of all races/genders/etc interacting with the genetically superior being that we apparently decided to engineer ourselves into a millennium later. I would love for that genetically superior being to be a person of color. I would love social commentary and the exploration of a group mind and what does gender even mean when you’re all theoretically the same? How much does experience play a role in shaping you when your genes are all the same, and you hook your mind up with everyone else’s on a regular basis? How did people decide which traits were superior, anyway? These are the things I would love to think about. Not God being a dick and disappearing every sentient being in the universe because a few of the lab rats tried to make a break for it.

…yeah, I got nothing else. Have a picture of a genetically superior being:

sendhil-ramamurthy-beauty-and-the-beast

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THP takes a break next week while I deal with my grandmother’s 90th birthday and the avalanche of grading that accompanies the end of 3rd quarter. Join us in 2 weeks for Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang as I slowly but surely climb my way out of the ’70s.

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Posted by on 17.3.2014 in Books

 

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