Forever Peace - Joe Haldeman by Usamah Khan


So right after reading “The Forever War” I think I just needed more Haldeman to read. Good for me, it was 2018, and I didn’t have to wait 20 years for him to write another. Two days of feeling like I needed more was pain enough, twenty years must have been rough for fans..

Luckily I had a copy of “Forever Peace” that I picked up in a book fair a year or so before. I always figured it was a true sequel so didn’t give it a read. I was wrong, and while I still don’t quite understand how it falls into the realm of a ‘spiritual’ or thematic sequel it has all the captivating features that hooked me through “The Forever War”.

I found it interesting how the story took a long time to get going and then just turned it to 11 at the end. I really like how the concept of “jacking” (submitting yourself to a VR simulation of sorts) was introduced quickly and then put through all sorts of contexts so you truly understood it. Like for war, pleasure, stimulation and even knowledge transfer. Made me think of that Elon Musk interview when he talked about how we’re limited in our input/output. Two hands, ten fingers and our words are not enough to convey everything an idea or memory has to offer. ‘Jacking’ in offers this but with the bonus of full memory and voluntary sharing at will.

So because of this, the build up at the end was really quite enjoyable because I was fully aware of how important the concept of ‘jacking’ was and how it was such an effective way of communicating. Learning that it could actually help reform society and remove any violent tendencies was wonderfully acceptable at that point.

The more I think about it the more I can see how Haldeman’s time in the military and the war affected his writing. It’s been said, in book I’ve read such as “Dispatches” and “Page After Page”, that soldiers in a platoon in war start to know each other intimately due to proximity and always being with each other. Due to the nature of combat, senses are heightened in these times as well and as such you perform at your best or worst as a team.

However, if you took away all the feelings or possibility of danger that cause you to be at your worst and created an environment where you fostered and built all the connections between the soldiers, you would have a literal machine of war. Soldiers perfectly in sync with one another and with no fear. These would make for the best platoons. Experienced and connected soldiers.

But I wonder, are those soldiers in those platoons - the ones who spend the most time with each other and see the worst horrors of war - also the ones who come home and want the least to do with war and most wanting for peace? And so would not a stronger connection with your team then lead to a stronger desire for peace? I think this is what Haldeman was trying to get least what I took from it when I flipped the last page.

I think I’m done for Haldeman’s forever series but this has just got me thinking about how sci-fi is the perfect platform to explore the human condition. Exaggerate and extrapolate every aspect of the world as we know it, but we’re not going to change as a species. At least our most basic desires and fears will stay the same. And war brings these feelings out the most in us.