Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cannonball Read 2.02: The Forever War - Joe Haldeman (1974)

Cannonball Read,Pajiba,Forever War,Joe Haldeman,Science fiction,Military

Flailing about, searching for some thing to read, I came across this file, and it occurred to me that this was good a time to revisit this book as any.

Haldeman is a vocal devotee of Robert Heinlein, and in The Forever War, he creates a thematic counterpart to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, including all of the hardware, technology, and tactics that makes Troopers a primer in military science-fiction.

Haldeman overlays all of the clanking can banging about by centering his story of war over centuries (due to relativistic effects) around a reluctant and melancholy draftee, William Mandella.

Let me be honest for a moment here. In spite of my military background (2 yrs in the Navy, and my dad and brother have both served), I really have very little interest in military stories, so I can’t attest to the accuracy of much of them beyond the experience of constantly waiting in line.

In The Forever War, Earth finds its way into a series of conflicts with a mysterious alien enemy that are so far away, that relativistic effects means that a group of soldiers will be gone for years, if not decades, and finally centuries. We follow Mandella as he travels from battle to battle, planet to planet and decade after decade, as he gets further away from the year of his birth, the world and society of his birth, and finally, from humanity itself.

Haldeman notes himself, in the forward, that he wrote the story in reaction to, and reflecting the Vietnam War, and we can certainly see that in the alienation that Mandella feels each time that he returns from battle. The Forever War, however, is not just a bleak look at war and warfare. Haldeman definitely enjoys his battlesuits and massive explosions; he is simply disappointed as we are that they don’t always work out as well as he hopes they will.

According to Haldeman, even Heinlein himself complimented this story, and I will not contradict the Master on this. Reading The Forever War is basic to our understanding of war and fighters in modern science fiction.

The Forever War - Joe Haldeman (1974)

Pajiba's Cannonball Read - 52 books, 52 reviews.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Cannonball Read 2.0_01: Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green

Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green. (New York, Ace 2003), ISBN 0-441-01065-2

I've only spent weeks mentally preparing myself for the Cannonball Read, only of find myself in the first week, completely stymied by a book that simply wasn't very interesting.

I am a big fan and constant consumer of most of the early entries into the "urban fantasy" genre. I specify "early entries" because you will not find a lot of copycats on the supermarket and rug store racks, and most of them aren't much good. All of the vampires and werewolves have been taken.

"Something from the Nightside" starts off with such a derivative steal from Hammett and Sam Spade that I very nearly dropped it and took up something else. Naturally it starts off in a seedy detective's office, where he also lives, and naturally, a dame walks in and the case begins.

The PI in our case, Taylor, promises something different but it is quite a while before we get there. Instead of Chandler's "mean streets", however, we are given "the Nightside", and alternate reality in the middle of London where it is always 3am and raining, and where every single interdimensional and magical beastie can make their home in an urban setting. Taylor, himself, plays like a Harry Potter gone to seed.

It is fun to watch Taylor, in his white trenchcoat, make his way through this twisted landscape, which resembles nothing so much as a low-down version of Rowling's "Diagon Alley", and encounter everything from time travel through alternate realities, and Lovecraftian beasts-from-beyond, and everyone and everything has good reason to want you dead.

It is obvious that "Something from the Nightside" is intended as the opening of the series, and luckily I was fascinated enough by the Nightside to want to explore future stories, but there is not much besides knowing that to take you through to the next book. There are ten books in the Nightside series, however, so I'm sure that I will look into more of them.

Pajiba's Cannonball Read - 52 books, 52 reviews.

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