Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Read: 2 October, 2014

In the war against an unknown alien, the battlefield stretches across light years. Conscript William Mandella fights for earth, only to find the planet much changed on his return.

The writing style is one that seems common among classic science fiction works – it’s very journalistic, appearing dry and even monotone even while it conveys a great deal. And there’s certainly a great deal here.

In a not-too-subtle retelling of the Vietnam War, Haldeman uses relativistic time dilation to explore the experience of the drafted soldier return to a country he doesn’t recognize and that doesn’t accept him. There’s also a lot there about fighting foreign (alien) cultures, not understanding the enemy, not understanding why the enemy needs to be killed, being compelled by propaganda even while recognizing it as propaganda, etc. In other words, the book is one massive smorgasbord of social commentary.

The views on homosexuality are obviously outdated, as are the gender relations. Certainly, the approach to heterosexual sex early on in the novel is downright rape-y. I can chalk some of that up to the age of the novel, and there’s enough other stuff going on to carry me through the rest, but it bears saying.

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The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Read: 25 December, 2014

The Martian Chronicles is the story of Mars. Starting with its first contact with humans, a series of vignettes takes the reader through about 30 years of hope and loss, success and failure, life and death.

Each chapter is a stand-alone story, usually exploring both a concept and a period of Martian history. Some characters re-appear, but for the most part Mars is the only common thread. In this book, the planet is clearly the main character.

A lot of the details are dated. The idea of flying around in rockets, for example, and of landing on Mars to find breathable (albeit thin) air. There’s also a lot of that 50s flavour “house of the future” stuff that is kind of silly. And, of course, there’s the idea that we’d have been colonizing Mars for over a decade by now. But other than being chuckle-worthy at times, I didn’t find it distracting.

Bradbury’s idea of gender is a bit cringe-worthy, and he clearly has a bone to pick when it comes to technology (perfectly understandable given the time he was writing), but I also found many of his little thought-experiments to be very interesting and edifying.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it.

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Dune #3: Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Read: 2008

With Paul supposedly dead, his children, the twins Leto II and Ghanima, are left under the regency of Alia who is suspected to have become an Abomination. The Empire has come under attack from a mysterious blind Preacher who some suspect may be Muad’Dib. With Dune becoming green and the worms dying, with a multiple of forces trying to shape Leto and Ghanima to their own desires, the children must find a way to work with their inner voices and find a future of their own.

I liked this book, but not as much as the first two in the Dune series. I felt that it turned the series in a new direction (which makes sense since it’s all about Leto trying to change the path his father had started). I also found it far more confusing in parts than the first two, though this might have been because I read it on and off over a few months.

All in all, I did enjoy it and I’ll definitely continue reading the series.

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