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I have never read a military science fiction before but I a few years ago I was looking for a new book to read and stumbled upon this 'classic' in my local Waterstones. After reading and liking other science fiction books I decided to buy this book after reading the back and a label on the shelf saying that it was highly recommended.
Published in 1975, The Forever War (the first book in this omnibus) feels like a throwback to the Golden Age of the 50's and 60's in terms of writing style but Haldeman's view of space warfare is definitely coloured by the more cynical approach of the 70's New Wave (not to mention his own experiences in Vietnam). The book really lets you vividly imagine the atmosphere, especially if you have watched many science fiction movies although some of the warfare is a bit questionable at times.
After reading this book twice now I can safely say that it was equally enjoyable the second time around as there is so much depth to the plot that you forget minor details and you pick up on different things the second time around. I can safely agree that this book is definitely worthy of being called a 'classic' and it is one of the only science fiction books that you can really relate to as it explains how everything happens clearly obeying all the laws of physics making the book much more realistic and enthralling. In my opinion The Forever War is the best of the three books in the volume but saying that the other two are certainly worth a read and I will read all three books many times over, I am sure.
Forever Free is the second book in this volume, and is the direct sequel to The Forever War, although it was in fact published around two years after the third book in the volume, Forever Peace in 1999. The style of writing in Forever Free is very similar to The Forever War, which makes it a very enjoyable read. Personally I, along with many others, suspect that Forever Free was actually started in the 70's and then finished off later as the ending seems slightly un-thought out and weak. Although I don't want to spoil the ending of this book, in the end the protagonist gets to meet God. This I find may have been something that just got thought up later on to finish off the book and personally a better ending could probably have been thought up. It's not that I don't like God or anything that I think this as Haldeman also makes a bit of a scientific gaffe towards the end that demonstrates he's not quite so 'down with the physicists' as he likes to make out. The book may have indeed been better if it had stopped halfway, and this is the only reason why it doesn't get the full five stars.
Onto the last book in this volume then, Forever Peace. This book is in my opinion slightly more correct than Forever Free. It's not so much a sequel to the Forever War as a successor. The surprising thing is that with Forever Peace, Haldeman has changed his spots and transformed into a 'Cyberpunk' kind of author. This book bears all the stylistic hallmarks of that genre - whilst still retaining an undercurrent of solid, plot-driven, big-science golden-age drama with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. It's not as innovative as The Forever War because these 'cyberpunk' elements are a bit derivative, but it's a good solid read and an interesting blend of older and newer styles of Science Fiction. The ending is also considerably better than Forever Free so the book doesn't leave you disappointed in any way when you have finished all three volumes.
One of the common threads running through all of these novels is Haldeman's idea that humanity will only cease to make war when we evolve into a singular entity with a shared consciousness. The interesting part is that, although Haldeman presents us with this idea, at the same time he's not comfortable with the surrender of individuality that this implies - his protagonists (with whom he clearly identifies on a personal level) don't join the collective consciousness, either because they are unwilling to do so, or rendered incapable of doing so. Personally I potentially see this as a way of showing that Haldeman himself may feel that he is indeed like this in relation to society.
Overall I would say that these three volumes by Haldeman present a very interesting read that will keep you coming back for more. At under £7 for the paperback you also cannot argue at the price and as it gives you a whole new perspective on how things could be, and engrosses you so well in the plot I think that book should not go a miss from anybody's bookshelf. Well done Haldeman.