The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman
1974, St. Martin’s Press
As far as I know, The Forever War is basically the antiwar sci-fi novel. Between it and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, you’ve got the “why it sucks to go to war” pretty well covered.
Written in 1974 and based on Haldeman’s experience as a draftee in Vietnam, The Forever War uses science fiction’s potential to its artistic fullest—he takes an element of war he’d like to describe (the alienation of returning home) and exaggerates it for effect with science.
In the world of The Forever War, the battles are taking place lightyears away from each other and from Earth. And despite a series of wormholes scattered throughout the galaxy, ships are required to travel for months or years at a time through regular space at near the speed of light. Which, for those science fans following along, means time dilation. While only months go by for the people aboard the ships, years, decades, even centuries pass on earth. After every raid, soldiers return to a completely different world. The moral? You can never go home.
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Into the Forest
by Jean Hegland
1996, Dial Press
I was lying in bed sick.
“Hey,” I said to my friend, “what book should I read?”
“Have you read Into the Forest?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Read that,” he said. “Post-apocalypse.”
“Is it going to be like The Road?” I asked. I was sick. I didn’t want to read something as doom and gloom as The Road.
“Not really,” he said.
I’m glad I decided to believe him, even if I’m not sure he was telling the truth.
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The Oregon Experiment
by Keith Scribner
Recommended? Sure, why not.
I’m going to cut this review into two parts. The first part, the shorter part, is just my “why you might like to read this book, why you might not.” The second part is a longer analysis of the ways in which mainstream sympathetic fiction is portraying anarchists.
So, The Oregon Experiment, by Keith Scribner. Scanlon and Naomi are a middle class couple that moves to small town Oregon, and soon their American dream crashes into the rocks of anarchists, secessionist hippies, and the repression thereof. Scanlon is an academic who studies radical social movements, Naomi is a depressed “nose” who was forced to retire from the perfume business when her mental health destroyed her ability to smell. Scanlon gets mixed up with Sequoia, a sexy hippie mama who wants to peacefully secede from the US, while Naomi spends too much time a Clay, a depressed, angsty anarchist who hates everything. Hijinks ensue.
It’s a short, entertaining novel with interesting enough characters. I read it, I enjoyed reading it, and it left me awake thinking after I’d put the book down for the night. While the plot focuses on the gulf between academia and radical action, the themes of the book are much more about parenting and relationships, which I appreciated quite a bit. I appreciated the often-realistic and incredibly flawed characters, though the intensity of male desire directed at mothers—on the basis of them being mothers—is kind of intense. Overall, the book made me nostalgic for early-aughts Oregon.
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