Feb 8, 2010

Hugo Challenge Update - month 1

OK, so I'm a month into my Hugo Award challenge for 2010, and I'm not doing as well as I had hoped. I had originally challenged myself to read 29 Hugo Award-winning books twelve months.  Just the winners that I hadn't read before.  Upon further examination I was able to reduce it by one book as I had already read Startide Rising by David Brin.  I had merely forgotten about it until I saw the cover at the local library.  So 28 is the new magic number.  And I'm going to have to pick up the pace a little to achieve my goal as it's one month down and I've only read two of the offerings.  The Forever War and Forever Peace, both by Joe Haldeman. 

On to the quick reviews.

The Forever War was a fantastic book, and a great starting point for this journey.  The scope of the tale is tremendous as it follows the life of soldiers fighting in a war against a race of aliens that takes place over the course of thousands of years.  The relativistic nature of space travel means that decades and centuries were passing on earth while these soldiers were traveling to distant star systems via collapsers, a sort of black hole that allows travel between two distant points in the galaxy instantaneously.  The near-light travel to and from these collapsers is the reason for the time disparity. 

The broad changes in humanity over this expanse of time were unexpected and extraordinary.  Sexual politics, gene modification, cloning and the development of a super-conscience were just a part of it.  All in the name of a war that is eventually found to have been started and perpetuated without significant justification.  Sound familiar?  Well that was kind of Haldeman's point. The author was a veteran of the war in Vietnam and it reflects his experiences there.  Quite a few analysts have compared it to Heinlen's Starship Troopers even though the soldiers in Haldeman's universe were conscripted into war by virtue of their IG and genetic profile while Heinlein wrote about the virtues of volunteers and public service.  I haven't read Heinlein's book yet, but it's on my list so I 'm looking forward to it.

Forever Peace is a kind of a sequel to The Forever War, but it focuses on a terrestrial conflict very early on in the war and it takes place much closer to the present day.  So it's not a direct sequel, but it takes place in the same fictional future.  This one focuses on a war between two international armies on Earth fought on one side by soldierboys.  Remote controlled robots driven by human mechanics safely hidden miles away from the conflict.

The soldiers, and certain civilians, are jacked-in.  Connected to each other through surgically implanted jacks in the back of their skulls.  This allows for greater communication and dexterity during combat.  It also allows for much greater intimacy between any group of people jacked together.  An obvious extrapolation of the process is to use it for sex, and there is an entire black market industry that revolves around it.  But the theme of the book is the idea that peace can eventually be attained by humanity by jacking together for a long enough period of time.  The very idea of violence would become abhorrent once you've walked a mile in everyone else's shoes, so to speak. 

It took me a while to get into Forever Peace, but once I was in I was hooked.  Took me about two weeks to read the first 50 pages and a night and a half to read the next 300 or so.  Written it 1997, it predicted the fears of some that a large particle accelerator (like the Large Hadron Collider) could have an apocalyptic effect on the universe.  The conflict between the "terrorist" group hoping to shut it down and the "Enders" who embraced the universal re-start button with religious fervor was deftly handled and extremely enjoyable.

I would highly recommend both of these novels.  Each a look at future warfare from slightly different points of view.

Next up: The Dispossessed by Ursala K. LeGuin and The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge. 

Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Forever and ever, amen.


Avitable said...

I think it's really cool that you're doing this.

Slyde said...

I think it's really Gay that you're doing this.

Verdant Earl said...

Avitable - I don't know if it is cool or not, but I'm trying to get back to my sci-fi roots.

Slyde - You're right. I should probably spend my free time playing obscure board games with my geek squad. How's that working out for you, by the way?

Mrs. Hall said...

i was going to ask you about what you felt about the books? or if you discovered anything about yourself when you read these books.

Then it occurred to me, maybe guys don't make a big deal and have huge introspective moments with everything they read.

I mean, yesterday I watched my son and my daughter eat celery. And she was going on and on about how tasty it was.

Then, after pounding four stalks, my son looks up and says, "Good".

and so it was :)

and your blog here,



Verdant Earl said...

Holly - Hmm? Are you saying only women are aware enough to discover things about themselves while reading? Discuss! ;)

Laurence MacNaughton said...

I discovered Joe Haldeman's wry sense of humor recently when I asked him about The Forever War and winning the Grand Master award. He told me that he doesn’t feel old enough. (If you're interested, you can read my Joe Haldeman interview for free at SciFiBookshelf.com )