Title: The Forever War
Author: Joe Haldeman
Series: The Forever War, #1
I forgot I had already read this book. And I think Joe Haldeman forgot that gay people are real, and might actually read this book.
So, there are a lot of ways to look at the way that homosexuality is treated in this book, but honestly, the issue I have with it is (presumably) straight white dude creates an implausible future where everyone is gay for no real reason, fills it with stereotypes, a not-really-that-tolerant heterosexual main character and heteronormativity saves the day. Or something.
I mean, there are moments when things seem okay. It's not because he's gay that he's wearing lipstick! It's just the trend. But lesbians are cool and gay dudes creep the protagonist out. And he's just old fashioned okay, and homosex (yes, we're calling it homosex) is all about... birth control? And heteronormativity is cureable, but not in him because he's too old?
It's just a whole bunch of queer (as in strange) plotholes that seem to serve no real purpose in a book that's supposed to be about the misery of war and Vietnam. It's just distracting, to be honest. If Joe Haldeman wanted to show how much things have changed, maybe not choose something that's clearly not going to age well. Choose something really out there and weird.
And maybe find a good reason for it. Even the protagonist can't understand how "homosex" is better than a vasectomy. And there's all these really gross cliche reasons that people claim to be gay in the novel. And of course, they're all really latent heterosexuals once you get them drunk because that's how people really are.
Oh, and having no genitalia means that you don't have romantic leanings. That was pretty gross. Asexuality has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with your diddly bits. Also, in a time where they can literally regrow limbs with nerves and everything they can't give this poor dude a penis?
The sad thing is, none of this really matters. It's just a giant metaphor for how much the world changes while you're away at war, but it's so super distracting because it makes no sense.
I really wanted to like this book. I might torture myself with some more of it, just see what he makes out of this mess because really, I just can't imagine this going anywhere.
It also just felt too loosely of an analogue to Vietnam. It made sense in some places and not in others. The technobabble and jargon felt out of place most of the time. I think there could have been some really cool ideas with time dilation, liminality, and the psyche of a soldier, but none of them were explored.
The war itself is even more two-dimensional than Vietnam, but that's never really explored because the real story is a love story, not a war story, except it's not really a love story, it's a sex story.
Boy soldier meets girl soldier. Soldiers are encouraged to fuck. Boy soldier almost loses girl soldier. They for some reason become close, but it's never really developed because of lack of focus in this book.
Not that books have to have great focus. I mean, if we're just going to think about Vietnam books, The Things They Carried is a phenomenal example of an unfocused book that really digs into the soldier's psyche. This feels more like machismo that's...
Oh, I forgot.
He literally compared being a straight man surrounded by queers to being castrated.
Yeah, I think I'm going to go read something else now. I'll come back to this series at some point because I just can't stay away from a hot mess, but right now, my skin feels disgusting and I don't even know. It's just. I wanted to give this two stars, particularly for what it's trying to do, but I don't think it does it well.
I fully support speculative fiction speaking more about our actual world than the worlds created, but yeah, this doesn't speak loudly and when it does, it's off-topic.
Sure, things were different in the 1970s, when this book was published, but I just wonder, did he stop and think about how people might feel about being chosen as his Token Other in the novel? Did he think that gay people don't read books? That they would take his fetishization happily and be like, "Yay, we're the future?"
The characters are flat and are really inserts for Joe-Everyman and Jane-Everywoman, which makes sense because all they seem to have is a heteronormative sex drive. The moment anyone seems to have a flash of anything character related, they get reduced into a stereotype and/or suddenly become a weird sex object.
Anyway, the plot is pretty obvious, so it can't be the reason this is a classic. For a book about Vietnam, it's not even that anti-war. I just don't even.