Friday, November 17, 2006

The Book Depository: Part I

102: The New Rebellion - Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This Star Wars novel is getting closer to the New Jedi Order series which changes the nature of the Star Wars Universe. Only three novels written by Timothy Zahn stand between this book and Vector Prime. Once again a threat which could be the greatest threat the New Republic has ever faced has surfaced. This time I actually believed it, which is a plus. Because of a bombing attack at the Senate which killed several Senators and injured many more (including President Leia Organa-Solo), former Imperials have been able to become elected to the Senate in greater numbers than before. Leia has to deal with the immense distrust she feels for the former Imperials and hold herself back from (in my opinion) starting down a path to be like the Emperor in crushing dissent. Evidence for the attack points to her husband, Han Solo, and touches on his past as a smuggler. Luke Skywalker is hunting down a former apprentice of his who is somehow involved in this as a Force user is also responsible for the killing of millions of lives. All of this ties together and there is more plotting and schemes here than one can shake a stick at.

You know, when I put it like that the book does not sound half bad. To be honest, The New Rebellion is not a bad story, but I found it dry and somewhat dull. I suspect Rusch is a good author and she has apparently won nearly every major SFF award out there for her contributions to the genre, but the novel was not good enough to merit a recommendation and it lacked the feel of adventure and excitement (which I firmly believe can still be found in political wrangling, so I don't want just wanton adventure) and other Star Wars authors have succeeded in this (Matthew Stover, Karen Traviss, Ann Crispin, etc). And I pass.

103: The Forever War - Joe Haldeman. The Forever War is a Hugo and Nebula award winning novel which transfers Haldeman's real life experience of Vietnam and brings it to a future war setting set out in the Universe. We get new recruits, some of the elite from Earth in 1997 set out to train for a war that will take them hundreds of light years away from their home planet, which means that while they will be newly rich when they return (interest accruing over hundreds of years), everything they know will be gone. In a sense that may be part of the experience of the Vietnam veteran where having experienced a year or more of something so alien, the normal life the soldier returned to felt like something different than what he left.

Haldeman writes in short chapters, giving us just enough information to grasp the training and the experiences of the men and women, but not enough to spend too much time on pointless training exercises and excess combat. He shows us glimpses and somehow it is enough. It works, and perhaps it should not.

Joe Haldeman wrote this novel when he returned from Vietnam and he figured that the late 1990's would give the opportunity for soldiers who fought in Vietnam to be military officers in the military still, so there is that tie. Even though we are now a decade past the original setting of the novel Haldeman did not make any changes later on, accepting the novel for what it was. Even knowing that nothing like this was possible ten years ago (which could hurt science fiction storytelling), Haldeman's novel feels authentic because it is the soldier's experience he is giving us and not just a science fiction story that would be dated. The setting matters because of the Vietnam tie in, but given a similar conflict or a fictional conflict, The Forever War could just as well be set thirty years in our future. Either way, it is a damn good novel.

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