Review: Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman

I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get to this book; I read The Forever War a few years back and decided it was one of the best piece of Science Fiction writing I’d ever come across. Anyway, here’s the review:

It must be Joe Haldeman’s background as both scientist and combat veteran that allows him to deliver such a stark perspective of both the futility and strange necessity of war. Like his first book, The Forever War, Forever Peace is the story of a long running conflict told from the perspective of a foot soldier. The writing is vivid and pared to the bone, leaving no excess detail to shroud the numbness that overcomes those forced to kill in a manner alien to their nature.
The book is often described as sequel to The Forever War, which I don’t think is strictly true. I would say that it’s more of a ‘late prequel’, telling of a period time in Earth’s history that may have occurred while the Forever War was being fought. Anyway, it’s an exciting, well-paced read that effectively describes a world in surprisingly few pages.

The Science Fiction element is almost incidental; it’s Haldeman’s getting inside the characters’ heads that really brings the whole piece to life. The story could have been about any war in any time, and I think the lessons demonstrated would have been the same. Again, I feel it’s the writer’s experiences in Viet Nam that enable him to drive this point home so vividly.

If you’re a Science Fiction buff, then Forever Peace is a must.

Well that was fun… :-)

Fifty thousand words in thirty days.

Pretty intense, but just what I needed; life was starting to get in the way of the writing to a certain extent and I think I was starting to forget how much I enjoyed it. Not just the construction of the story, but all the little tweaking that goes with it. Some days I can churn out a few thousand words by six in the morning, and others I’ll spend pondering over a single sentence, chipping away at it for hours until I’d eventually arrive back where I started  (is there such a thing as literary OCD?)

So, did I hit the target? Not exactly. Turns out there were forty-six thousand words left until the end of the book. But this is where the really hard work starts: it needs polishing, editing, polishing again, copy-editing… so that’s  Christmas and January  all booked up 🙂

And I still don’t have a title…

Writer’s block

I’ve never had it, never believed in it, and according to her very brilliant book, the same goes for the very brilliant Ann Patchett.

What I have had (and what I believe everyone who has “writer’s block” is actually suffering from) is a healthy dose of fear and procrastination. Having sat down at your desk, arranged your pens and picked your playlist, you then stare at the screen and wait for something wonderful to happen.

And you wait…

Still nothing…

Okay, that feels like writer’s block, but it isn’t. That’s fear; fear that what you write is going to be a rubbish, and the longer you sit staring at your screen, the worse the feeling gets, until you suddenly remember that the dishes are piling up (you have a dishwasher) or the carpets need vacuuming (you have a cleaner) or that the car is still covered in bird poo (you don’t have a car).

That’s procrastination, and it’s usually followed by guilt, which is usually followed by a doughnut, and then more guilt.

Okay, so back to the writing desk. The junk you’re so worried about writing? Well…write it. All of it. Just bang it out as fast as you can, and when you’re done, just keep going. Anything that comes into your head: the odd bit of flowery prose, a poetic shopping list, what you saw when you stood at the summit of a mountain. Anything that gets the right side of your brain firing.  I mean, you wouldn’t start a six-mile run without warming up first, would you?

Now after about ten minutes of stream-of-consciousness type hammering, I usually find myself drifting back to the story I was supposed to be writing, but sometimes I don’t. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you have to work day in day out on the same piece. Take a break if you want to; write something else. The important thing is that you write every day.

But what do you do with all that crap you’ve written during your warm-up? Well, I tend to keep it. Most of it is exactly that – crap, so I probably won’t look at it again, but if I happen to read it through again, I might find the occasional phrase or sentence that I can rework into something halfway decent.

Or sometimes I just post the whole thing as a blog entry… 🙂