Book review: Forever Free by Joe Haldeman

I was looking forward to reading Forever Free, but having finished it, I was left feeling a little disappointed and slightly confused. It wasn’t that there was some element of the story I didn’t understand; it was just a general feeling of ‘Huh?’ when I finished the book.

Forever Free is the third and final book in the Forever War series, and follows the lives of the war’s veterans as they struggle to cope with, and ultimately escape from, a universe that has simply evolved past them. They hatch a plan to travel faster than light for a decade and then return some forty thousand years in the future where…well, here’s the thing: forty millennia from now, the universe would have evolved even further. Wouldn’t the escapees feel even more isolated and displaced?

forever_freeAnyway, not a huge problem; the book is still very enjoyable thanks to Haldeman’s writing style which is stark and yet still manages to flow beautifully. The book is much more sedate than the first two, lacking much of the action of the Forever War and the drama of Forever Peace. Again, not a huge problem for me, though I did find it a little pedestrian in places.

Unfortunately, the book does wither away towards the end. There’s a mad dash towards an awkward and unconvincing conclusion (and the resolution is where the ‘Huh?’ comes in) and then sort of just stops and the universe returns to normal.

So, yes, a little disappointing. I was expecting something a bit more profound from such a talented writer.

Recommendation: Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo

This isn’t really a book review, as I read Blonde Roots a few years ago and had cause to revisit it again recently for some background reading on slavery. I’d quite forgotten what a little gem this book is.

blonde_roots

It’s a kind of ‘alternate history’ novel that tells the story of a young girl taken from her home to work the plantations in a foreign land. But in a rather clever twist to history as we know it, Ms Evaristo has spun things around. In her world of the nineteenth century, it is the Africans who are kidnapping Europeans by the thousand and transporting them to work their farms and plantations.

Mind-blowing stuff.

The story is beautifully written and told without frills or compromise. After a while you forget that this isn’t the world as we know it, but still remain struck at the injustice and cruelty of the slave trade and how it demeans both the sufferers who endure it and the slavers who profit from it.

A great book which I’m glad to have rediscovered.

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Harold_Fry_coverA simple story that is, for the most part, beautifully told. I felt a genuine sadness for the characters, even the ones that were only there for a few pages. The sense of place is excellent and not overdone; there’s plenty left to the imagination, and a surprising amount of drama for what is, essentially, a very long stroll. The author has a light touch, but the occasional overcooked metaphor interrupted the flow of the story (I don’t think anyone’s breath should ‘wallop’ the air), and that’s my only complaint.I think I was half way through before I put the book down for a day — just so Harold’s journey would last a little bit longer.

A wonderful read that is thoroughly recommended.