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Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Cover artist||Bruce Jensen|
|Series||The Forever War series|
|Genre(s)||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Forever War, (1974)|
|Followed by||Forever Free, (1999)|
Plot and CharactersEdit
Though its title is similar to The Forever War and both novels deal with soldiers in the future, Forever Peace is not a direct sequel, and takes place on Earth much closer to the present day. Also, instead of extraterrestrials, the main character and his fellow soldiers are fighting third world guerrillas in an endless series of economy-driven wars. Rather than fighting in person, the American troops use remotely controlled robots (called "soldierboys") which are nearly invincible. Only the nations that possess molecular nanotechnology are able to build such machines. These nations form the first world. The necessary nanotechnology is called the Nanoforge, and can produce anything from raw atomic materials.
The novel is told partly in first-person narration by the main character, Julian Class, and partly by an anonymous third-person narrator, who is able to comment on aspects of Julian's personality and background.
The predecessor to this novel, The Forever War, dealt with issues surrounding the Vietnam conflict — namely, the bonding of fellow soldiers and the emotional distance they felt from their homeland as they returned to a nation that was isolated from the war they had fought and which had changed dramatically while the soldiers had been away. Likewise, "Forever Peace" deals with issues that affect modern warriors fighting on modern (late-twentieth and early twenty-first century) battlefields. The novel deeper explores the concept in The Forever War that cloning would fundamentally alter human society, the new insights later to be used in the sequel Forever Free. Like its predecessor, the action in the book takes place in the future, though its issues are contemporary.
Soldiers in Forever Peace are simultaneously engaged in and sheltered from the battles they wage thanks to the technology they are given charge of. They are remotely linked — "Jacked In," in the parlance of the novel — to the robotic equipment that does the actual fighting, by way of physical electronic jacks that are implanted in their skulls. The audio and video feeds from the robots are fed directly into the controlling soldiers' brains, so that they see and hear in first-person perspective everything happening in the battle. The control of each robot is likewise transmitted directly from its controller's brain. The soldier's physical bodies are kept safe from the battle, as they are housed in a bunker. This parallels with the experience of modern fighter pilots, drone operators and even some soldiers as they direct the war from within a fortified "green zone" or other off-battlefield location.
Meanwhile, on the homefront, the audio and video feeds from the fighting machines are carried on cable television, allowing civilian viewers to see the "action" from the safety of their living rooms. Civilians in the book are depicted discussing battles and other war actions like one would expect them to talk about episodes of a popular sitcom. People are shown even to have favorite military units or divisions. This aspect of the story has been realized in the increasing amounts of battlefield and cockpit footage carried on cable news channels and on the Internet.
The novel explores the moral questions raised by use of advanced military technology, and imagines an unusual approach to ending war permanently. The soldiers who are the focus of the novel wield their military might against unequipped third-world soldiers who must fight with bare hands and improvised weaponry.
Bioethical concerns are also raised as the author discusses the effects of improper installation of these jacks into a person's skull.
Another effect of this technology is a unique bonding that occurs between soldiers who are "jacked-in" together. The author uses this concept as another way to demonstrate the mark that is left on a soldier by military service, and as a way to show that there is an almost unbridgeable gap that exists between soldiers and civilians. These concepts are explored through the depiction of a civilian who finds a third-world doctor willing to perform the jack-installation procedure despite the danger posed to the patient.
In the third act of the novel, the protagonists engage in an operation to radically end all wars for all time. The author proposes a new theory about the universe, in which life evolves until it can re-create the big bang, eventually destroying itself and creating another big bang, into perpetuity.