Classic Sci-Fi Reviews: “The Forever War” & “Orbitsville”

This week’s classic sci-fi review is Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” and Bob Shaw’s “Orbitsville.”

Originally serialized in Analog Science Fiction/Fact Magazine in 1974, The Forever War essentially was a critique of Vietnam. But put any “conflict” in it’s place during the past 60 years, it makes no difference.

My re-read was a pleasant one and although the premise of interstellar travel in the early 21st century is obviously dated, the topic of unnecessary brutal violence and the sheer stupidity of war wasn’t dated at all.

In fact, the striking similarities between what is happening today and the book is downright frightening. Instead of fighting alien “Taurans”, we are fighting alien “Taliban” and “extremists” (the history of the Crusades isn’t lost here either, i.e., “Muslims”).

Needless to say, war is always against “The Other”, i.e. who is not “Us.”

Also the UN is the central government in the book. That prediction failed, but the present corporate/financial paradigm more than nicely makes up for it, since the world is on a war economy, riddled with social chaos and little employment.

Sound familiar?

Contrary to the Iron Mountain Report, war is a waste and it’s shit.

………………………………………………

Orbitsville was another serialized novel I read in 1974, this time in Galaxy Science Fiction.

Oddly, it took me a very long time to even find this book, the library interchange I use didn’t even have it in it’s file, so I had to use the WorldCat exchange. Eventually it turned up at Tulane University, New Orleans!

This was one of the books I wanted to re-read for two years, just for sentimental reasons. And to see if it offered the same thrill.

It was a simple book, a space opera that used the “large enigma” theme and the simple starships were able to bypass the Einsteinian light-speed barrier because his assumptions about time diliation turned out to be wrong after objects passed 20% light-speed.

It wasn’t terrible at all and was full of action, mainly chase scenes.  The character development was bad however, but the description of the Dyson sphere, its enigmatic creators and solar system made up for it.

At the time the novel came out however, Niven’s “Ringworld” and Pohl and Williamson’s “The Farthest Star” were already out featuring their own versions of the “large enigma” theme popular in 1970s sci-fi, and the critics pounded on Shaw’s book because of its simplicity.

In my opinion, Bob Shaw is one of the most under-rated authors of the era and from what I read from reviews of his other works, he didn’t have a stinker in the bunch.

Unfortunately he died during the early 1990s in his early sixties.

I’m sure he had more tales to tell.

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2 responses

    1. Sorry J, couldn’t connect to it from work because the company network administrators set the OpenDns to block networking sites.

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