Private Haldeman


Whenever Joe Haldeman author puts out something, I read it. So, when each of these following novels came my way, I didn’t hesitate. His books feature plausible and ingenious technological and scientific ideas, so you can’t go wrong entering his worlds.

The Forever War

No one keen on hard science fiction should skip this novel. There is a reason it has garnered all those awards and accolades since it was published.

The reason: It tells a ripping story.

The Forever War

William Mandella is a school teacher who’s drafted to fight in an interstellar war against the alien Taurans. He survives battle after battle, but due to time dilation and space travel, hundreds of years go by between each mission. During this time, he experiences humanity morph into something he and his fellow veterans don’t recognise. All he hopes for is to survive the war and be reunited with his wife. But each battle is an evolution of warfare, becoming more deadlier than before.

This novel has it all. You care for Mandella. The battles are as gripping whether they take place on some outpost planet or in deep space. The finale is as satisfactory as one would want it, considering our journey through space and time.

This will turn you into a fan.


The premise revolves around two alien beings, both shape-shifters but of a different variety, who have been on Earth for aeons and whose futures are interlocked. The protagonist alien’s character develops with each page turn. The pace in which the story unfolds is gripping, so too is the action, and there is mounting excitement and tension as the decades pass and the two diametrically opposed mimic’s paths intersect. (Highlander) tropes abound as both have embedded themselves into human history, making do with their special shape-shifting abilities.

All this was very cool.

Now, if it weren’t for the central human character and his middle-age crisis story arc, and the ‘tired and contrived’ (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) ending, this could have been an outstanding work of SF. The evil alien antagonist wasn’t helping either. Where there was scope to explore some genuine villainy, instead the character delved into the cliche world of Nazi bad guy strudel.

I enjoyed this read immensely but it remains for me a major ‘if only’ science fiction novel. 

Was it worth the read? Yes, with a smidgen of disappointment.

Haldeman fans will forgive, others may not.

There Is No Darkness

This novel was my first introduction to the Haldemans. Coauthored by brothers Joe and Jack, it is still one of my favourite works of science fiction.

Carl Bok is a student of Starschool. Because he’s from Springworld, a heavy gravity planet with harsh weather and wildlife, he bigger than your average pupil and a lot poorer. All he has is his pride and something to prove.

On the Earth leg of the excursion, he gets involved in prise fighting, unintentionally roping in his roommates. They fight tournament after tournament, but even though he loses in the end, Carl learns a lesson in fealty.

Next, they visit a planet called Hell. This is where sovereign governments go to fight their conventional, regulated wars. Carl and his colleagues, who are now his friends, are kidnapped and forced to serve in a mercenary army.

Then they travel to The Construct, an ancient alien artefact that has become a hub for hundreds of alien species who’ve set up shop to trade information.

The best aspect of this book is Carl’s growing friendship with the other students. They are each funny and charming in their own way, as they band together to face a brave new universe.

This will resonate with fans as much as any other of his work.