Year: 1999 (First Edition), 2006 (Omnibus Edition)
Although theoretically this is the 3rd part of the trilogy, as it was released after both Forever War and Forever Peace, practically it is the direct continuation of the first book and the story of William Mandella.
William Mandella lives his life peacefully with his, also veteran, wife and their children on one of the planets that Man has allowed his genetic ancestors to live on. At first sight the inhabitants are free, but many of them feel like they are in a zoo for the sole purpose of Man having available genetic material just in case his DNA proves problematic.
Thus the main character and some other humans decide to leave and make use of the time paradox when travelling with speed that approaches the speed of light and return 40,000 years later to see how the species has evolved. In their journey they face many phenomena which can’t be explained by science and violate any theoretical physics law. The result? They have to return a few years later and face a mysterious situation.
Joe Haldeman studies the concepts of freedom, volition and choice on a metaphysical and philosophical level. Are the characters living on their planet free or not? Are they really free to express and make their own choices? Perhaps growing up has led Haldeman to a more nihilistic and fatalistic approach of human nature. From a point on the metaphysical element is more intense, not according to our modern views on the divine, but more like a force that decides and determines whether our choices are feasible. As the author himself says (through the main character) “I’d always told religious friends that there may or may not be a God, but if there is one, I wouldn’t want to have him over for dinner”.
If we consider that Haldeman fought in Vietnam (while Forever War is a deeply anti-war book) and if we also think the situation of the world around us, then we can only agree with his bleak point of view.