Forever Free (novel)
|Cover artist||Bruce Jensen|
|Series||The Forever War series|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Forever Peace, (1997)|
William Mandella, protagonist of The Forever War, lives with his wife Marygay on the icy world Middle Finger, a planet of the Mizar system. Dissatisfied with the state of their society, they eventually decide to jump forward in time, using the time dilation of interstellar travel. Their intention is to travel for 10 subjective years, at relativistic speeds, into the future, during which 40,000 Earth years will have passed on Middle Finger. They, along with other Forever War veterans and other disenchanted humans on Middle Finger, hope that whatever they will find upon their return will be more to their liking. This requires the consent of the posthuman group mind now known as 'Man', and of the alien group mind Tauran race. When permission is denied, William and allies hijack the ship.
After Marygay and William head away from their planet, a series of unexplained occurrences happen and the ship starts to lose antimatter mysteriously. They abandon the ship and return home. Instead of the intended 40,000 years, they have only been away 24 Earth years. Upon arrival, they find the planet still intact, but seemingly vacant; everyone having literally disappeared at the same time as the incident on their ship. They then return to Earth and in the course of the investigation they discover a shape-shifting being posing as an android cowboy at a western-themed amusement park. This being has been on Earth and the other inhabited planets for millennia and is not certain of its own origin. It also has no idea what happened to the denizens of Earth.
The resolution involves a god who evidently created the universe as an experiment. This god explains that the action of leaving the galaxy on a 40,000 year round-trip is similar to a laboratory mouse escaping its cage. Eventually "God" restores the inhabitants, who have been stored in stasis.
F&SF reviewer Charles de Lint praised the novel, declaring "Forever Free is everything good science fiction should be but so often isn't: a grand adventure into what it means to be human, told through rich characterization and thoughtful scientific (not to mention religious) speculation that doesn't lag for a moment." Kirkus Reviews panned the book as a "Belated, and truly terrible, sequel" to The Forever War.