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The Eternity Brigade

by Stephen Goldin

The Eternity Brigade - Stephen Goldin
Editions:ePub: $ 4.99
ISBN: 9781452479729
Audiobook (Faeroese)
Paperback: $ 14.99
ISBN: 978-1451508130
Pages: 274

Hawker was a good soldier -- so good, in fact, that the Army asked him and his buddies to sign on for an extended hitch. What they couldn't know was that the extension would last forever. Century after century, war after war, Hawker and his comrades were re-animated over and over to fight on alien planets with ever more advanced weapons. The reasons for the wars were incomprehensible, but that didn't matter. All that counted was the fighting itself.

From incarnation through incarnation, one goal remained in Hawker's mind. Somewhere, somehow, there had to be a way out of the loop. And he was determined to find it.

Reviews:Kathryn Kline on wrote:

The Eternity Brigade's anti-hero, Hawker, is one of the most interesting characters I've come across in a long time. Despite this being an action-oriented book with fantastical sex scenes (not too dirty, so if that's not your cup of tea, don't let this deter you from an amazing book), Hawker is not a James Bond knock off. He's not a dumb army guy with a heart of gold. He's not... any of the cliches that I expected. He's a very flawed, surprisingly normal, slow-witted man who doesn't fit in and never really has.

Hawker isn't exactly likeable, but I still wanted him to be alright. Even when he puts himself in the terrible situation of being reborn again and again and again to fight wars in which he has no personal interest - for centuries, with no end in sight - the decisions that led him to that fate are understandable. This is a real person doing the best with what he's been given.

This awesome protagonist isn't the only positive in the book. The supporting characters are fully fleshed out, as is the unfolding situation of multiple lives that Hawker is forced to live through. A celebrated war hero hoping for a better future, who ends up with the same no-way-out life-after-life as convicts: his fate is bitter, and you can taste it through the pages.

The only reason I didn't give this a full five stars is that it felt a bit... rushed. There are some truly imaginative, fantastic elements that intrigued me, and I wanted to see more, learn more, experience more. Mostly, I wanted to get a better idea of how we get from here to there, and what the ramifications are. There is a short, stunted exploration of the sociology surrounding the new technologies that fuel the plot, but little else. Hawker is a prisoner of these technologies, and we are shown others who benefit from them. But it just didn't quite feel like enough.

Still, I really liked this book and I would definitely recommend it to a friend.

Harold P on wrote:

I read this the first time in the 80s. It has stuck with me that long. I couldn't remember the name of it but with some help found it again. While it is a sci-fi book it is more about people than tech. What would people do with the tech? How would people treat others because of the tech? This explores those questions. I am about 30 years older now than when I first read this and it really stands up. I would put this as must read book. I have very few of those.

LeeJackson on wrote:

I read through this book in a day, right after it was published. I passed this book around so others could read it - and I got it back in tatters because SO MANY had read it. Over the course of the next two years, I had to buy multiple copies because so many people were reading it and wearing it out. Now, all these years later, it remains one of my favorite books of all time.

David Reese on wrote:

This updated version could have been written yesterday. Like the original, it presents a frightening possibility and how a hero loves with this reality. It was nice to read it again. It was even more surprising to have it changed to be a modern remake. I should have dug out my paperback and compared it will I read, but that would have taken the joy out of reading a great story for what seemed like the first time. Well done Mr. Goldin.

T. Jackson King on wrote:

"Stephen Goldin's scifi novel The Eternity Brigade is much, much more than a retread of a Ringo or Weber "combat action-adventure in the stars" tale. It is a philosophical novel that looks deeply into the heart of why men fight wars, how men in combat bond with each other, and why the "command" of any war force is always way behind any of the frontline troops in understanding the nature of a particular war. There is blood, combat in space and on Earth and other planets, plenty of sex and an amazing amount of "soldierly loneliness" in this tale of Hawker and his buddies Green and Symington. Goldin makes outstanding extrapolations from current society so that soldiers at first are cryogenically frozen so as to "save money and combat expertise" for future wars, but that process is soon abandoned for recording of a person's whole personality and memories on a crystal similar to how music is recorded. In short, this novel takes the Star Trek "transporter" concept to its ultimate conclusion--immortality. But what happens to a fighter's soul? Strangely, it is those who control the tech for copying people, objects and tech over and over who totally lose their souls in the process of "cost savings." But human stubbornness also comes along with combat tricks, and Hawker eventually finds a way to escape this flawless "merry go round" of slave-like immortality, all the while staying true to his buddies and teaching high command a lesson in what they are really dealing with. This is as good as The Red Badge of Courage or any war novel to come out of the Civil War, WWI, WWII or Vietnam. In fact, it is scarily prescient because what Goldin describes is within the reach of conceivable technology. Sooner rather than later, we will have "recorded soldiers" ready to do the bidding of politicians. But they will still possess the essence of their humanity. A conundrum that few authors of combat scifi explore today. A must read."

brus on wrote:

I am sorta into Scifi. In fact Scifi is about the ONLY fiction I will read. I was talking to a friend I work with about different books. I told him that my first and so far one of my favorites was STARSHIP TROOPERS. He suggested THE ETERNITY BRIGADE to me.
I don't do book reports, but I really enjoyed it. Maybe not as much as SST but it was really good.
Man, I wish they would make movies about some of these books, don't you?

Cat Lewis on wrote:

One of the best sci fi stories I ever read, and I've read a LOT of them! It's actually rather prophetic when you think about where the worlds armies are headed when it comes to technology these days. Ahead of its time.

John Thornton on wrote:

I first read the Eternity Brigade back in the early 1980s and was impressed then. The books central characters (Hawk, Syminton, Green) stuck with me. I will try to avoid spoilers here. They sign up to be soldiers who will be in an experimental group using suspended animation. What could go wrong, right?
I recently re-read the book using the updated version. The story itself is still quite relevant and the new parts or updates were seemlessly woven into the story. About the only difference I caught was some stuff about newspapers and whatnot which had been in my mind since the 1980s and what the future would look like. I did not go through the book to nitpick the new spots and just enjoyed it for its story.
Well crafted and developed characters.
Thoughtful construction of what-if worlds and technologies.
Good dialogue.
Excellent plot and conclusion.
There are a few F-words and some graphic violence and rape but they are important to the plot.
Overall, I give the Eternity Brigade the grade of A.

Anna Erishkigal on wrote:

I originally read this book back when I was in high school, not so long after the Vietnam war that people still questioned why wars were even being fought. Even back then this story stuck with me, and was my first real introduction to the sub-genre of military science fiction. What happens when killing doesn't matter, death doesn't matter, all that matters is to complete the mission, with no understanding of WHY you are fighting the war or killing the guy in the blue armband, only to be put to sleep when it's all said and done and woken up when the next war rolls around to kill again.

Now, upon re-reading the updated edition in 2014, it strikes me how well this book brings you into the psyche of a 'career soldier' caught in this hellish merry-go-round as he is resurrected to fight in wars again and again. It was disturbing when I read this story back in the early 1980's, and it's even MORE disturbing now as we are not yet extricated from Afghanistan (which at least STARTED with a purpose) and Iraq (which is like ... WTF???) and already there are hawkish clamorings to 'help' Ukraine or 'help' Syria. War is dehumanizing, and while some wars can't be avoided, this book highlights that soldiers are not some fungible commodity to be shuffled form war to war.

Great read! 5-stars.

Cashmere on wrote:

I am absolutely blown away with this book. Cryogenics is such a fascinating topic. Can you be frozen and wake up without ageing some day in the future? Is the being that you are today, going to fit into a society in the future. Then add the military aspect of how a fighting soldier will adapt to waking up in a future world and fighting...simply amazing. And I love the four primary "sleepers", the reasons that they got originally pushed into project Banknote. Green really was the smart single word was the key to getting off the merry go round...remember. If humanity ever really goes that way, and it is looking like a very real possibility, such soldiers will begin to exist! Scary thought isn't it!!!

Amazon Customer on wrote:

The Eternity Brigade was first published in 1980. Major revisions have been made and the final edition was published in 2010. I've never read any earlier editions so I'm approaching this work as an entirely new 2010 release.

The concept of using cryogenics to make soldiers nearly immortal is intriguing. The story is told from the point of view of Hawker, an American soldier who is trapped in the army's resurrection technology, as he is forced to become a pawn in increasingly bizarre wars that he has no connection to. In short, Hawker is stuck in a nightmare. Through the centuries, he becomes even more alienated from society to the point that all of future civilization is incomprehensible to him. It's a haunting future to imagine and it really takes man's inhumanity to man to the next level.

On top of the amazing concept, it's fast-paced. It grabbed me very quickly and never let go of my interest. The narrative doesn't mess around with the details and moves the plot smoothly through the centuries and galaxies.

Although the reader doesn't learn much about Hawker, he's still a very sympathetic character. It's easy to see how anyone could be in Hawker's position, where control of one's life can be swept way by forces like larger personalities, groupthink, and the industrial-military complex. It makes Hawker's experiences even more frightening.

While those elements are exceptionally strong, I found the other characters and the world-building lacking. The characters feel like types rather than real individuals, and a few of them had unclear motivations. I couldn't pin down Hawker's original time. He makes some references to iPods which would set his time in 2001 and later. His fellow revived men find it surprising that China isn't completely communist anymore, but China was already economically liberal enough to join the WTO in 2001.

The Eternity Brigade moves through centuries with the changing forms of warfare and civilization. I appreciate the time-place disorientation that Hawker experiences with each incarnation, and the idea that future society can only become more strange and incomprehensible. But the future setting alongside the sombre tone often feels anachronistic. The future societies are reminiscent of the "exotic" alien societies that Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek interacted with. The aliens have easily identifiable binary genders and the humans live in bubble-domes. I just feel the tropes used for the setting are a bit quaint. The details that I found unconvincing are found in less than a tenth of the text, but they are distributed throughout the book so they occasionally distracted me from the main storyline.

The Eternity Brigade is a thrilling read with a great central concept. I enjoyed it, but I can't say it's my best read of the year. I still guarantee that this book is a provocative page-turner that's easily devoured in one sitting. It's worth reading to explore its engaging ideas about the human cost of war and its vision of dystopia, but don't expect too much from the characters or the world-building.

Note: a free review copy was provided by the author.

Raegan Butcher on wrote:

I first read this book when it was published back in the early 1980's and it is easily found in 2nd hand shops all over the country.
Along with Joe Haldeman's THE FOREVER WAR, this is the best depiction of disenfranchised victims of the corporate-imperial combine ever depicted in the science fiction genre. This book is really much more layered and complex than the lurid cover illustration of the old paperback edition from the first printing in 1980 would seem to suggest.

Jonathan S. on wrote:

Get ready to be sucked in. If you've never read a book from start to finish in one sitting...prepare yourself. Wildly imaginative, the story will sweep you up and hurtle you headlong into another universe. The gripping plot and well written characters drive this story from our near future to a time thousands of years from now. Goldin flings us wildly into an inconceivable far-future world. Yet, somehow the story maintains a firm grasp on the realm of the possible. Buy this book and keep it. You'll be reading it again in a year or two. I guarantee it.

Troy A. Rutter on wrote:

I read this book when I was very young, and checked it out of the library every year after that. Recently when I moved to Los Angeles, I searched high and low and eventually came across a mint-condition book.
Re-reading the book is always an experience. The experiences Hawk goes through, the people he meets, and the sight of seeing his first clone, strike a powerful chord in today's society. Long before the cloning of the sheep, this book was indeed well ahead of its time.

benjamin a isbell on wrote:

This book is a great read. The author makes you sympathize with the characters and want them to make it through each trying adventure. A must for anyone who has a military background

Alice on wrote:

One of the first books I ever read. It was a gripping story then and it still is now. The struggle of a disenchanted solder who is tired of fighting war after war is a great read. You will not be disappointed.

About the Author

STEPHEN GOLDIN is a Nebula Award finalist science fiction and fantasy writer who was born in 1947 in the city of Philadelphia. When he was 13, his parents moved to California and, upon reflection, he decided to accompany them. It was a lucky thing he did, too; otherwise, when he went to college, the commute to UCLA would have been quite difficult. He eventually graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy.

His first job out of college was as a civilian space scientist for the U.S. Navy. The urge to write was strong, though, and after several years he left to try writing full time. He only regretted the move every other Thursday, when he would have gotten paid.

After several years of genteel poverty, he took a job as writer/editor for a pornographic humor paper, the San Francisco Ball. In retrospect, this was a great crucible; because of deadline pressure, he had to learn to make his writing dirty, funny, and one draft.

At about this time, too, he began selling novels on a regular basis. While he has, from time to time, held down other full-time employment (he helped design the Star Trek: The Next Generation computer game "A Final Unity" for Spectrum HoloByte and has also written manuals and game design documents for Maxis), his real love is fiction writing and he continues to pursue it.

His first wife was fellow author Kathleen Sky. In the 10+ years of their marriage, in addition to their individual works, they collaborated on a pair of stories ("Painting the Roses Red" and "The Devil Behind the Leaves") about the diMedicis, a family of interstellar swindlers.

Mr. Goldin's current wife is fellow author Mary Mason. They currently live in the San Francisco East Bay area. So far they have co-authored two books in the Rehumanization of Jade Darcy series: Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor and Jade Darcy and the Zen Pirates. More books in this series are planned.

Mr. Goldin is an atheist whose interests include Broadway show albums and surrealist art. He has lived with cats virtually all his adult life.

Mr. Goldin served the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as editor of the SFWA Bulletin and as SFWA's Western Regional Director.