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The Eternity Brigade

The Eternity BrigadeIt started its life as a short story in Terry Carr's Universe 5 anthology, "But As a Soldier, For His Country." (The ebook version of the story is available for free download at Smashwords.) Written around the end of the Vietnam War, it's a heavily ironic piece about a soldier recreated again and again, to fight war after war, until at last he comes full circle. It's a young man's story, venting frustration at the futility and lunacy of war.

Several years later, as a slightly less young man, I realized it contained other themes and vaster meanings, so I decided to expand it into a novel. It became a struggle for the characters' identities, a brave attempt to retain their individuality in the face of increasingly impersonal circumstances. When a character doesn't even own his own life, what can he call his own except his death? And even that is stolen from them.

This is a story of young men whose bodies are reconstructed to fight war after war after war centuries, even millennia, into the future. Dying in battle is illusory, because they'll just be reincarnated to fight again, bleed again, and perhaps die again. And it's the story of how one man manages to cheat the system.

I consider this one of my strongest books, but I've had fans tell me it made them uncomfortable. All my other books have upbeat endings, and I guess they feel the ending of this one is a downer. But I don't think of it that way. The hero has lived virtually forever. He has been cheated repeatedly out of his right to die, which is the only thing of value to him any more. After overcoming great obstacles, he finally achieves the goal he wanted most. That, to me, is an upbeat ending, even if it doesn't fall within the conventional definition.

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