The Long Habit of Living

Joe Haldeman
New English Library 1989
ISBN 0 450 51189 8

Originally published in the United States as “Buying Time”, I first read “The Long Habit of Living” in 1993. I still remember being so blown away by the ideas in the book that I actually sent Joe Haldeman an e-mail saying how much I enjoyed the story. He even replied to me – at the time he and his wife were on a bicycle tour of the United States, which just goes to show what a nice guy he is.

So, fourteen years later, do I still feel the same about this science-fiction murder mystery as I did way back when? Well, there are still the big ideas there, the immortality treatment, the asteroid colonies, and the LEO settlements (not visited but mentioned). There is still the hint of politics and factions, both within the Immortal group and between Immortals and “Ephemerals”. There are still the hints and glimpses of what the world may look like in the late Twenty-first century, and there are still the mad escapes and daring-do. Oh, and the big twist is still there at the end.

But, I just feel a little disappointed in the characters. The baddy is bad, but there is little made of how bad he is (apart from a few murders – performed by agents – and kidnappings – also performed by agents), what he hopes to achieve when he takes over the world, and even why he’s decided to be bad. The other two main characters, while having a couple of nice quirks – an immortal who has had enough of immortality, and a love-affair rekindled after a generation – seem rather unconcerned about going from a standard Immortal’s life of accumulating their next million pounds for their next treatment to struggling to save the planet from a madman.

Perhaps this nonchalance reflects their extremely long lives and accumulated life experience?

And then there is the big twist at the end. A big idea that cries out to be explored, but which isn’t in this book. I don’t think Haldeman has written a sequel, but I, for one would love to see this idea followed up!

I still enjoyed reading ‘The Long Habit of Living’ again, and would recommend it. Joe Haldeman’s website is well worth a look if you are a fan of his fiction and this site has a review and access to reviews of other Haldeman books and books by other Science Fiction and Fantasy writers.

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