The Forever War

The Forever War

by Joe Haldeman


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312536633
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/17/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 47,515
Product dimensions: 8.24(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

A multiple winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Joe Haldeman is an ultimate household name in science fiction. A Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, since the original publication of The Forever War, Joe has maintined a continuous string of SF classics, and as a long-time Professor of Creative Writing at M.I.T., is widely acknowledged as a key mentor figure to many of this generation's top SF stars.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn't look five years older than me. So if he'd ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he'd done it as an infant.

I already knew eighty ways to kill people, but most of them were pretty noisy. I sat up straight in my chair and assumed a look of polite attention and fell asleep with my eyes open. So did most everybody else. We'd learned that they never scheduled anything important for these after-chop classes.

The projector woke me up and I sat through a short tape showing the "eight silent ways." Some of the actors must have been brainwipes, since they were actually killed.

After the tape a girl in the front row raised her hand. The sergeant nodded at her and she rose to parade rest. Not bad looking, but kind of chunky about the neck and shoulders. Everybody gets that way after carrying a heavy pack around for a couple of months.

"Sir"- we had to call sergeants "sir" until graduation- "most of those methods, really, they looked . . . kind of silly."

"For instance?"

"Like killing a man with a blow to the kidneys, from an entrenching tool. I mean, when would you actually have only an entrenching tool, and no gun or knife? And why not just bash him over the head with it?"

"He might have a helmet on," he said reasonably.

"Besides, Taurans probably don't even have kidneys!"

He shrugged. "Probably they don't." This was 1997, and nobody had ever seen a Tauran; hadn't even found any pieces of Taurans bigger than a scorched chromosome. "But their body chemistry is similar to ours, and we have to assume they're similarly complex creatures. Theymust have weaknesses, vulnerable spots. You have to find out where they are.

"That's the important thing.'' He stabbed a finger at the screen. "Those eight convicts got caulked for your benefit because you've got to find out how to kill Taurans, and be able to do it whether you have a megawatt laser or an emery board."

She sat back down, not looking too convinced.

"Any more questions?" Nobody raised a hand.

"OK. Tench-hut!" We staggered upright and he looked at us expectantly.

"Fuck you, sir," came the familiar tired chorus.


"FUCK YOU, SIR!" One of the army's less-inspired morale devices.

"That's better. Don't forget, pre-dawn maneuvers tomorrow. Chop at 0330, first formation, 0400. Anybody sacked after 0340 owes one stripe. Dismissed."

I zipped up my coverall and went across the snow to the lounge for a cup of soya and a joint. I'd always been able to get by on five or six hours of sleep, and this was the only time I could be by myself, out of the army for a while. Looked at the newsfax for a few minutes. Another ship got caulked, out by Aldebaran sector. That was four years ago. They were mounting a reprisal fleet, but it'll take four years more for them to get out there. By then, the Taurans would have every portal planet sewed up tight.

Back at the billet, everybody else was sacked and the main lights were out. The whole company's been dragging ever since we got back from the two-week lunar training. I dumped my clothes in the locker, checked the roster and found out I was in bunk 31. Goddammit, right under the heater.

I slipped through the curtain as quietly as possible so as not to wake up the person next to me. Couldn't see who it was, but I couldn't have cared less. I slipped under the blanket. "You're late, Mandella," a voice yawned. It was Rogers.

"Sorry I woke you up," I whispered.

"'Sallright." She snuggled over and clasped me spoon fashion. She was warm and reasonably soft.

I patted her hip in what I hoped was a brotherly fashion. "Night, Rogers."

"G'night, Stallion." She returned the gesture more pointedly.

Why do you always get the tired ones when you're ready and the randy ones when you're tired? I bowed to the inevitable.

Copyright ) 1974, 1975 by Joe W. Haldeman

Table of Contents

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Forever War 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 103 reviews.
DominicMichael More than 1 year ago
The year is 1997, and mankind is locked in a cosmic war with an enemy it's never seen. First, let's set the stage: twelve years before, scientists discovered the collapsar jumps, naturally occurring wormholes that allow instantaneous access to the stars. Fly in one end at just the right angle, at just the right speed, and pop out at some distant corner of space. What roads were to Rome and ships were to the British, so now are collapsars to Earth. Whoever controls them rules the known galaxy-and it seems other intelligent beings besides those on Earth understand this simple fact, as well. So begins The Forever War, a novel chronicling the story of elite soldier William Mandella through humanity's conflict with an alien race known as the Tauran. The author, Joe Haldeman, accomplishes a feat with his first novel that doesn't seem possible. He's written an epic adventure story in less than three hundred pages. What's more, the world he creates is so believable that after a short while, you don't even question the techno jargon anymore. Instead, you find yourself blindly accepting all the rules and also thinking of new ways to fight with the tools at hand. This complete immersion into a foreign reality is one the book's greatest strengths, and lays a strong foundation that seems to be missing in a lot of modern sci-fi. It's refreshing to see science as the cornerstone for science fiction. The author obviously had schooling in some of these areas to handle them so convincingly. And if he didn't, he sure fakes it damned well. At its heart, though, The Forever War is a war story. "Tonight," begins the first chapter, "we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man." It soon becomes clear that the 'actors' in the demonstration video are convicted criminals who are actually being executed for the sake of teaching new recruits how to kill a man with a kidney punch. Cute. There's little outrage among the men and women, though, which is a hint at what kind of world you're entering. This is a world where men and women are forcibly conscripted into an organization called the United Nations Exploratory Force, or UNEF, and sent into battle. This is a world were 50% casualty rates simply during training are the norm, not the exception. This is a world where your superiors fire live ordinance at you during drills and execute you for insubordination. This is a brutal world. Accept that going in. It's this inhumanity, though, that truly gives The Forever War its soul. Haldeman, based on his own real life experience in Vietnam, gives us a front row seat to the savagery of war and the lengths unchecked bureaucracies are willing to go in order to 'win.' His subtle, concise writing style adds to a gripping narrative that conveys the power of his themes without patronizing the reader by banging them over the head with a proverbial shovel. This is a story that truly gives the reader an honest impression of what armed conflict is really like, minus all the glitz and glitter and rhetoric. In these uncertain times, with America engaged in places like Iraq, it reminds you why war is always the option of last resort. YOU CAN READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE:
RJ45 More than 1 year ago
This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. I say this having read the book back in high school, and then having reread it several time since. Joe Haldeman very effectively tells a story that takes place in the future yet speaks to a modern world where soldiers fight in wars that they don't really care about using skills that are largely alien to their basic personalities. These same soldiers then come home to a world that has seemingly changed (in the book, the world really has changed) and must choose to live in that world, or go back to do what they detest.
JCarter More than 1 year ago
Originally published before Star Wars, this work is based on science fact. Man is unable to go faster than light speed, time moves forward on Earth but not for those in space. These things lead to soldiers fighting a war lasting thousands of years on Earth and only a few years where they are. Civilization on Earth evolves beyond what soldiers on the front can grasp. but beyond that are still the horrors that soldiers face in battle. For me this is the definitive science fiction work. Having written Mr. Joe Haldeman several times he had given me the inspiration to write science fiction and the encouragement to do so. I would place this book alongside Red Badge of Courage.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
"Forever War" follows genius/warrior William Mandella as he chases aliens across the universe and time. Joe Haldeman's novel is held up as one of the earliest and perhaps best military sci fi novel of all time. He delivers an exciting and intriguing story of future war while laying to bear some important societal issues of the post Vietnam-era, although these issues raised could apply to any war-time era. Whereas Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" only barely masks his treatise on war-time values within a science fiction setting, Haldeman is much more effective at building a foundation of a strong narrative and layering on issues of sex, gender, age, societal evolution and other themes. I'm not sure I can add more to the pantheon of reviews and descriptions of this book. I really enjoyed it and would rate it stronger than "Starship Troopers" and in a similar vein (but not quite as good, honestly) as John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series.
CLTurner More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. Period. A fast read, an important read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A superb novel that is well written. A must have, and a great accompaniment to Starship Troopers
klik More than 1 year ago
War between humans and aliens from the Andromeda constellation begins in 1997, the fourth year of colonization of the galaxy by mankind. A graduate student is drafted from his postgraduate programs and faces a war that tears him from all he once knew and even his true love. For how can one fight a war for a society that one knows nothing about? A great read, with a war that is fought over vast distances, and over vast time. Einstien's theory of relativity means that space travel will cause a traveler to miss hundreds of years on one trip, and this is central to the war that begins in 1997 and ends in 3438-ish.
Lord_Adair More than 1 year ago
This is a great book to read once, but it is a little gruff in the beginning. The story is rich and full of ever changing principles and beliefs. The main characters do not change which is a testament to who they are.
DurtyC More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic... in more ways than just it's imaginative (yet realizable) setting. I would consider it "Literature" with the questions it challenges boldly, without bias, and with the themes it presents within a well-developed plot. However, it's written in a very accessible style that anybody can enjoy--science fiction lovers, war-story afficionados, or adventure readers. It brings up debate on battle as well as what direction our species/planet is moving. I will read it again and again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
BruderBane on LibraryThing 10 months ago
With whimsical albeit staccato allusions to ¿Brave New World¿ Joe Hadelman¿s ¿The Forever War¿ was a thorough page turner. Mr. Hadelman obviously wrote the novel in the seventies, and the book is replete with kitschy overtones, youthful rebellion and Vietnam experiences. Nevertheless, Mr. Hadelman captures a strange alternate earthlike universe and engages the reader to think of the possibilities. In the author¿s note Mr. Hadelman says to view his novel as an ¿alternate earth history,¿ this helped tremendously. And if you can get past the regressive seventies view of a bleak future, there is quite an enjoyable military sci-fi read for you here.
OregonTrailMix on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Definitely a very worthy work of science fiction.Haldeman does an excellent of job of putting the reader inside William Mandella's (main char.) head with regards to his moral dilemmas and feelings (such as those on being an outsider).A few elements of the story (outside the obvious sci-fi war situation) reminded me (vaguely) of Starship Troopers and Ender's Game.[more review later]A very good read.
santhony on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This excellent science fiction novel is a joint 1976 Hugo/Nebula Award winner and deservedly so. It has been, along with Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, identified as the best military science fiction novel in existence.The author, Joe Haldeman, is a Vietnam veteran, and his experience in that conflict can easily be seen in this novel chronicling a never ending conflict between Humans and Taurans, driven more by economics and the military industrial conflict than by any animus between the two species.Of particular interest are the technological advances throughout the term of the conflict and interpersonal relationships, made more fascinating by the time continuum that results in vast differences in the passage of time between starship travelers and others. The method of travel, the weapons used, equipment, medical advances and interesting Tauran characteristics all display outstanding imagination.Labeled by most as an anti-war work, it certainly demonstrates the futility of this particular conflict, which is conceded by the author to be an allegory for the Vietnam conflict. However, the book is at its core, simply fascinating without beating the reader over the head with its political message. Highly recommended.
manque on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Mostly clean, crisp, powerful prose and compelling action, though the book does get bogged down in exposition of tactics and its fictional technology. The descriptions of battle are perhaps the least interesting parts of the book--which may have been intentional on the part of the author. The social and political questions raised seem tame by early 21st century standards, and the depiction of women and sexual relations comes off as something between juvenile and chauvinistic (though in a tender, non-misogynistic way). A fine entertainment, but one with some glaring flaws and without substantial depth. A great airplane or summer read.
Hiromatsuo on LibraryThing 10 months ago
After reading various military history books on the Vietnam War, as well as the SF classic Ender's Game, I began to hear a lot about Haldeman's The Forever War. So I picked it up and decided to give it a go. Overall, I'd say that both FW and EG share a great many similarities, as both are essentially studies of leaders who are thrown into the fight against their will and must fight an enemy which is largely unknown. What's interesting about FW is that science and the allusions to the Vietnam War play a much bigger part of the story. This isn't much of a surprise seeing as Haldeman is a veteran himself. What struck me about the science aspect of the novel was that it was surprisingly realistic, yet accessible. I got the impression that space travel was something that was not only uncomfortable, but also dangerous and somewhat primitive. Of course time dilation is a big part of the story, since years of relativistic travel for the soldiers equates to centuries on Earth. Furthermore, due to this travel, it is mentioned that they are encountering enemy ships from the "future". This is not your Star Wars or Star Trek space battles, as the fights take place over enormous distances and periods of time.Of course, our main character William Mandella faces alienation when he and his girlfriend return home. Everything that they once knew, has completely changed. Going further into the future, Mandella finds himself in command of a company of soldiers with which he has almost nothing in common with. The aspects of trying to lead such a group of soldiers takes some interesting turns as Mandella struggles to adjust to their way of life which is so different from his own (for example, Mandella speaks 1990s English which is archaic to the soldiers under his command living in the 3400s). I really enjoyed The Forever War, and in a way, it complements Ender's Game in giving insight into the personal quest and trials of fighting men on more of a sociological basis.
br77rino on LibraryThing 10 months ago
An alright science fiction book, but not in the same league as Foundation or Ender's Game. Like so many sci-fi books, the sexual sections were juvenile. The plot, built on a war of humans vs. Taurans (or Aldebarans) was pretty original, and he got into the effects of time dilation on the troops who traveled in the vicinity of lightspeed, which was also very good.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I loved this against expectations. The blurbs spurt encomiums such as "best science fiction novel ever." One by Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz calls it "Perhaps the most important war novel written since Vietnam." Such praise made me start the novel in a rather cynical "show me" mood. Given it's reputation as an "anti-war" novel I also feared it might be bitter, angry polemic or depressing. That couldn't be farther from the case. I found the first person narrator and protagonist, William Mandella, sympathetic and intelligent--that helped. But it's also more than a "war novel." The introduction to my edition by Scalzi calls it "one of the two cornerstone works of military science fiction, along with Starship Troopers. I happen to love Heinlein's Starship Troopers with which The Forever War has often been compared as its opposite pole: Heinlein's seen as militaristic and "pro-war" and Haldeman's as "anti-war" and "anti-military." I think that's a rather simplistic way to describe either novel, and unfair to Heinlein, who did depict the negative sides of the military mindset. I think it's more that Starship Troopers is post-World War II. It's template was the "Good War" fought and won by his country while Haldeman's war was Vietnam--the long, futile war his country lost. So Haldeman's book emphasizes the absurdities, the futility and damage down to psyches and especially the dislocation veterans feel. Heinlein's novel depicts a utopia (mostly--by Heinlein's lights) while Haldeman's novel depicts a dystopia (mostly). Both are thought-provoking books well-worth the read. I found Haldeman's novel a lot more enjoyable than I expected--a page-turner.
sturlington on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I have to wonder why it's Starship Troopers and not this book that is the must-read military science fiction novel. The Forever War is much better written and more entertaining, and I appreciated its anti-war message more than Heinlein's jingoism. I also enjoyed that the novel made relativity an important part of the plot, so that the book spans an incredibly long period of time, incorporating many technological changes and cultural revolutions, while still keeping the same main character. Many novels with light-speed travel seem to forget about relativity. At first, I was put off that the beginning of the book takes place so close to the present day -- it didn't seem realistic -- but once I realized how much time the story was going to cover, I forgave that discrepancy.All in all, this is an entertaining read that deserves to be a science fiction classic.
creighley on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is the story of the war between Earth and the Taurans. William Mandala, a former physics teacher, finds that he has been drafted into this war. Because of the time warp in travel in space, although he has been gone 27 years, he has aged one one. He returns to Earth only to discover that it has changed so much that he reenlists and find himself once again immersed in the continuous fight with the Taurans.
rocjoe on LibraryThing 10 months ago
It's pretty rare to encounter any SF novel of this quality. Well done. Anyone who likes post-WWII science fiction will like this as well.
jasonlf on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Evidently a classic science fiction novel but I hadn't heard of it until I picked it up next week. It is classic military science fiction: following a recruit through tough basic training, the first battles in an interstellar war, all the way through the conclusion of that war.Thanks to Einstein's twin paradox writ large, he gets to experience brief vignettes of a war that lasts for thousands of years. It is as much allegorical as anything, the idea of platoon sized battles on planets spread throughout the galaxy is obviously implausible -- especially given the sophisticated computers that guide the battleships in the book.Overall, the book feels slightly dated. The problem is more than the usual with a science fiction novel written thirty-five years ago that tries to envision the near future (in the future we'll all read our news on a fax!), it's more that the book is infused with the dated perspective of a particular moment in time, particularly the Club of Rome's belief in the inevitability of scarcity and the problems of overpopulation. Moreover, the fact that that novel describes a society that exploits a total mobilization for war undermines the idea that this is meant to be a Vietnam allegory.That said, a lot of creative science fiction and interesting situations, the book has an intriguing feel, and I quite liked the love story -- although I recognize that is probably more a reflection of my weaknesses and the book's strengths.
Radaghast on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Inevitably, I feel bound to compare The Forever War to the two other great military science fiction books I've read, Starship Troopers and Old Man's War. Starship Troopers is the more classic of the two for obvious reasons. It is largely a philosophical book, that sets out to make an argument. Whether that argument was for or against the society it outlined is up to interpretation, but there's no doubt it was saying something. Old Man's War in contrast isn't really making an overarching argument. It's just a fun novel with an awesome premise. These books both work. Because The Forever War tries to have it both ways to varying degrees of success, it only sort of works, and comes in a distant third behind Heinlein's and Scalzi's novels.The Forever War is built on the premise that Earth has encountered a hostile race in its interstellar travels. This race appears bent on destruction whenever it encounters humans. To counterract this, humanity enlists a draft of its most intelligent youths, and sends them into the fray. Of course, given the vast distances involved, we quickly find out how relativity affects the course of war. It's an interesting idea, that most books would try to avoid. Haldeman deals with it brilliantly, and the timescales involved play a huge part in the novel's appeal.Where the novel starts to break down is the obvious nature of its allegory. This is a Vietnam book. But it isn't in any way subtle. We didn't try to understand the North Vietnamese motivations as much as we should have. Well, in The Forever War, we don't try to understand them at all! In the Vietnam War, our intervention was fabricated based on flimsy justification. But in The Forever War, the entire war is a big fabrication just to keep a constant war economy! In Vietnam, soldiers came home to a country that had changed culturally. In The Forever War, they come back to a world where everyone is homosexual! (seriously) These were the dull parts, where Haldeman was trying to force the story to serve the message rather than the reverse.The Forever War has long stretches where it's a fascinating read. Then it has other stretches where it seems ludicrous. Haldeman's writing seems borderline homophobic at times as well. It's a mixed bag. In the end, I think there are better examples of military science fiction, but The Forever War is still worth reading.
Overlord1000 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Very good book I liked how unique and exciting it is. A good read.
JGolomb on LibraryThing 10 months ago
"Forever War" follows genius/warrior William Mandella as he chases aliens across the universe and time. Joe Haldeman's novel is held up as one of the earliest and perhaps best military sci fi novel of all time. He delivers an exciting and intriguing story of future war while laying to bear some important societal issues of the post Vietnam-era, although these issues raised could apply to any war-time era.Whereas Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" only barely masks his treatise on war-time values within a science fiction setting, Haldeman is much more effective at building a foundation of a strong narrative and layering on issues of sex, gender, age, societal evolution and other themes. I'm not sure I can add more to the pantheon of reviews and descriptions of this book. I really enjoyed it and would rate it stronger than "Starship Troopers" and in a similar vein (but not quite as good, honestly) as John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series.
mainrun on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The book was written in the 1970's and the setting started in 1997. Interesting to read what the author thought things would be like in the current (2012) past. Bummer that the "star-gate" wormhold thingy hasn't been found. Maybe not, as good science fiction almost always does - what was on the other side of the worm hole may not be friendly. Overall the book wasn't as good as I hoped it would be. Some parts were episondic, not really creating an overall epic tale that I enjoy much more.