In this novel, a landmark of science fiction that began as an MFA thesis for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and went on to become an award-winning classic—inspiring a play, a graphic novel, and most recently an in-development film—man has taken to the stars, and soldiers fighting the wars of the future return to Earth forever alienated from their home.
Conscripted into service for the United Nations Exploratory Force, a highly trained unit built for revenge, physics student William Mandella fights for his planet light years away against the alien force known as the Taurans. “Mandella’s attempt to survive and remain human in the face of an absurd, almost endless war is harrowing, hilarious, heartbreaking, and true,” says Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Junot Díaz—and because of the relative passage of time when one travels at incredibly high speed, the Earth Mandella returns to after his two-year experience has progressed decades and is foreign to him in disturbing ways.
Based in part on the author’s experiences in Vietnam, The Forever War is regarded as one of the greatest military science fiction novels ever written, capturing the alienation that servicemen and women experience even now upon returning home from battle. It shines a light not only on the culture of the 1970s in which it was written, but also on our potential future. “To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise. It is . . . as fine and woundingly genuine a war story as any I’ve read” (William Gibson).
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Joe Haldeman including rare images from the author’s personal collection.
About the Author
Haldeman sold his first story in 1969 and has since written over two dozen novels and five collections of short stories and poetry. He has won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novels, novellas, poems, and short stories, as well as the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Locus Award, the Rhysling Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. His works include The Forever War, Forever Peace, Camouflage, 1968, the Worlds saga, and the Marsbound series.
Haldeman recently retired after many years as an associate professor in the Department of Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Gay, live in Florida, where he also paints, plays the guitar, rides his bicycle, and studies the skies with his telescope.
Read an Excerpt
The Forever War
By Joe Haldeman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1975 Joe Haldeman
All rights reserved.
'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.'
'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. They must 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'd 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.CHAPTER 2
'Awright, let's get some goddamn back inta that! Stringer team! Move it up — move your ass up!'
A warm front had come in about midnight and the snow had turned to sleet. The permaplast stringer weighed five hundred pounds and was a bitch to handle, even when it wasn't covered with ice. There were four of us, two at each end, carrying the plastic girder with frozen fingertips. Rogers was my partner.
'Steel!' the guy behind me yelled, meaning that he was losing his hold. It wasn't steel, but it was heavy enough to break your foot. Everybody let go and hopped away. It splashed slush and mud all over us.
'Goddammit, Petrov,' Rogers said, 'why didn't you go out for the Red Cross or something? This fucken thing's not that fucken heavy.' Most of the girls were a little more circumspect in their speech. Rogers was a little butch.
'Awright, get a fucken move on, stringers — epoxy team! Dog'em! Dog'em!'
Our two epoxy people ran up, swinging their buckets. 'Let's go, Mandella. I'm freezin' my balls off.'
'Me, too,' the girl said with more feeling than logic.
'One — two — heave!' We got the thing up again and staggered toward the bridge. It was about three-quarters completed. Looked as if the second platoon was going to beat us. I wouldn't give a damn, but the platoon that got their bridge built first got to fly home. Four miles of muck for the rest of us, and no rest before chop.
We got the stringer in place, dropped it with a clank, and fitted the static clamps that held it to the rise-beams. The female half of the epoxy team started slopping glue on it before we even had it secured. Her partner was waiting for the stringer on the other side. The floor team was waiting at the foot of the bridge, each one holding a piece of the light, stressed permaplast over his head like an umbrella. They were dry and clean. I wondered aloud what they had done to deserve it, and Rogers suggested a couple of colorful, but unlikely, possibilities.
We were going back to stand by the next stringer when the field first (name of Dougelstein, but we called him 'Awright') blew a whistle and bellowed, 'Awright, soldier boys and girls, ten minutes. Smoke'em if you got 'em.' He reached into his pocket and turned on the control that heated our coveralls.
Rogers and I sat down on our end of the stringer and I took out my weed box. I had lots of joints, but we were ordered not to smoke them until after night-chop. The only tobacco I had was a cigarro butt about three inches long. I lit it on the side of the box; it wasn't too bad after the first couple of puffs. Rogers took a puff, just to be sociable, but made a face and gave it back.
'Were you in school when you got drafted?' she asked.
'Yeah. Just got a degree in physics. Was going after a teacher's certificate.'
She nodded soberly. 'I was in biology ...'
'Figures.' I ducked a handful of slush. 'How far?'
'Six years, bachelor's and technical.' She slid her boot along the ground, turning up a ridge of mud and slush the consistency of freezing ice milk. 'Why the fuck did this have to happen?'
I shrugged. It didn't call for an answer, least of all the answer that the UNEF kept giving us. Intellectual and physical elite of the planet, going out to guard humanity against the Tauran menace. Soyashit. It was all just a big experiment. See whether we could goad the Taurans into ground action.
Awright blew the whistle two minutes early, as expected, but Rogers and I and the other two stringers got to sit for a minute while the epoxy and floor teams finished covering our stringer. It got cold fast, sitting there with our suits turned off, but we remained inactive on principle.
There really wasn't any sense in having us train in the cold. Typical army half-logic. Sure, it was going to be cold where we were going, but not ice-cold or snow-cold. Almost by definition, a portal planet remained within a degree or two of absolute zero all the time — since collapsars don't shine — and the first chill you felt would mean that you were a dead man.
Twelve years before, when I was ten years old, they had discovered the collapsar jump. Just fling an object at a collapsar with sufficient speed, and out it pops in some other part of the galaxy. It didn't take long to figure out the formula that predicted where it would come out: it travels along the same 'line' (actually an Einsteinian geodesic) it would have followed if the collapsar hadn't been in the way — until it reaches another collapsar field, whereupon it reappears, repelled with the same speed at which it approached the original collapsar. Travel time between the two collapsars ... exactly zero.
It made a lot of work for mathematical physicists, who had to redefine simultaneity, then tear down general relativity and build it back up again. And it made the politicians very happy, because now they could send a shipload of colonists to Fomalhaut for less than it had once cost to put a brace of men on the Moon. There were a lot of people the politicians would love to see on Fomalhaut, implementing a glorious adventure rather than stirring up trouble at home.
The ships were always accompanied by an automated probe that followed a couple of million miles behind. We knew about the portal planets, little bits of flotsam that whirled around the collapsars; the purpose of the drone was to come back and tell us in the event that a ship had smacked into a portal planet at .999 of the speed of light.
That particular catastrophe never happened, but one day a drone limped back alone. Its data were analyzed, and it turned out that the colonists' ship had been pursued by another vessel and destroyed. This happened near Aldebaran, in the constellation Taurus, but since 'Aldebaraniam' is a little hard to handle, they named the enemy 'Tauran.'
Colonizing vessels thenceforth went out protected by an armed guard. Often the armed guard went out alone, and finally the Colonization Group got shortened to UNEF, United Nations Exploratory Force. Emphasis on the 'force.'
Then some bright lad in the General Assembly decided that we ought to field an army of footsoldiers to guard the portal planets of the nearer collapsars. This led to the Elite Conscription Act of 1996 and the most elitely conscripted army in the history of warfare.
So here we were, fifty men and fifty women, with IQs over 150 and bodies of unusual health and strength, slogging elitely through the mud and slush of central Missouri, reflecting on the usefulness of our skill in building bridges on worlds where the only fluid is an occasional standing pool of liquid helium.CHAPTER 3
About a month later, we left for our final training exercise, maneuvers on the planet Charon. Though nearing perihelion, it was still more than twice as far from the sun as Pluto.
The troopship was a converted 'cattlewagon' made to carry two hundred colonists and assorted bushes and beasts. Don't think it was roomy, though, just because there were half that many of us. Most of the excess space was taken up with extra reaction mass and ordnance.
The whole trip took three weeks, accelerating at two gees halfway, decelerating the other half. Our top speed, as we roared by the orbit of Pluto, was around one-twentieth of the speed of light — not quite enough for relativity to rear its complicated head.
Three weeks of carrying around twice as much weight as normal ... it's no picnic. We did some cautious exercises three times a day and remained horizontal as much as possible. Still, we got several broken bones and serious dislocations. The men had to wear special supporters to keep from littering the floor with loose organs. It was almost impossible to sleep; nightmares of choking and being crushed, rolling over periodically to prevent blood pooling and bedsores. One girl got so fatigued that she almost slept through the experience of having a rib push out into the open air.
I'd been in space several times before, so when we finally stopped decelerating and went into free fall, it was nothing but relief. But some people had never been out, except for our training on the Moon, and succumbed to the sudden vertigo and disorientation. The rest of us cleaned up after them, floating through the quarters with sponges and inspirators to suck up the globules of partly- digested 'Concentrate, High-protein, Low-residue, Beef Flavor (Soya).'
We had a good view of Charon, coming down from orbit. There wasn't much to see, though. It was just a dim, off-white sphere with a few smudges on it. We landed about two hundred meters from the base. A pressurized crawler came out and mated with the ferry, so we didn't have to suit up. We clanked and squeaked up to the main building, a featureless box of grayish plastic.
Inside, the walls were the same drab color. The rest of the company was sitting at desks, chattering away. There was a seat next to Freeland.
'Jeff — feeling better?' He still looked a little pale.
'If the gods had meant for man to survive in free fall, they would have given him a cast iron glottis.' He sighed heavily. 'A little better. Dying for a smoke.'
'You seemed to take it all right. Went up in school, didn't you?'
'Senior thesis in vacuum welding, yeah. Three weeks in Earth orbit.' I sat back and reached for my weed box for the thousandth time. It still wasn't there. The Life-Support Unit didn't want to handle nicotine and THC.
'Training was bad enough,' Jeff groused, 'but this shit—'
'Tench-hut!' We stood up in a raggedy-ass fashion, by twos and threes. The door opened and a full major came in. I stiffened a little. He was the highest-ranking officer I'd ever seen. He had a row of ribbons stitched into his coveralls, including a purple strip meaning he'd been wounded in combat, fighting in the old American army. Must have been that Indochina thing, but it had fizzled out before I was born. He didn't look that old.
'Sit, sit.' He made a patting motion with his hand. Then he put his hands on his hips and scanned the company, a small smile on his face. 'Welcome to Charon. You picked a lovely day to land, the temperature outside is a summery eight point one five degrees Absolute. We expect little change for the next two centuries or so.' Some of them laughed halfheartedly.
'Best you enjoy the tropical climate here at Miami Base; enjoy it while you came. We're on the center of sunside here, and most of your training will be on darkside. Over there, the temperature stays a chilly two point zero eight.
'You might as well regard all the training you got on Earth and the Moon as just an elementary exercise, designed to give you a fair chance of surviving Charon. You'll have to go through your whole repertory here: tools, weapons, maneuvers. And you'll find that, at these temperatures, tools don't work the way they should; weapons don't want to fire. And people move v-e-r-y cautiously.'
He studied the clipboard in his hand. 'Right now, you have forty-nine women and forty-eight men. Two deaths on Earth, on psychiatric release. Having read an outline of your training program, I'm frankly surprised that so many of you pulled through.
'But you might as well know that I won't be displeased if as few as fifty of you, half, graduate from this final phase. And the only way not to graduate is to die. Here. The only way anybody gets back to Earth — including me — is after a combat tour.
'You will complete your training in one month. From here you will go to Stargate collapsar, half a light year away. You will stay at the settlement on Stargate 1, the largest portal planet, until replacements arrive. Hopefully, that will be no more than a month; another group is due here as soon as you leave.
'When you leave Stargate, you will go to some strategically important collapsar, set up a military base there, and fight the enemy, if attacked. Otherwise, you will maintain the base until further orders.
'The last two weeks of your training will consist of constructing exactly that kind of a base, on darkside. There you will be totally isolated from Miami Base: no communication, no medical evacuation, no resupply. Sometime before the two weeks are up, your defense facilities will be evaluated in an attack by guided drones. They will be armed.'
They had spent all that money on us just to kill us in training?
'All of the permanent personnel here on Charon are combat veterans. Thus, all of us are forty to fifty years of age. But I think we can keep up with you. Two of us will be with you at all times and will accompany you at least as far as Stargate. They are Captain Sherman Stott, your company commander, and Sergeant Octavio Cortez, your first sergeant. Gentlemen?'
Excerpted from The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Copyright © 1975 Joe Haldeman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Sergeant Mandella 2007—2024 AD,
Lieutenant Mandella 2024—2389 AD,
Major Mandella 2458—3143 AD,
A Biography of Joe Haldeman,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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: www.dominicbonavitacola.com
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.
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.
"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.
One of my favorite books. Period. A fast read, an important read.
A superb novel that is well written. A must have, and a great accompaniment to Starship Troopers
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.
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.
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.
THIS IS A REMARKABLE NOVEL! IT IS LIKELY THE MOST THOUGHT PROVOKING PIECE OF SF EVER WRITTEN! BUY IT AND LOVE IT!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Very good book I liked how unique and exciting it is. A good read.
"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.
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.