Cannonball Read 2.02: The Forever War - Joe Haldeman (1974)
Flailing about, searching for some thing to read, I came across this file, and it occurred to me that this was good a time to revisit this book as any.
Haldeman is a vocal devotee of Robert Heinlein, and in The Forever War, he creates a thematic counterpart to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, including all of the hardware, technology, and tactics that makes Troopers a primer in military science-fiction.
Haldeman overlays all of the clanking can banging about by centering his story of war over centuries (due to relativistic effects) around a reluctant and melancholy draftee, William Mandella.
Let me be honest for a moment here. In spite of my military background (2 yrs in the Navy, and my dad and brother have both served), I really have very little interest in military stories, so I can’t attest to the accuracy of much of them beyond the experience of constantly waiting in line.
In The Forever War, Earth finds its way into a series of conflicts with a mysterious alien enemy that are so far away, that relativistic effects means that a group of soldiers will be gone for years, if not decades, and finally centuries. We follow Mandella as he travels from battle to battle, planet to planet and decade after decade, as he gets further away from the year of his birth, the world and society of his birth, and finally, from humanity itself.
Haldeman notes himself, in the forward, that he wrote the story in reaction to, and reflecting the Vietnam War, and we can certainly see that in the alienation that Mandella feels each time that he returns from battle. The Forever War, however, is not just a bleak look at war and warfare. Haldeman definitely enjoys his battlesuits and massive explosions; he is simply disappointed as we are that they don’t always work out as well as he hopes they will.
According to Haldeman, even Heinlein himself complimented this story, and I will not contradict the Master on this. Reading The Forever War is basic to our understanding of war and fighters in modern science fiction.
The Forever War - Joe Haldeman (1974)
Pajiba's Cannonball Read - 52 books, 52 reviews.