The Forever War

Monday 16 June 2014 by

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman, S.F. Masterworks, Gollancz, BookWriting this review I have just read Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War for the second time and it was still brilliant. This surely proves its well worth a read as I remembered most of the story yet it still managed to surprise me. It is an intergalactic war story that holds a mirror up to a society that could exist or potentially already does.

Joe Haldeman was a Vietnam veteran, and it shows in the way the story is told by a grunt enlisting in 1977. William Mandela’s views the army with disdain, he doesn’t think much of his chances of survival but excepts the army as a sort of necessary evil; still willing to fight for his planet he sparks up his joints (accepted socially in this reality) and does as he’s ordered. The UNEF army of the future is fighting an enemy billions of light years away. The soldiers are immersed in tanks and sleep to they reach the front lines, and some don’t even survive that. They fight the enemy in dangerous, accident prone battle suits and they fly back to Earth. The problem is due to time dilation Earth is 700 years older than it was when they left even though William has only been in the army five years.

It is a war story on the surface but becomes more when we follow Mandela’s readjustment to an Earth that has left him behind. Each time he returns Earth has changed and his reason for fighting becomes more blurred. He still locks himself into his battle suit and salutes when he’s told to but the army he enlisted in 1143 years previously (in normal time) is a drastically different for the one he serves now.

A good book as an introduction to hard sci-fi, you will have to re-read a couple of paragraphs when it explains time dilation, maybe scratch your head a bit, but once you understand the concept it adds to the books brilliance and is an essential narrative tool. There is a sequel to which I have also already read but it seems silly not to revisit William Mandela’s world.

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