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The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War (1974)

by Joe Haldeman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Forever War (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,116151670 (4.05)2 / 235
  1. 174
    Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (infiniteletters, goodiegoodie)
  2. 60
    Old Man's War by John Scalzi (JulesJones)
    JulesJones: Two books which examine in different ways what happens to the recruits in an interstellar war who by the very nature of their service can never go back to their home culture.
  3. 21
    Forever Peace (Remembering Tomorrow) by Joe Haldeman (sturlington)
    sturlington: Forever Peace is a thematic sequel to The Forever War.
  4. 10
    The Ethos Effect by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (thejazzmonger)
    thejazzmonger: Good characters and a story with intelligence and action. It makes you think, like every Haldeman book does.
  5. 00
    Armor by John Steakley (amysisson, RASinfo)
    RASinfo: Perfect read for the story and ideas of the same theme.
  6. 01
    The Healer's War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: The Forever War was inspired by Haldemans experiences in Vietnam, Scarborough writes about her experiences in Vietnam directly.
  7. 14
    Dauntless by Jack Campbell (amysisson)
    amysisson: First in a series of thoughtful military SF with great FTL tactical details.

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English (144)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
Published in 1974 this novel about a seemingly perpetual interstellar war with an alien race is highly thought of in the science fiction genre and the version I read was published in 1997 in the SF Masterworks series. There is an authors note that serves as a preface in which Haldeman talks about a middle section of the book that was left out of the original publication and which is now reinstated in the new version. He then talks about the fact that he had envisaged the interstellar war beginning in 1996 and he reminds us of course that this did not happen and asks his readers to imagine a parallel universe. Well I thought I might be in a parallel universe when I could not find the so-called reinstated section, but instead found eight previous chapters repeated. I am ready to be cast adrift by some science fiction (I hardly ever understand the hard science stuff) but not quite like this.

Haldeman’s experiences in the Vietnam war has given his writing about combat situations some edge as the story follows one of the first conscripts to the war; William Mandala’s path to its conclusion. There are Stargates and Collapser portals that make the war a battle over time millenniums as well as interstellar space and in the year 3143 Mandala has been a major for centuries. A feature of the book is the re-adjustment that war veterans have to make when their periods of service are completed and they return to civilian life. They may have aged only a few years, but because of time shifts decades have passed when they return home.

Haldeman concentrates on three military service periods which involve actual combat for Mandala and he is lucky to survive, but finds it equally difficult to negotiate the periods when he is not actually fighting. The parallels with the Vietnam war would have been obvious back in the early 1970’s when the novel was first published. Very much of it’s genre and no literary masterpiece but there is still enough here to make this a good read 40 years on and so 3.5 stars. ( )
  baswood | May 7, 2016 |
When Vietnam vet Joe Haldeman wrote The Forever War in 1974, the U.S. had been involved in a conflict in Southeast Asia for approximately 14 years. The Vietnam War would not end until the next year. I'm sure that Haldeman's experiences influences his writing.

The novel's protagonist is William Mandella, a highly intelligent physics students who is drafted in 1997 into an elite troop of similarly skilled recruits to fight the Taurans, an alien race who was discovered when they suddenly attacked several ships transporting interplanetary colonists. The motivation behind this heinous act is unknown since humans are unable to communicate with the Taurans.

The initial military campaign last two years but since wormholes are used to travel at speeds nearing light speed, relativistic effects occur; he returns to an Earth 20 years in the future. Finding the return to civilian life difficult, especially since jobs are issued by the government only to those in financial need (Mandella has been accumulating a salary for the twenty Earth years that he has been gone), he re-enlists as an officer.

Haldeman's novel is a science fiction award-winning classic written with a touch of humor about an extended war fought with no clear purpose. If one is a long-term science fiction fan or new to science fiction, you must read this classic. ( )
  John_Warner | Apr 24, 2016 |
Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig...

The Forever War is supposed to be a SF classic with everlasting appeal. And not only a SF-classic, but even a straight out American classic of literature. 3 different quotes on my edition rave in one way or the other about the book being up there with the big boys of non-genre, non-pulp literature: “the most important war novel written since Vietnam”.

I disagree, totally. It’s not that the book hasn’t aged well: it hasn’t, but that’s not its problem. It’s simply not a very good book, and never has been. It is not without merit, and it has excellent parts, but overall there’s not enough meat on the bone. It works as an allegory, but not as a story. Moreover, its ethics are pathetically superficial – a pretty spectacular fail, especially for an indicting war novel.

I guess most SF-fans know that Joe Haldeman was a Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart, and that The Forever War actually is about the Vietnam war – moreover, it is a critique on that war; in the introduction he recollects having a hard time getting it published because of that. To make it even more personal, the protagonist’s name, William Mandela, clearly is an anagram of Haldeman.

So, what’s the good here? (...) ( )
  bormgans | Mar 28, 2016 |
I loved the concept of relative time portrayed throughout , but at some point the book turned into a homophobic diatribe and I couldn't tell if it was coming from the main character or the author. Since the main character is based on the author, I'm not sure what to think.

The ending was also too quick and simplistic. ( )
  akissner | Mar 22, 2016 |
This one had been on my to-read list for a long time and zi finally found it on the shelf at the library (it's usually checked out). It is a bit dated and perhaps a touch misogynistic (at least at first) but either that all started to make sense within the context of the story or I just got used to it (or it was an illusion to begin with). It holds up since 1974 amazingly well and it deserves its reputation as a hallmark of military science fiction. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
I got to re-reading it last night (for the first time in nearly 20 years) and couldn't put it down.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Mar 30, 2003)

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joe Haldemanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, MarcCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craig, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scalzi, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Targete, Jean PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tinkleman, MurrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallejo, DorianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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For Ben and, always, for Gay
First words
"Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man."
Relativity propped it up, at least gave it the illusion of being there...the way all reality becomes illusory and observer-oriented when you study general relativity. Or Buddhism. Or get drafted.
I feel asleep and dreamed that I was a machine, mimicking the functions of life, creaking and clanking my clumsy way through a world, people too polite to say anything but giggling behind my back, and the little man who sat inside my head pulling the levers and clutches and watching the dials, he was hopelessly mad and storing up hurts for the day--
"One cannot make command decisions simply by assessing the tactical situation and going ahead with whatever course of action will do the most harm to the enemy with a minimum of death and damage to your own men and materiel. Modern warfare has become very complex, especially during the last century. Wars are won not by a simple series of battles won, but by a complex interrelationship among military victory, economic pressures, logistic maneuvering, access to the enemy's information, political postures--dozens, literally dozens of factors."
The most important fact about the war to most people was that if it ended suddenly, Earth's economy would collapse.
Heaven was a lovely, unspoiled Earth-like world; what Earth might have been if men had treated her with compassion instead of lust.
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Time dilation

Interstellar war is hell

Vietnam in space


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312536631, Paperback)

In the 1970s Joe Haldeman approached more than a dozen different publishers before he finally found one interested in The Forever War. The book went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, although a large chunk of the story had been cut out before it saw publication. Now Haldeman and Avon Books have released the definitive version of The Forever War, published for the first time as Haldeman originally intended. The book tells the timeless story of war, in this case a conflict between humanity and the alien Taurans. Humans first bumped heads with the Taurans when we began using collapsars to travel the stars. Although the collapsars provide nearly instantaneous travel across vast distances, the relativistic speeds associated with the process means that time passes slower for those aboard ship. For William Mandella, a physics student drafted as a soldier, that means more than 27 years will have passed between his first encounter with the Taurans and his homecoming, though he himself will have aged only a year. When Mandella finds that he can't adjust to Earth after being gone so long from home, he reenlists, only to find himself shuttled endlessly from battle to battle as the centuries pass. --Craig E. Engler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:37 -0400)

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The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand, despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away.

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