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The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War (original 1974; edition 2009)

by Joe Haldeman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,295159633 (4.04)2 / 248
Title:The Forever War
Authors:Joe Haldeman
Info:St. Martin's Griffin (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2012, science fiction, SF Masterworks

Work details

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1974)

  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 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 (153)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  English (158)
Showing 1-5 of 153 (next | show all)
One of the classics of military sci-fi. It doesn't disappoint. ( )
  oswallt | Nov 25, 2016 |
published 1974, a science fiction of interstellar war with the Taurens, winner of the Nebula Award, Hugo and Locus. It is also on the npr-100 best SF. The main character is a physics student. He has been sent to war because the smartest are being sent. He does not want to be a soldier. The author wrote this in 1974 probably based on his own Vietnam experience. I was a young adult during this time and I think that the book really does reflect that war. The people going to war, not wanting to go, no one really knowing why they are fighting and when they get a chance to leave the war, they no longer fit in the world because everything has changed so much. As with many SF books, I was impressed how the author writing in the seventies pictures the world in the 21st Century and beyond. The author not only captured the feeling of going to war for a young person, fighting far from home and not fitting in the world anymore without being preachy, he also captures some of the changing aspects of the current culture. I give this book 4 stars. Quite a bit of sexual content. Some compare this book to Heinlein's Starship Troopers but besides being ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 19, 2016 |
This is a book that’s a little hard to rate. My three-star rating is based more on my level of enjoyment while reading the book than on its merit as a work of classic military science fiction. My interest fluctuated and, despite that it’s only 278 pages, I started to get particularly impatient with it in the last third.

The story follows William, who starts off as new recruit drafted into the military. Earth has begun exploring space, and they’ve managed to get into a war with an alien species. The war is being fought in an area of space distant from Earth, and their method of space travel means time passes slower for them in relative time than it does in actuality. Hundreds of years pass while the main character is traveling to various mission objectives but, for the main character, the story takes place over only a few years of his life. This means that humanity is changing a great deal as the story progresses, and we see that when William is in-between missions.

Although there isn’t anything I would consider explicit, sexual themes are dealt with quite a bit throughout the story and I think most people would find a lot of it disturbing. Very early in the book we learn that William and his fellow recruits, who are evenly split between men and women, are given bunk assignments pairing males and females together in the same bed. Those assignments are rotated so that all the guys are sleeping with all the girls sooner or later. As the story progresses, it becomes pretty clear that women in the military are expected to be “compliant and promiscuous”. Those are the exact word used at one point. Looking past all the disturbing implications of that, the most obvious next question would be, “What about homosexuals?” Well, I mentioned that humanity changes quite a bit over the course of the book, right? Homosexuality gets addressed eventually too, and it’s addressed in a way that I’m pretty sure people of most orientations and belief systems would find disturbing.

Regarding the aforementioned sleeping arrangements, my initial thought was that the author was indulging in his own fantasies about what he might like to have seen in military life. I changed my mind once I got further into the book. This is not a fluffy, cheerful book. Pretty much everything that happens is disturbing, and that includes the various things revealed about the evolution of human society as the centuries pass. I don’t think the sleeping arrangements were intended to be seen as a positive thing, because it wouldn't fit the tone of the rest of the book. I think it was intended to represent yet another disturbing aspect of human society in the future.

It’s a pretty bleak book, and there are quite a few other disturbing things that happen beyond what I mentioned. It definitely isn’t all about sex, although it did get mentioned frequently. I was only moderately invested in the main character, and I wasn’t at all invested in anybody else. The story had moments where it got very interesting, but it also had moments where it got pretty boring. The book made me think a little bit, but those thoughts were more about the issues brought up than they were about the plot itself. The plot itself was straight forward and simple, and I thought the ending was pretty predictable. ( )
  YouKneeK | Oct 28, 2016 |
In all honesty I didn't finish it. That's not to say its a terrible book, I just lost interest half way through and completely stopped enjoying it and couldn't bring myself to finish it - that is the reason for the 2 stars. Maybe I didn't give it enough of a try, there is a slim possibility that I will go back to it in the future. but for now it found it uninteresting and uninspiring. ( )
  grlewry | Sep 22, 2016 |

What was most fascinating for me about this classic was how fascinated I was by it.

This is straight-up hard sci-fi, no bones about it. Yes, it's also military sci-fi, and that's important in how it relates to other military sci-fi that came before and after, but at its core it is written by someone steeped in science. Because of how it's told, we feel a huge amount of empathy with the grunts, even when those grunts move up the chain of command. That was fascinating to me, because it's hard to write sci-fi (or anything) from the perspective of the "nobody" when that nobody keeps gaining more power.

There are some strange references to homosexuality for about half the book, and then it gets serious about describing the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality in the future. At first, I was a little horrified at how dated the book was feeling, and then I was bemused, and then I was fascinated. While it absolutely, definitely, no question is written by a heterosexual, it tries, in unexpected ways, to be open to differences in sexual orientation.

And lastly, it was fascinating because I was happy about the ending. Why should I be happy about this ending? It's a surprising way to finish a novel with a bummer of a denouement. It makes it seem as if we should be pleased about the handful of folks who've survived the entire plot. I think Haldeman knew that the readers fully understood the horrific nature of the plot, and that it wasn't worth drilling that home any more than needed. In the end, at least someone gets what they've deserved, and that's worth celebrating. ( )
  khage | Jul 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 153 (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 editionscalculated
Adams, MarcCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craig, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dalton, BrendonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scalzi, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Targete, Jean PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tikulin, TomislavCover 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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