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on 11 April 2015
The Forever War (1974) by American author Joe Haldeman is a rather deceptive book. For the first few chapters the novel reads like a standard Starship Troopers military science fiction novel detailing an interstellar war between humans and aliens (the Taurans), recruits getting trained to turn them into bad-asses and hi-tech weapons being used. But it won the Nebula Award in 1975, and the Hugo and the Locus awards in 1976 for best novel so there must be something different about the book?

And there is …. The story soon changes, the effects of time dilation as a result of near light speed travel are explored, as is the tragedy of one soldiers of loss of friends and family, alienation with humanity, not being able to fit into society plus having to deal with a seemingly endless pointless conflict.

The heart of the novel is about one reluctant soldier, Private William Mandella who is fairly ambivalent about the wars he finds himself in. He fights more from of a sense of duty and loyalty. The reader is subjected to a mixture of hard sci-fi: the aforementioned time travel and its effects, black holes and hi-tech arsenals along with descriptions of the social and political changes needed following on from a Malthusian-like catastrophe (population growth had outpaced agricultural production): homosexuality becomes the law (sex is treated by Haldeman in a non-judgemental and non-moralistic manner) and payment for work is in calories as opposed to actual money. The story also deals with love too. Mandella bonds with one woman in his company in particular and she provides his only connection to their known world of the past; as the book closes Mandella has travelled over twelve centuries.

It is clear that the book is an allegory to the Vietnam War, Joe Haldeman having served in this conflict. Other hints of the autobiographical nature of the work are the protagonist’s surname, Mandella, which is a near-anagram of the author’s surname, as well as the name of the lead female character, Marygay Potter, which is nearly identical to Haldeman’s wife’s maiden name. Importantly, if one accepts this reading of the book, the alienation experienced by the soldiers on returning to Earth becomes a clear metaphor for the reception given to US troops returning to America from Vietnam, including the way in which the war ultimately proved useless and its result meaningless. This meaningless is discovered in the book by a cloned, collective species calling itself Man who can communicate with the Taurans and discovers the aliens were not responsible for an act that triggered the futile conflict that lasted for more than a thousand years.

Haldeman also subverts typical space opera clichés (such as the heroic soldier influencing battles through individual acts) and demonstrates how absurd many of the old clichés look to someone who had seen real combat duty. In fact the quantity of battles described is relatively small, as the other aspects of the story are explored more extensively.

The other thing I’m noticing as I read and review the so-called classics of different genres is that the best characters are never really truly evil, nor good. Each person is a mixture of both. This is certainly the case in The Forever War as the individuals are well rounded and fully fleshed-out.

So in summary, this is science fiction of the highest quality and is worthy of the Masterworks title. The pace of the plot never slackens and this help to draw the reader in while retaining a compensate and emotional core (despite the battle sequences and death and destruction); a difficult balance to achieve. Despite it being over 40 years old a lot of the ideas Haldeman presciently foretells in the book are still relevant today and the years haven’t dated the story. A highly recommended book.
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on 22 July 2017
Very interesting read with a nice but perhaps predictable ending but still a good yarn with good ideas nontheless
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on 9 July 2017
Classic book
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on 28 August 2017
I love scfi, this was exactly what I was looking for. Going on my all time list. Looks like there's more in the series so I'm in great reads for a while hopefully.
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on 29 July 2017
it was a good read
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on 14 September 2017
Brilliant, through the eyes, sci-fi - real, harsh and raw
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on 9 June 2015
Loved it.
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on 22 November 2015
One of the best Science Fiction novels I've ever read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 August 2016
Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War" is a modern classic. It's military science fiction, and concerns an interstellar war that rages for centuries. The human soldiers who take part are regularly subjected to near-lightspeed travels - and this has massive relativistic effects. What for them appears to be mere weeks or months does, in fact, take decades or centuries on Earth ... It becomes very difficult for the few soldiers who do survive to fit back into civilian life. Throughout the story, we follow the adventures of one particular soldier - and, through his experiences, we gain insight into the horror and futility of war.

This novel was first published in 1974, and is often considered a quasi-commentary on the Vietnam War - yet it can, if you so choose, simply be enjoyed as pure science fiction. It has two sequels: "Forever Free" (1999) and "Forever Peace" (1997), both written by Haldeman. An omnibus edition exists at a reasonable price (see Peace And War: The Omnibus Edition/Forever Peace, Forever Free, Forever War (GOLLANCZ S.F.)). While the first of these novels is the best, the two subsequent books are still interesting. Ultimately, the story proceeds into the distant future, many millennia from now, when the central protagonist meets 'God'.

In summary, this is a well-written and imaginative story - indeed, often thought-provoking. However, I recommend the omnibus.
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on 10 September 2017
This book is a definite Marmite experience - you'll either love it or probably find it difficult and exhausting. The book is a autobiography William Mandella (fictional character) who was conscripted into earth's army in order to fight the Taurans an alien race who it seems are in competition to use the various stargates (which are used to travel great distances quickly). We as readers get to see what Mandella experiences through his military training and how a human on this fictional earth (or parallel earth) in 1996 looks and feels like. We see Mandella and his fellow soldiers go through some horrendous experiences as well as periods of boredom and sexual freedom. However travelling through the stargates has it downside in that time goes much more slowly for the travellers than it does for those on earth - hence we see Mandella by the end of the book living in 3143. The novel deals with all the emotions that many soldiers would experience, namely pain, boredom, fatigue, death, brutality, relief - however it also deals with mankind's changing nature of society, politics & warfare over the 12 centuries of Mandella's lifetime. This book will really appeal to those who like reading about wartime experiences and perhaps parallel worlds, but for many this book will feel too depressive and down beat about mankind's future as the novel only has rare glimpses of enjoyment and happiness and is totally dominated by society becoming controlled on the one hand and on the other - people fighting against the control by becoming violent and descending into thuggery. I found the later half of this book too dark and dismal (as I only want to read so much that is negative in one go) - also that the main protagonist had a somewhat shallow personality that wasn't ever expanded upon - hence the 3 stars. However the book shows a very creative mind with an excellent storyline and plot - it has mostly short chapters (which made reading easier) - doesn't indulge on wasted verbiage - deals with subject matters that would have been ahead of it's time (the book was published in 1974). I would give the book 6 out of 10 even though I didn't totally enjoy reading the book because of it's dark nature, it is however a truly creative and unique piece of work.
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