“ Author: Joe Haldeman / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 29 March 2010 / Genre: Science Fiction / Subcategory: Science Fiction General / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: The Forever War / ISBN 13: 9780575094147 / ISBN 10: 0575094147 „
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Even in the future there is a role for infantrymen, but its not much better than it was. Mankind has come across another species in the galaxy, Tauruns, and they seem to be destroying some of our ships. the only solution is to fight back.
William Mandella joins the infantry, they only take smart recruits in excelled health, and then they subject them to grueling training. Fighting in combat suits is not easy, and some of the new weapons pose some interesting problems. one of the main problems though is the time dilation, go on a mission and come back and earth had aged decades relative to William. this leads to some interesting developments on earth. but could he ever leave the war now? with earth so different he doesn't really fit in anymore. even the newer recruits are almost alien to him, they treat him as a curiosity, a relic. What is he fighting for anymore?
The first missions are easy, the enemy isn't ready. but the next missions, the time dilation means the enemy has had years to prepare. if you don't time things right, you are fighting a much more advanced enemy than when you set off. things can go bad quickly that way.
This is a fantastic novel which examines the absurdities of war coupled with the added problems of war over vast distances and times. a very recommended read that doesn't drag at all. I found myself identifying with William almost immediately and spent a lot of the time resonating with the decisions he had to make. Never a dull moment in this book, and my brother, who doesn't read much and likes to stick to war films loved it. I still have not got my copy back.
Science fiction has been a love of mine for as long as I can remember, I've been reading books by authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Robert Silverberg. They have been a source of pleasure for many years giving this science nerd his first love of science, space flight, planets, moons, Star Trek, Star Wars need I go on?
Anyway as a result I've read some of the classic Sci-fi novels many times but there have been some I've managed to miss over the years and this is one of them.
The Forever war is a science fiction classic written by Joe Haldeman an American author in 1974, it won the presitigous Nebulla award and is considered a classic take on Seventies near future sci-fi. In it the book tells a fairly simple tale of an inter-stellar war between the humans and the enigmatic Taurans. The war starts because of Tauran attacks on human shipping, the human response is to set up an elite fighting force of young men and women with IQ's of over 150, fit and combat ready. One of the soldiers is a young man in his twenties called William Mandella, he is a classic combat grunt, he is intelligent, fit and permanently horny.
The war begins with a training camp on the planet Charon (a planet somewhere past Pluto), there is constant problems with the extreme training conditions because the recruits have to be fit enough to undergo a form of interstitial spacial travel. This is a kind of worm hole effect, that only applies between two points in the galaxy but the travel is outside the normal timeline being followed on Earth so each trip means that the soldiers don't really age but the time on Earth jumps forward tens or hundreds of years before the soldiers return.
The novel is always in the presence of Mandella but is not a first person perspective, he is the focus of the novel and the book feels like a kind of online journal written by a soldier who has complex and different orders. He is both a hightly trained combat soldier and a man of his time, he is clear thinking but also struggles with the chain of command.
The first encounter is only a short jump which only accounts for 10 years spent on Earth, the soldiers first meeting with the Taurans is a massacre when they come across an undefended colony. The nature of the victory is one Mandella thinks on as he returns back to Earth, the concept of death and destruction carried by humans is one which Mandella has to contend with.
The rest of the book are short stories each of which involves longer jumps with bigger age disparagies between Mandella's childhood and the present day date on Earth. As each step progresses, Mandella is promoted, he starts as a private, then a lieutenant and finally a Major.
It is as a Major that the novel takes a decidedly odd turn, one of the problems with the jumps is that the soldier doesn't change but the culture on Earth changes drastically. As the book progresses through it's timeline, we learn the heterosexual behavious has become first odd, then outlorded and then finally condoned but not generally practised. The author is clearly trying to show that violence and anti-social behaviour tends to be associated with our desire to procreate so when the method of procreation is taken away from the natural into a kind of souped up test-tube.
Finally, the novel ends with the futility of war and Mandella as a commander finally realises that the war is simply one of a mis-understanding and he finishes by musing on the probability of survival.
This is a short novel only around 250 pages but it is full of concepts and idea's which make the reader consider the futility of war, along with the aggression and bad behaviour which sex and it's desire creates. This is a modern science fiction classic, yes it has a couple of faults in that Mandella is virtually the only character except for a girlfriend who pops up now and again. An enjoyable read and one which is going to make me look for other novels by this author.
What an epic novel! Written shortly after the end of the Vietnam war, Haldeman deals with the humanity of war and the distance felt by those who return.
While the novel introduces some scientific concepts and weapons the primary focus is on the character relations and the ever changing world Mandela finds himself in. The pressure of combat is something that affects the soldiers but this book goes deeper to find how the human race might not only overcome these issues but progress to become more focused on military efficiency than humanity.
Our protagonist, Mandela, finds himself conscripted in the first military mission on behalf of the Earth and sets out at the beginning of the war. With time dilation slowing down his story while Earth progresses normally allows the plot to progress well between conflicts. I will refrain from elaborating further on the plot for those who are not familiar with the story.
The Forever War is a seminal science fiction novel with themes of humanity and conflicts running throughout without a overly heavy dependence on technology (apart from it's influence on society). If you enjoy sci-fi stories then the Forever War will definitely be a good read.
I found the book to be quite long but not a book you will put down easily!
The first time I read this book was a few years back, I can't honestly remember if it was myself or my husband who bought it, we're both sci-fi fans, so it could have been either of us, but I do remember once we'd both read it we had a lot of discussion about the book, and I'm pretty certain we'd ordered the second book in the series before both of us had finished reading the first.
First published in book form in 1974, The Forever War had been serialised previously in Analog (a science fiction magazine). The editor of Analog, Ben Bova, rejected the original middle section of the story as being too grisly for his readers, so Haldeman wrote a gentler alternative, which became part of earlier book versions of the novel as well. In 1991 however, the original version of the book was published, and it is this version that I read.
To understand this book, it may help to know that Haldeman was a veteran of the Vietnam war having served between 1967 and 1969 as a combat engineer and that before he was conscripted, he studied both physics and astronomy at university level. Although people who read it today may not make the connection, The Forever War is effectively a Vietnam War novel set in space. Haldeman makes some fascinating points and illustrates the futility of war and the often futile chain of events which can lead to unthinkable destruction. Knowing his background, and a little about the Vietnam war isn't necessary to reading the book, but it certainly helps in understanding where he was coming from when he wrote it.
The beginning of the story is set in the 'near future' of the late 1990's (remember this was written in the 1970's.), the discovery of the collapsar jump has made long distance space travel a reality. A colony ship is destroyed by apparently hostile aliens and the wars begin.
Private William Mandella is the main character whom we follow throughout this book, he is in the thick of the action, a reluctant fighter who appears to just have a knack for survival. As we look at Mandella through the eyes of others, we see how intolerant people can be, we see how concepts and ideas change, and how 'normal' becomes abnormal. Mandella, torn from the woman he loves, and the world he knows is each time confronted with a new version of society, as his surviving team are split up and he is sent out again each time with a new team, people who are different to him, people who he doesn't understand & who understand him only in the way we understand our distant ancestors who dwelt in caves.
The twisting nature of this story lies in the idea that travelling at close to the speed of light means that each time a collapsar jump is made, the soldiers are carried into the future. The longer the jump, the further into the future they are thrown. Each battle between human and alien holds the possibility that one side or the other may be technologically superior. Each time our soldiers return to base after a mission, it is to encounter a human race which has moved forwards, people they knew before have aged or died while they are still young and , sometimes things seem to have moved on so far that they themselves seem out of place and alien. Futures where a bodyguard is needed if you want to walk around safely on earth, where calories are the currency across the world, where homosexuality is not only the nom but is encouraged and heterosexuality is frowned upon and looked at as slightly twisted, where in vitro not in vivo is normal and governments encourage it to be this way as a method of birth control. Futures where... well, anything might happen, or have happened! The difficulties that Mandella and his colleagues have trying to adjust each time I think goes a long way towards explaining how some of the Vietnam Vets felt when they came home, maybe the reality of the differences was less, but I think the feeling that they were somehow not a part of the world that they were walking back into must have been very similar, and it's probably because Haldeman himself struggled with this feeling that he's able to make it feel so real and bothersome when you read the book.
Reading this book Haldeman's style is straightforward and easy to read, he doesn't hide parts of the storyline away for you to try and figure out for yourself, there doesn't appear to be any hidden agenda, and everything is very open and easy, at the same time however, this is still quite a fast flowing book, full to the brim with action, and intrigue. As sci-fi goes, I've never really encountered another author who writes in a similar way. Once you know his background however, you can really feel a deep sense that Haldeman is writing about some of his own feelings here, and giving all us non-vet's a bit more understanding of what it must have felt like coming back from a senseless war like Vietnam and feeling very much the outsider, wondering how you were going to cope, and why no one else understood how senseless it all was.
From the moment I picked up this book, I knew I wasn't going to be able to put it down again easily, I knew I would have to have books two and three also. My attention was captured and I was hooked. An excellent read, and I'm sure that anyone who has enjoyed other sci-fi novels is likely to find something good to say about this also.
*This review is adapted from one I published on my own website http://www.geocities.com/vialdana/ a few years back - it is re-writen because I re-read the book recently and felt I could add more to it*
I first read it when I was 9 then spent another 20 years trying to find another copy of the copy. So many people telling me it didn't exist I actually thought I'd imagined reading it.
As the reader you follow the life of William Mandela from becoming a Private at the start of an interstellar and interspecies war right through to its conclusion several hundred years later.
Mandela is a pacifist who feels out of place in this war.
When travelling to various battles he finds himself having suffered from Future Shock where he is no longer able to relate to the time he is living in due to the relative time dilation caused by almost fast as light space travel. Its great to follow him as he rises through the ranks, hearing his inner thoughts about his colleagues & superiors and his life in the miltary.
The author Joe Haldeman served in the Vietnam War and is a very pleasant author who actually answers his own email & is very open to readers contacting him as I discovered when I emailed him myself to thank him for this book which helped me through many difficult times during the Gulf War in 1991.
As an ex forces guy I can read this book with a similar perspective that it was written from. I always feel that civilians & servicemen will have very differing opinions of this book. Any book that can make a reader spend 20 years trying to buy another copy is the best review I can give of it. It's a strong story & I don't think you could ever read it too much.
I own the book in both its released versions and I have also read the comic book version of it as well. I think it'd make an awesome movie and any sci-fi fan would enjoy reading it. I don't think it'd a low estimate to guess that I've read this book at least 100 times, it's just that good and engrossing.
Even from an early age, I've always been fascinated by science-fiction, starting off with various television shows and movies, before eventually moving on to read any and every sci-fi novel I could get my hands on. It was with some delight then that I recently stumbled across the 'SF Masterworks' series, which is a growing collection of novels from the past sixty or so years of science-fiction writing, by various authors, spanning a whole range or sub-genres that all full under the umbrella title 'Sci-Fi'.
'The Forever War' is the first book of the series, written by Joe Haldeman. It was originally published in 1974 and has won various awards, including both the Nebula and Hugo awards.
Before I go any further, I think a little about the author might be useful. Joe Haldeman was born in 1943 and served as a combat engineer in Vietnam between 1967 and 1969. He was conscripted into the war after studying physics and astronomy at college, (or university as it would be in the UK). He has written various other novels, but many consider 'The Forever War' to be his 'magnum opus'. Haldeman openly admits that the novel was written about his thoughts and feelings of serving in Vietnam, (indeed, some of the character's are actually veterans of that war).
'The Forever War' begins in 1996 and is the story of a young recruit, Private William Mandella who is drafted into the military at twenty-one in order to fight an interstellar war with another species called The Taurans, a race that at the beginning of the war so little is actually known about that no-one has ever actually seen what one looks like. Men and women are enlisted because of their high levels of intelligence, as well as their physical health and strength and therefore they're selected in order to form an Elite corp of soldiers.
Due to the nature of how these soldiers travel to the various battles, a few months "tour of duty" equates to many years back of Earth, possibly even centuries depending on how far they have had to travel.
As they are fighting on far off planets, the recruits have to train to fight and move in armoured suits that protect them from inhospitable environments, (their training for example takes place on the dark side of a planetoid called Charon, in near sub-zero temperatures). As well as protecting them, the suits also increase their strength and reaction times.
The book is divided into several sections which follows Mandella moving through the ranks, eventually becoming Major Mandella in 2458 by Earth's calendar, although relatively speaking he has only been in the army for a few years.
On a slight side note and, perhaps, slightly off topic for a moment, anyone familiar with the X-Box game 'Halo' will more than likely notice a marked similarity between certain concepts, especially the battle suits that the soldiers wear. Though I can't verify it, I would be truly amazed if 'The Forever War' was not used as inspiration behind several of the ideas found in 'Halo'.
I found the writing style of the novel to be easy going and accessible for many different types of readers. The language used in this book is quite a direct, as is Haldeman's method of story-telling, so he doesn't layer his paragraphs with nuances or subtle clues that need to be picked up on. Even if you consider yourself a poor reader, I don't think the majority of people would struggle to follow it from a linguistic or plot point of view with this novel. Nor is the book overly heavy in terms of its science and, again for the majority of people, I doubt anyone would really struggle with the concepts presented. That said, whilst the concepts might be fair easy to understand, this is in many ways a typical science-fiction novel and as such if space-flight, alien creatures and other such things aren't to your taste, you might not be able to getting into this book at all.
I felt the characters throughout the book were believable a well written. Whilst I've never been in the army myself, it struck me that the thoughts and feelings Haldeman describes in the novel would be those of recruits within any army, with Mandella's thoughts towards his commanding officers very probably the same thoughts many soldiers have. I also suspect that Haldeman has given a lot of himself to the main character Mandella and so is expressing his own thoughts and feelings by proxy, though I never felt his intention was to preach to people his own thoughts about the rights or wrongs of war.
I thought the character of Mandella was engaging, as his actions, reactions and motives were always clear and easily understood. One thing I did think was missing was the development of certain other characters, in particular Marygay Potter who is Mandella's love interest throughout the book. I thought a little more time could have been spent explaining her character, as her motives didn't seem quite so obvious as Mandella's at times. Whilst the lack of back-story works well for people such as Sergeant Cortez and Captain Stott, (both of whom are Private Mandella's seniors), I thought given Potter's role throughout the book, she could have been given a little more depth.
Something some people may not enjoy about the novel is that the plot is a little one directional. As already mentioned, the writing style isn't littered with subtleties and so there aren't really any twists or turns that some people enjoy in a novel. I myself found that by centring the story around the experiences of the main character, rather than the events that happen to him, the book was still entertaining. The book is in no way a roller-coaster ride and some people may find the lack of distinct action a little boring - if you're more interested in action packed novels than you may find 'The Forever War' a little understated. For myself, I found the plot played out at a steady pace which I never got bored of and I thought the ending was rewarding, with things tied up neatly enough not to leave any big questions, but equally not too neatly tied up as to feel like the story simply ending there.
One of the most interesting aspects to this novel is how the returning veterans have to try and adapt (or not as the case may be) returning to an Earth where, although they've only been away for a few months relatively speaking, years have passed, with family members aging and going about their lives, etc. Indeed, by the end of the book the soldiers are well into the thirty-first century of Earth's calander, with Earth's society all but completely alien to them.
One thing that particularly struck me was Hadleman's ideas on how Earth's society would change over the centuries, particularly in regard to the fact that for many generations people have never known 'peacetime'.
I thought one particularly interesting idea was that, due to over population of Earth, the global government encourages homosexual relationships as the most effective means of birth control, eventually becoming the "social norm" so that heterosexual couples are considered "queer". I think it's important to say that there is no malice or homophobic connotations to this idea from Haldeman, but rather he uses this reversal of what is considered "normally" to develop the plot so that, rather than Mandella having to tolerate homosexuality, it is his heterosexuality that needs to be tolerated by the other characters. This idea that "normality" is simply what the general consensus of a populace believe isn't new to me, but I thought Haldeman played it very well and it was an unexpected, but interesting feature in the novel.
As is always to be expected with anything written decades ago, but supposedly set in the future, it is a little odd to be reading about "Sergeant Mandella 2007 - 2024 A.D" fighting a war in another galaxy when, sitting here in 2007 (at the time of writing I hasten to add!), we haven't even sent a manned ship to Mars yet. However, Haldeman addresses this in his Foreword and says - "The dates in the book are now kind of funny; most people realise we didn't get into an interstellar war in 1996 think of it as a parallel universe". Haldeman's desire to include Vietnam veteran's in the book is largely the cause of the earlier dates used, but as someone who actually knows very little about the Vietnam war, (I think anything I do about that war comes from movies like "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Forest Gump" to be honest) reading the book some thirty years after it was initially published I thought the core ethos of 'The Forever War', as in the effect on those fighting and those being fought for, could apply to any war, in any decade, century or millennia for that matter.
I don't think anyone would find 'The Forever War' a life-changing novel; but then equally I don't think anyone would say it was terrible, one which they felt they had wasted their time reading. I think it is deserving of it's 'Masterwork' status. There are better novels out there, but there are also many, many more that are worse. I would happily re-read this sometime in the future, not because I feel I've missed anything, but because I know it's an enjoyable read. One I would recommend to anyone who enjoyed science-fiction.
I must admit, the Hamilton quote was what hooked me into buying the book, and it is easily one of the best SF war novels I have read. As one other reviewer notes, reading it does cause flashbacks to the film Starship Troopers, but for all those out there that hated the film, be assured that this book is much more intelligent and well thought out. Supposedly the book is a satire (as SF often is claimed to be) of Vietnam. I don't think the author is criticising the war half as much as he's criticising conscription. The book is about an interstellar war between humans and a species called the Taurans. Humans know nothing about them other than they exist, and that they have killed settlers, and the generals have decided that the only thing that can be done in the face of such a threat is to destroy the enemy. To do so they have drafted the best and brightest in the world to become infantry to battle the Taurans. The story follows Mandella, originally a physics graduate, as he goes into battle after battle, and his periods in between. The book follows events on Earth through that always useful SF tool, relativity. Basically we get to see what would happen to Earth in such a scenario as interstellar war economy over the course of a few centuries. The book is interesting, raising some valid points on what could potentially happen. Dated slightly due the book's age (now over 25yrs), but not so bad as you wince at things that are impossible due to changes on the political or science field since. Dates are wrong due to Haleprin's optimism of the state of technological advance. The book isn't just about society change however, it also features war. Many of the reviews I've seen about this book seem to think it was all about war. It seemed to me the main aim was to show war's effect on societies and soldiers, and hence there is relatively little action in the book, but enough to keep you aware of the war
as the underlying element within the book. The conclusion to the book is a little too tight for me, Halperin just swoops in and makes it brutal and short... Which may well be what would happen, but it does seem very abrupt and maybe that is to enhance the shock value of the piece. Nothing really new, because many of the themes and ideas have been taken and thrashed about by other author's since, but still a very good strong book which is both entertaining and thoughtful. The characters are well portrayed, and the author's style is easy going and a quick page-turner.
For the totally uninitiated, the war of the title is a conflict between humans and aliens with whom we have, until the very end, no communication other than missile fire with; unknown and inexplicable enemy. It begins sometime in 1996 - he explains that in the foreword, it all makes sense, don't worry about it - and lasts well into the 32nd century, for the character participants at least, because of relativistic dilation. The participants are sent out to fight Taurans while behind them the society they're supposed to be fighting for changes completely, faster than they can comprehend. It is supposed to be a Vietnam allegory - Haldeman served there, as a combat engineer. It shows. The war is a hoax, essentially; deliberately provoked by terran military command to preserve their way of life. Science- fictional generals are continually doing this. In real life this is not far short of insane - depending on the theory that you can actually have a war which changes nothing except with regard to the participants, which is never true as long as there are organisations of any sort capable of and willing to react to circumstances - and it doesn't even explain what he's satirising. What makes it worse is that in Haldeman's world they may actually have a point. Industry, employment, and the general commonweal depends on the production of war materiel, as the hero discovers on his first and only return to earth; a few brilliant but superfluous people are an easily made sacrifice for a situation that ensures this, especially as they're never likely to lose. He sets up an insane situation so well that, for those involved, to do anything other than what they are doing would be criminal incompetence. Under those circumstances, why not provoke a war? Unless you badly misjudge an opponent - and they don't - it's viable. What does not gel is the continuation of the war through such massive changes in society. At
one point, terran society resorts to eugenics, and compulsory homosexuality as a means to prevent spurious freebirths and as a means of birth control; later full- scale monocrop cloning, indefinite numbers of copies of one man and one woman. What end this is supposed to serve in itself beats the smeg out of me. Why they should continue the war- and in fact, they don't, the monocrop- clones- short of sheer inability to make it stop is a mystery. A key part of having believable SF technology is having otherwise intelligent participants who themselves believe in it.He does that well, but otherwise I can't imagine where the 'faultless' comment of Hamilton's comes from. So much is driven by metaphorical needs rather than the possible (or, as ever, plausible- given- that...)I'm sure he could be much more rigorous if he set out to. Stasis fields are particularly quibbleable. Relativity is his chief tool for manipulating the causality of the war. Ships use effectively instantaneous collapsar jumps, but "Maneuvering into collapsar insertion will put us about three hundred years behind Stargate's calendar by the time we reach" their destination. Horseshit, to put it bluntly. The ship in question can pull 25 'g'- drive system named as 'tachyon drive' but undefined. That's thirteen days twenty-one hours twenty minutes to lightspeed in it's own frame of reference. When all's said and done, relativity is asymptotic. You only start hitting ratios of external to interior time of twenty to one or so up past ninety- nine point nine percent of lightspeed. As Clarke said once, what's three orders of magnitude between friends? Even so, this is a gap. I'm wary of agreeing with general opinion and surface appearance that it is intended as a satire on Vietnam; it would actually sit better as a satire on the first world war, especially given the casualty rates he quotes. Most importantly, when all&
#39;s said and done, the book has a happy ending. With reservations, especially for those of the liberal persuasion who like individuality, but the only people Vietnam had a happy ending for were the Chinese- who never liked the Vietnamese anyway and were glad to see America fall flat on it's face- and the Japanese, who took advantage of the nosedive in American confidence to hand out a shattering defeat in their own everlasting economic war. Earlier comment notwithstanding, it is far and away one of the best novels of military science fiction you're going to be able to find. I doubt it's worth some of the high praise heaped on it- comparisons to Catch- 22 do it no good whatsoever, and there are better novels to have been forged in the experience of Vietnam; Tim O'Brien's works for one author and Bao Ninh for one outstanding novel, but the more restrictive a definition you put on it, the more it seems to stand out among it's contemporaries. As an unqualified 'novel', more than competent, but not much more. As a war novel, apart from the setting it is second rank, not first. (But that way you take slightly longer to be mown down, perhaps long enough to duck.) As SF, much more competently executed than most, but too closely correspondent to reality (as may well be inevitable with satire), failing to follow it's own 'what if...'s through; as military SF, one of the very few examples to achieve the qualities inherent in a genuine war novel, head and shoulders above the competition. Ratings; Imagination; derivative, incomplete what if's; C- Science; hocus- pocus, but internally consistent; C+ Scene- setting; very good, B+ Characterisation; the strongest point, almost uniquely well done in its field, A Overall; C+
When I started reading this book I had a strange feeling of deja vu, largely thanks to recent film and TV in the form of Starship Troopers (based on a Heinlen novel of the same name) and Space Above and Beyond. This book was written back in 1974 and so got there long before either of those two and anyway it tells a far better war story. Joe Haldeman writes inspried by his experiences in Vietnam and the result is a book that really conveys the pain of warfare. My only complaint has to be that this message has become so common in our film and literature that it seemed almost tired. Being fair to the book it gets its message across well, it's just that it isn't a new message to me. As Earth's space travel capabilities improve we gain the ability to travel close to the speed of light and hence cover vast distances in relatively small spaces of time (take note, relativity is very important in this novel). Mankind makes forays into colonising other star systems, but soon meets with disaster when the colonists are wiped out by an alien race known as the Taurans. Immeadiately the Earth rallys for war collecting together a bunch of well educated men and women to train into skilled killing machines. Amongst these soon to be soldiers is our protagonist William Mandella, a young man with a Physics degree. Packed off to a space boot camp he learns to fight in the most extreme conditions where simply tripping over can mean death. Those that survive basic training are sent out to attack a Tauran base in a distant solar system. Shipped off near the speed of light relativity means that what will seem like a few monts for the soldiers will be many years for those back on Earth. After a successful first campaign the soldiers return back to Earth heros. Many years have passed and Mandella and the few survivors are shocked by how much the world has changed. Mandella is met by his mother, now an elderly woman, accompanied by a bodyguard as it's dangerou
s to travel openly without one. As he and his lover, Marygay, dscover just how alien the world is too them now they soon come together and ultimately sign up for another tour of duty. The two continue to fight together in the war, suriviving a number of difficult battles and space flights. Relativity separates them further from their home planet of Earth, each journey bringing them back to a world technologically and sociologically distinct from before. All seems well for them until they are given separate commissions, ensuring they'll never see each other again as once again relativity takes it's toll. Overall it's a pretty good book, gripping enough that I raced through it and with an interesting if now familiar message. Relativity proves to be a powerful tool for driving home the separation and seclusion of the soldier from society. When society is so radically changed it becomes an easy step to understand the alienation the soldiers feel. One particular flaw for me arises from just how distinct the culture becomes later on. Returning from one tour of duty Mandella and Marygay discover that homosexuality is now the norm, the eugenics council of Earth encouraging it to cut down on the birth rate. In fact it's gone so far that there are no heterosexuals anymore, and if anyone is heterosexual that can be corrected. I've no objection to the homosexuality, it just seems a little bizarrely far fetched that within a matter of a few hundred years (perhaps a couple of generations) everyone has changed to one sexual orientation. My one other complaint has to be a somewhat weak ending, the resolution of the war is something of a cop out and briefly handled at that. Perhaps it'as because the book's primary concern is the affect of war upon it's soldiers, but I felt the conclusion could have been neater. Perhaps surprisingly it finishes with an amazingly happy ending that I have to admit left me feelng good. Perhaps a little
too sickly and even a surprise in a book focussing on the affect of war on man, but definately a relief when you've felt nothing but pity for Mandella over the last hundred pages. These complaints aside it's an enjoyable book and a good page turner. In my opinion its not the best of the titles currently available in the SF Masterworks range, but it's definately worthy of the title. If you enjoy war stories definately read this, it's suitably thoughtful on the subject. If you want some easy to read SF with a strong message again this is a book to consider.
For a science fiction novel originally written as a reaction to the Vietnam war, by an author who was himself a war veteran, this novel has in fact lost almost none of its relevance today. William Mandella is a Private recruited into the human forces who are currently locked into battle with the mysterious alien Taurans. After undergoing dangerous training, he eventually graduates to active service. Unfortunately, however, the effects of relativity mean that whenever a journey is taken at high speed onboard a space ship centuries pass back on Earth for every few months ship-time. The vessels and bases encountered, whether human or Tauran, may have vastly different levels of technology depending upon how long ago they were launched, and receiving reports from central command is an almost impossible situation. Eventually Mandella falls in love with Marygay, a fellow member of the crew, and the two spend some time out of the war zone on a planet they can hardly recognise, but are eventually forced to re-enlist, only to discover that they will be serving on different ships, the effects of relativity meaning that they will almost certainly never see each other again, very probably coming back from their respective missions to completely different eras on Earth. This is a novel which effectively reflects the feelings of being ‘cut-off’ from society back home and the loneliness which many veterans, of the Vietnam war in particular, and of other wars in general, must be familiar with, the science fiction setting being used to good effect in making these feelings into genuine reality, in the process becoming one of the few novels in my experience which not only takes relativity seriously but which has it effects ingrained in the very fibre of its plot. Already a much-praised work, and the winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards (amongst others), The Forever War was recently reissued in Britain by Millennium as the first in th
eir series of SF Masterworks, also marking the first time that the original version of the novel has been available in this country. An excellent science fiction war novel, easily the superior of Heinlein’s right-wing militaristic escapades, this is a novel which takes the realities of war seriously, whilst avoiding the temptation to preach and telling a thoroughly engrossing yarn in the process. Deserves to be read by everyone who likes science fiction, and by those with an interest in the effects of war.
Published by Millennium Books