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I was somewhat taken aback by the style of this novel at first. After reading a few dozen pages, however, I could clearly see why this book is considered classic military science fiction. This is a fascinating contrast to Starship Troopers. Haldeman's style is terse and effective, seasoned with a sly sense of humor throughout. The protagonist, William Mandella, is a likeable military everyman with whom a reader readily identifies. The battle scenes are particularly well done, allowing a reader to easily follow the action without the confusion that would plague a less skillful account. The Forever War is notable for its exploration of the temporal effects of faster than light travel, i.e., Mandella's tours of duty last hundreds of years on earth, while for him, only a few years pass. Mandella goes forth to battle, having no idea what type of home will await him in the unlikely event that he survives. Eventually, Mandella is rendered a human anachronism, a veteran in command of troops he can barely understand. The parallels with Vietnam were mostly lost on me, as I'm too young to relate, but the theme of coming home to a world one no longer recognizes is more than ably developed. Another theme that gets a lot of play is that of the unintended consequences of social engineering as Earth's society "evolves." Some of the changes to Earth that Mandella witnesses are disturbing, many are humorous, and the final chapter is extremely unusual and thought-provoking. More than just a cold military fantasy, The Forever War has a surprising emotional impact as well. Best of all, Haldeman makes his points with subtlety and humor, not by nailing them into your skull. A terrific read that I would recommend to anyone without hesitation.
The Forever War is one of my favorite books. I've read it at least ten times over the years. However, what you're getting here is NOT the version you probably remember. It's an unedited version. Now, I'm sure you're thinking "Great! I LOVE the book, so more of it can only be a good thing. Right?"
It's Haldeman's terse prose and direct writing style that make The Forever War a great novel. Without the discipline and restraint that previous editors imposed upon his work, Haldeman rambles on like your great-grandpa telling you about life during the Great Depression. There are at least two entire chapters devoted to describing how Earth's economy is now based on calories instead of dollars. And by the end of those two chapters, Haldeman himself seems to conclude that it's dumb, impractical idea that's not very interesting in the first place.
There are reasons that the original cuts were made. What was once tense, quotable, action-packed and provocative is now a lumbering beast, sagged down by tons of extraneous ramblings that don't add to the story even a little.
I certainly don't expect you to believe me. And in fact, I suppose some of you might even like the extra material, bland and superflous as it is. But for me, this version is a rough draft. I would much prefer to have a copy of the edited version. Editing is NOT a dirty word- it's part of the craft of writing.
Haldeman originally wrote this novel as an allegory of the Vietnam war, told through the eyes of a reluctant soldier caught up in a battle that never seemed to end, while the world he left behind changed drastically. However, it applies to all wars, in any time, and the book has never lost its timeliness. Main character William Mandella serves in the war against the mysterious Taurans, which, because of time dilation udring his spaceship travels, lasts for seven hundred years while Mandella ages only ten. Earth alters, lifestyles completely change, and Mandella wonders the purpose of the senseless warfare. Although specifically allegorical, Haldeman's novel is powerful enough to apply to all combat. In a way, this could be seen as the opposite to Heinlein's _Starship Troopers_, with reluctant soldiers caught in purposeless combat, and a hero who is neither more skilled or heroic than any other solider around him-he has merely lasted longer than the others. The book has many great touching moments in between the furious combat scenes (a few of which are confusing), such a Mandella's separation from his love Marygay Potter, and a sad return to an Earth that has aged beyond their understanding. A deserving classic of many awards, and I'm sure it will never age as long as warfare is still with us.
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"The Forever War" is authored by a Vietnam Veteran who uses the colorful setting of the future "Forever" War as an allegory for The 'Nam and the feelings of its vets. This powerful book grabs the reader quickly and throws him straight into the first-person world of William Mandela, would-be physics professor turned soldier by the Earth's military fight alien Taurans in a war with nebulous origins. Due to complications posed by relativity, each time the combatants engage, the battle is completely lopsided because one race will have the technological advantages endowed by time on their side. For example, if Earth sends a mission that takes 300 years for the mission to reach it's goal, the enemy already had 300 years to prepare and upgrade defenses, so the mission's tech is obsolete. Then, if the Taurans attack our outpost, the same thing happens. With no communication between the two races, no chance of winning, but the ever present chance of defeat, an eternal war is created. Halderman also captures the disorientation experienced by GIs who came back from horrific combat, and were expected to instantly adjust to 1960's "Ozzy and Harriet" American culture. The "Forever War" has a cynical ring that I instantly loved, as well as sublimely juxtaposing the positive and negative potentials of humans as individuals and a race. The military details are right on target, from the lingo and attitudes to soldiers' attitudes. Overall, I'd definitely recommend "The Forever War" to anyone with an interest in Sci-Fi. It'll also teach you about the motivations of warriors who turn peacemakers.
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