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The Forever War Paperback – February 17, 2009
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“To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise. It is, for all its techno-extrapolative brilliance, as fine and woundingly genuine a war story as any I've read.” ―William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, Spook Country
“There are a handful of moments when an American science fiction novel abruptly and seemingly effortlessly satisfied every possible expectation conveyed not only by the genre's ambitions, but of those of the whole literary landscape with which it was contemporary: Sturgeon's More Than Human, Dick's The Man In The High Castle, LeGuin's Dispossessed, Gibson's Neuromancer. The Forever War is one such book, and like those others still carries with it that air of recognition and possibility.” ―Jonathan Lethem, author of Gun With Occcasional Music, Fortress of Solitude
“Perhaps the most important war novel written since Vietnam . . . Haldeman, a veteran, is a flat-out visionary . . . and protagonist William Mandella's attempt to survive and remain human in the face of an absurd almost endless war is harrowing hilarious heartbreaking and true . . . like all the best works of literature THE FOREVER WAR takes you apart and then, before you can turn that last page, puts you back together: better, wiser, more human. Simply extraordinary.” ―Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“If there was a Fort Knox for Science Fiction writers, we'd have to lock Joe Haldeman up.” ―Stephen King, author of The Shining, The Dead Zone, The Stand
“The Forever War is not just a great Science Fiction novel, it's a great Vietnam war novel - and a great war novel, without qualification- that is also Science Fiction. A classic to grace either genre.” ―James Sallis, author of The Long Legged Fly, Drive, Cripple Creek
“FOREVER WAR is brilliant--one of the most influential war novels of our time. That it happens to be set in the future only broadens and enhances its message.” ―Greg Bear, author of Moving Mars, Eon, The Forge of God
“A parable whose lessons are needful learning once more.” ―John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, Zoe’s Tale
“I first read this twenty years ago and have never forgotten the wonder and fury it kindled at the time. Anyone who talks about the glory of war has obviously never read it. A beautifully detailed and intensely personal account of a conflict which lasts for over a thousand years, as told by one grunt who lives through it all. Only a writer as skillfull and knowledgeable as Haldeman could use war's dark glamour to lure the reader in and then deplou the sam fascination to show just what kind of effect this orchestrated barbarism can have on the human soul.” ―Peter F. Hamilton, author of Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained, The Dreaming Void
“In a literature of ideas, The Forever War is a titan: a book filled with mind-bending ideas about relatavistic time-distortion and world-shaking ideas about the futility of war. In today's world, where we think declaring war on abstract nouns like TERROR is a winning strategy, we need THE FOREVER WAR.” ―Cory Doctorow, author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Little Brother X
“It is to the Vietnam War what Catch-22 was to World War II, the definitive, bleakly comic satire.” ―Thomas M. Disch, author of Camp Concentration, 334
“The Forever War does what the very best science fiction does. It deals with extremes both societal and teleological; it places a frame around humankind's place in the universe to show us what is outside the frame; and it functions simultaneously at the literal and metaphorical level. Inarguably one of the genre's great novels, it is also among the finest novels ever written about war.” ―James Sallis, author of The Long Legged Fly, Drive, Cripple Creek
About the Author
A multiple winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Joe Haldeman is an ultimate household name in science fiction. A Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, since the original publication of The Forever War, Joe has maintined a continuous string of SF classics, and as a long-time Professor of Creative Writing at M.I.T., is widely acknowledged as a key mentor figure to many of this generation's top SF stars.
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It's been good to revisit it, too. Sure, I remembered an awful lot, but times have changed in our world since then, which makes for something of a good parallel with the tale itself.
For those unfamiliar with the book, it's the story of William Mandella, a soldier fighting in deep space for humanity - but the faster than light travel that carries him and his fellow soldiers into battle also means that while only a year or two may pass for them, many years pass on the Earth they are fighting for.
Before they know it, the world they left behind is almost unrecognisable to the soldiers - and the only remnant of the world gone by are the soldiers themselves, finding in one another the familiarity they can no longer see in society.
There are obvious connections here to the veterans who returned from Vietnam - Haldeman himself served there - and came home to a country they struggled to fit into after the horrors they had experienced.
Among the changes they see are changing attitudes to sexuality over the years. I've seen people criticise the book for Mandella's attitude to homosexuality, which becomes more prominent in society in the decades in which he's off fighting alien aggressors, but really that's a representation of both Mandella's place and time, and I would argue a positive showing an increased acceptance of homosexuality. Sure, Mandella has a struggle to accept that - but he struggles to accept everything about the changed world. He is a man literally out of time, with regard to just about every aspect of society.
It truly is a visionary novel, tackling heavyweight subjects of how you go on fighting for a world you no longer recognise, even as you do your duty.
If you've never read it, trust me, put it on your reading list - it truly is one of the greats.
Forever War, written in Haldeman’s terse Hemingway-esque prose, is as masculine as it is tender and heartbreaking. It shows not only a soldier’s gritty experience of war but also his inability to escape it upon returning home. This one deserves to be read by every self-respecting SF fan, even ones that aren’t into military fiction.