- Paperback: 264 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (February 17, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312536631
- ISBN-13: 978-0312536633
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 21 x 209.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,603 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Forever War Paperback – February 17, 2009
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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
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Top customer reviews
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.
2) Characters (3 stars) – Mandella is the aloof, sarcastic, tough-minded lead, just trying to get through it all. His persona reminded me a bit of a hardboiled detective, only without the hidden curiosity. He was fun to tag along with, but not necessarily compelling. Nor was I sure what his inner goal was, or how he changed over the course of the story.
3) Theme (3 stars) – I believe the big moral here was how when you go off to war, war becomes your new home because your old home now seems so strange. It’s a very Vietnam-esque moral, and Haldeman captures it well, though I think the dimensions of the theme could have been explored a bit more. There was also a smaller moral in here about the absurdity of war, but again, that wasn’t explored as deeply as I would have liked it to been.
4) Voice (3 stars) – Haldeman’s prose is crisp, swift, and sometimes funny. It was easy to read, though I didn’t mark any particular sentence as beautiful.
5) Setting (4 stars) – This, I think, was where the book really shined. Haldeman did a wonderful job of making you feel like you were in these distant, inhospitable, miserable ships and planets. Very well done.
6) Overall (3 stars) – Overall, I enjoyed imagining I was in the far-off locales, and enjoyed reading Haldeman’s ideas for how humanity might change over the next 1000 years. But in the end, I felt it was a little light, that an opportunity had been missed for something more.
The other reviews cover the story and its worth better than I can, so I'll just focus on the different editions. I was given the original version, in the 1976 paperback. This is the version that won the awards, and the edition on this page is the third version, the definitive author's edition. I bought it for my nephew and was surprised at the change.
The difference is that the middle section - when Mandella returns to Earth between tours of duty - used to be ten pages. Now it's forty pages and tells a very different story. The first version worked well as a calm between the space battles, but now Mandella's blowing away rapists and thieves with shotguns.
It's as if Ender, in Ender's Game, when he's taking a break on Earth between sessions at Battle School, didn't lounge out by a lake, but got into a forty-page battle with raiding outlaw gangs. It'd not only be a long tangent and distraction from the story, but it'd make it seem as if the Earth wasn't even worth saving. That's the way this section plays out, and perhaps why Haldeman's editor, Ben Bova, cut it.
The earlier, ten-page version presents Mandella's break from duty as boring and bureaucratic, which is much more accurate for a soldier returning to civilian life. There's also scenes that are much more meaningful to the story, such as when Mandella's words are twisted by the media.
I admire Haldeman a great deal, and I even admire how he stuck to his guns and put out the version of the story he favors, but in this case I have to agree with Ben Bova's idea to cut that section out.
Still, you can always skip those forty pages and read it later as a short story of the world gone wrong.