The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

With the discovery of collapsars, wormhole-like objects that allow instantaneous travel between stars, humanity are spreading out from Earth. It is through this travel that we meet the Taurans and War ensues.

William Mandala is one of the new highly intelligent recruits and is among the first to be put through the paces on Charon, a freezing planet on the outer edges of the solar system. With his fellow recruits he is sent on the first mission to engage – and see – the Taurans.
the-forever-warAlthough the collapsars allow almost instant travel between systems, the effects of time dilation when travelling to and from these is severe. During his first mission that takes mere months for him, Mandala return to a changed Earth decades after he left. As the missions take longer and longer the time that passes back home becomes ever greater.

Mandala ends up fighting a seemingly endless war for a world that has moved on from his time. With missions with ever less survival chances he moves up the ranks until commanding his own final mission, one whose outcome will hold some surprising results.

The Forever War is one of the books I picked up to catch up on some classic science fiction. I’ve enjoyed some recent military stuff recently (John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, Robert Buettner’s Orphanage) and I’ve been meaning to look up the better novels of the genre. I’ve not yet got around to Starship Troopers, but this one has much to admire, but it doesn’t use the the premise as much as I was hoping.

Mandala is our main character and the person we follow throughout this war. From his beginnings as a rookie on his training to the mission he commands as a major, he is the focus and it’s his views of the world around that shape the story. Mandala is a likable character and he and his squad mates feel good and as they’re not veterans we follow their path in gaining the skills they need in an all new fighting environment of stone cold freezing planets.

The training they go through is a good way to introduce many of the technological aspects of the world of The Forever War, most of which is a nice natural progression from the technology at the time. The combat suits are also quite good and the progress that is made between returns to Earth show how the level of technology evolves throughout the story.

The only real issue that I found I had with The Forever War was the world building. Don’t get me wrong, it’s done well when it’s done, but I just wish that the changes in society could have been explored a little further. While this is primarily a military novel – a job it does very well – it brings up too many interesting points that I felt weren’t explored in the depth that they could have been.

Still, I enjoyed The Forever War despite the missed opportunity to explore a changed society further. I’m pleased I made the time to read it and it’s also given me yet another author whose work I enjoy enough to track down some of his other works.

5 thoughts on “The Forever War by Joe Haldeman”

  1. Glad you read this modern classic. I read this when it first came out. It had a certain poignancy then because Haldeman wrote it as an outgrowth of his Vietnam wat experience which was still recent enough then to add an additional dimension to the reading of the book.

  2. Hey Mark, from what I understand this was picked up by publishers way back in the day and edited down. A new version has come out recently that is much more comprehensive. I am not sure if that is the one you have reviewed or not.

  3. I’ll be honest and say it wasn’t the newest of editions that I read, but I wasn’t aware that the newer ones were more comprehensive. I’ll definitely have to check one out and compare them, it’d be nice to see something a little more in depth.

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