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The Forever War (The Forever War #1)

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  93,205 Ratings  ·  3,930 Reviews
Series Info:
This is the first part of the "Forever War" series, however it can be read as a standalone.

Book Description:
The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand—despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy that they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William
Paperback, 278 pages
Published September 2nd 2003 by Voyager (first published December 1974)
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Topher I was thinking Tom Hardy. But Channing Tatum has been cast. I dunno.
Blaine I think its more about colonizing. You can't demarcate space, but you can specify that you've conquered a planet by occupying or establishing a base…moreI think its more about colonizing. You can't demarcate space, but you can specify that you've conquered a planet by occupying or establishing a base there. (less)
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Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books
40th out of 5,658 books — 18,838 voters
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Excellent Space Opera
7th out of 407 books — 2,120 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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This book is a military style space opera with …..Wait! Where are you going? Get back here. I hadn’t got to the good part yet. Give me a second to explain. Geez…

OK, so yes, there is an interstellar war with human troops in high-tech armored suits battling an alien enemy on distant planets. I know it sounds like another version of Starship Troopers or countless other bad genre sci-fi tales that copied it, but this one is different. Hell, when it was published in 1975 it won the Hugo, the Locus an
First published in 1974 and winner of the 1975 Hugo and Locus awards, Forever War by Joe Haldeman kicks ass.

More than just a book about a futuristic war, Haldeman describes a society built around the codependency of the industrial military complex and with a fluid dynamic socio-economic culture that is fascinating to watch unfold.

And the welfare recipients also get a bag of dope.

Haldeman’s protagonist, William Mandella, is in an elite military group that travels light distances to battles. Trans
Emily May
Aug 05, 2016 Emily May rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2014
Yeaahhhh! I'm ready for some hard science fiction!

Look! I got my glasses on all serious-like.
In case any movie producers are listening in, ten reasons to film The Forever War:

1. Gratuitous sex and nudity.

2. Social relevance (it's about Vietnam, stoopid!)

3. Evil aliens.

4. General relativity.

5. Wormholes. Interstellar, Joe Haldeman was here first!

6. Freaky high-tech zone where you can only fight with swords.

7. Unexpected twist! (view spoiler)

8. Hive minds.

9. Feel-good happy ending.

10. Gratuitous sex and nudity.
Jul 26, 2008 Scurra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Catch-22 is often cited as one of the great books about the futility and inherent paradoxes of war. I think this is easily its equal, but is often overlooked because it is dismissed as "just" science fiction.

By using the tropes of SF, Haldeman vividly illustrates not only the psychological effects on the combatants, but also the desperate disassociation wrought between the "soldiers" and the rest of society - his reference point was the Vietnam veterans, but it could apply anywhere and anywhen.
Piotr Reysner
Jan 20, 2015 Piotr Reysner rated it it was ok
I bought and read this book based upon the many glowing reviews I saw on the internet. It's heralded as a classic and one of the best Sci-Fi books of all time. I have to disagree.

I liked the concept. Scientifically, it was intriguing. However, the story was repetitive and slow. The exact same thing kept happening over and over again. Set up base. Boring Battle, many people die. Get back on ship. Stay in space for a long time. Get bored. Return to base. Go back out. Repeat.

There were long, long s

Well I think it's safe to say that I'm not the target audience for this book. This is hard sci-fi military space opera and I haven't even seen any of the Star Wars movies, or Star Treks, and only a handful of Doctor Who episodes (I only found out last year what a TARDIS is).

I probably shouldn't have even been *allowed* to read this. Somebody Kemper should have ripped it right out of my hands decrying: "You're not worthy!" and they'd probably be right. Despite my keenest efforts, The Forever War
May 02, 2015 Apatt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I first read The Forever War a couple years ago in audiobook format, I quite liked it but to be honest it did not leave much of a lasting impression. I suspect the audiobook format is not suitable for this particular book, I don’t remember there being anything wrong with the narration, I just could not retain much of the details after finishing it, just a vague feeling that it is quite good. I love audiobooks, but I am beginning to think that short sci-fi books are not really the ideal for this ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Bookwraiths rated it really liked it
Shelves: scifi, library
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

The Forever War is touted as one of the best science fiction military novels ever written. At least, that is how I’ve always heard it described, and so going into this one, I was expecting lots of gritty Vietnam-inspired fighting and combat. And I got that. However, what I also got was an amazing mixture of science and societal evolution that made the fighting even more entertaining and the story as a whole well worthy of its “One of the Best Sci-fi Nov
Raeden Zen
Nov 14, 2015 Raeden Zen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An Epic Satire of the Art of War

“‘Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.’ The guy who said that was a sergeant who didn’t look five years older than me. So if he’d ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he’d done it as an infant.”

The opening paragraph provides a glimpse into the most intriguing aspect of “The Forever War,” that of the affect of time dilation, officially defined as: the principle predicted by relativity that time intervals between events in
This is obviously a classic in the realms of sci-fi and of anti-war novels, and another book with thousands of reviews that I can't improve upon, but I'll just offer a couple of insights.

One of the primary concepts from the book is the main character returning from space travel (complete with Spacial Relativity) to an Earth that was completely foreign to him; it was a massive dose of culture shock which progressed deeper and deeper the further the story went. I was in the US Air Force for 22 yea
Jun 18, 2011 Kane rated it really liked it
The Forever War is a great classic military sci-fi joint for a few reasons:

1. Time dilation. Haldeman takes this one feature of space-time travel and makes it the central character of the novel. It messes with the protagonist's life, makes military strategy interesting in that your enemy could suddenly have weaponry far more advanced that you (or just as likely could be carrying sticks), and it gives the story a far-reaching feel.

2. Simplicity. There's no complex world-building (although some hi
Nandakishore Varma
Hey! This is not about American intervention in the Middle East! Really!!!

Kee Queen
I've had the longest fascination about war and the military lifestyle whether in historical books or works of fiction in general. There's just something deeply stirring about men and women giving up their lives in service of country or a government system even when that kind of loyalty demands death, destruction and bitter endings. I have great respect and admiration for this kind of people even if those things are mixed with pity and sadness as well.

My enjoyment for reading, watching and learn
The Forever War: Not as much impact as I was expecting
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
I had so many preconceptions about this book. It won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Ditmar Awards for Best SF novel back in 1975-6, and I knew it was a SF treatment of Joe Haldeman’s experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War. So I was expecting something similar to films like Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War (1989), Michael Cimino’s Th
Dec 12, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: sciencefiction
Let's say you're shipping off to a particular battle in a war. By the time you reach the battle, fight it, and return home, everyone you know has died of old age and the society you protected has evolved (or devolved) into something you don't recognize or particularly like. What would you be fighting for?

That's just one of the issues brought up in "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman.

The Plot
In this novel of galactic war, the alien menace is the Taurans. The war is fought over collapsars, which ar
Megan Baxter
Dec 12, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
The cover blurb on the copy I was reading referred to it as the science fiction Catch-22. While The Forever War has some of the same attitudes as Catch-22, what kept popping up in my head was how much this was a post-Vietnam response to Starship Troopers. On doing the barest of research, it appears Haldeman was wounded in combat in Vietnam, and that perspective is definitely in this science fiction book. In particular, what happens when you come home.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdr
Dec 30, 2013 Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After some thought, I had to bump this rating up a star. Originally, the laconic writing style gave me the impression the book fell short of the masterpiece it was capable of being; but, I now realize the Spartan prose works perfectly well with the delivery and message of the book. I have to admit now, the book is undeniably a masterpiece and deserves to be seen as such.

In one sense, this book is an amusing and entertaining galactic war story that is smartly delivered and is faithful to physics,
J.L.   Sutton
Aug 05, 2015 J.L. Sutton rated it really liked it
While it reminded me of Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Avatar (especially the beginning where recruits are told about all the things that could kill them and how they likely wouldn't make it back alive), Haldeman's Forever War takes a different turn. Haldeman's book focuses on a soldier fighting an interstellar war. Because our character is traveling to his battles at near-light speed, when he returns to earth between missions, decades pass. Haldeman speculates about the social changes taking ...more
4.0 to 4.5 stars. One of the best military science fiction novels ever written. Highlights the deep sense of alienation that soldiers can feel from the people they are sent to fight for. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

Winner: Hugo Award Best Science Fiction Novel (1976)
Winner: Nebula Award Best Science Fiction Novel (1976)
Winner: Locus Award Best Science Fiction Novel (1976)
Ben Babcock
So I’m on a relativistic shuttle, waiting for you…. I never found anybody else and I don’t want anybody else. I don’t care whether you’re ninety years old or thirty. If I can’t be your lover, I’ll be your nurse.

Hey kids, you know how people keep using that word allegory, and you’re never really sure what they mean, and they probably aren’t even sure what they mean?

This. This is an allegory.

If there’s a reason we have the phrase “deceptively slim” in our book reviewing vocabulary, it’s for books
Jan 11, 2012 seak rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Touted as the best sci-fi military novel ever written, I went into reading The Forever War with a lot of expectations; probably too many. Not to say that I didn't like it. I liked it a lot, I just didn't love it and I don't think it's the best military sci-fi novel ever written. I liked Starship Troopers by Heinlein much more. Where Heinlein takes a positive look at war, Haldeman uses his experience with the Vietnam war to paint a more dismal picture, not that this was the point that makes ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Originally reviewed 2009, I just came back to put in a spoiler tag, which I didn't know how to do at the time...oops.

Interesting take on things. In a way in the end this is more an "anti-war" book than a stand alone novel. It unfortunately reflects the Utopian type views that came out of the 60s/70s reaction to Vietnam, the one that asks the question, "what would happen if they gave a war and nobody came?" Of course the unaccepted (but logical)answer to this question is, they bring it to you. Se
Feb 01, 2014 Tfitoby rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Joe Haldeman channels his inner Robert Heinlein with this response to the classic young adult war novel Starship Troopers, only this time Haldeman uses his real life experiences of Vietnam to paint a more realistic (and less heroic) portrait of what being in the army and at war is really like, despite the fact that it's in space fighting against non-humanoid aliens. He even finds time to include a cat. I'm sure Heinlein would have been especially pleased with that when he wrote to Haldeman to ...more
Javier Muñoz
En la guerra interminable tenemos un libro de ciencia ficción militar que pone el énfasis en circunstancias distintas del combate.

Haldeman nos ofrece un retrato de la vida militar, de los factores que no nos parecen tan atractivos como las contiendas bélicas, aquí cobra gran importancia el día a día del oficio militar, con la instrucción continua, los deberes cotidianos, los largos viajes en ambientes claustrofóbicos y las labores de intendencia; además nos muestra todas las perspectivas del ámb
Léonard Gaya
Aug 11, 2014 Léonard Gaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joe Haldeman, a Vietnam veteran, wrote "The Forever War" in the seventies, and his novel soon became a classic of the so-called "military science-fiction" genre, in keeping with Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". The novel tells the story of an intergalactic war with an alien race, that spans well over a millennium, as seen from the point of view of Private Mandella. It starts with drill instruction and training on a freezing satellite of Pluto, expanding further on until the conflict reaches the ...more
Wayne Barrett
Pretty interesting Sci-Fi tale...probably a 3.5 would be a more accurate rating but the lack of anticipated action hinders me.
I liked the take on a soldier fighting a battle through time travel in a 1000 year war in which he only ages a few years. It makes one ponder the possible changes in society as experienced by Mandella after so many centuries pass by.
Not a bad story, but other than the final battle,the conflicts with the Taurans and the new experiences in different time lapses, it was all
Aug 24, 2015 thefourthvine rated it did not like it
Shelves: sff, worst
Okay, K asked me to elaborate on why I hate this book, so. Here we go.

There was apparently a point in the distant, fortunately-gone past where all you needed to write science fiction was a good idea. Not a plot. Not characters. Not writing that was remotely competent or dialogue that sounded like human beings might say it or any sort of ability to extrapolate human society or even any understanding of what humans are like. You just had to have a good idea and you could write a classic! The Forev
Ivan Lutz
May 01, 2015 Ivan Lutz rated it it was amazing
Istinsko remek djelo i to ne samo znanstvene fantstike. Knjiga koja svojom temom uspostavlja sasvim novi oksimoron pojam: "ratni pacifizam", a svi oni koji su prošli ratna stradanja mogu se lako pronaći u ovome. Sličnu temu obradio je Stanislaw Lem u svojoj "Povratak sa zvijezda", no dramaturški bazirajući se na osobnu dramu i ostajući na njoj, dok je Haldeman zario pero u cijeli svijet, prostor-vrijeme i nadljudsku borbu da se zbog ljubavi prevrne cijeli svemir, makar to značilo i Vječno ...more
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Brother of Jack C. Haldeman II

Haldeman is the author of 20 novels and five collections. The Forever War won the Nebula, Hugo and Ditmar Awards for best science fiction novel in 1975. Other notable titles include Camouflage, The Accidental Time Machine and Marsbound as well as the short works "Graves," "Tricentennial" and "The Hemingway Hoax." Starbound is scheduled for a January release. SFWA pres
More about Joe Haldeman...

Other Books in the Series

The Forever War (3 books)
  • Forever Peace (The Forever War, #2)
  • Forever Free (The Forever War, #3)

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“The 1143-year-long war hand begun on false pretenses and only because the two races were unable to communicate.

Once they could talk, the first question was 'Why did you start this thing?' and the answer was 'Me?”
“Tonight we're going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.” 21 likes
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