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The Forever War

(The Forever War #1)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  155,465 ratings  ·  6,765 reviews
Private William Mandella is a reluctant hero in an interstellar war against an unknowable and unconquerable alien enemy. But his greatest test will be when he returns home. Relativity means that for every few months' tour of duty centuries have passed on Earth, isolating the combatants ever more from the world for whose future they are fighting. ...more
Paperback, SF Masterworks, 241 pages
Published March 29th 2010 by Gollancz (first published December 1974)
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 ·  155,465 ratings  ·  6,765 reviews

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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 get a bag of dope with their check.

Haldeman’s protagonist, William Mandella, is in an elite military group that travels light distances to ba
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Maybe a generous 2.5? Just for the overall concept.

Let's start with the positive... I enjoyed following a main character struggling to adapt to the changes on Earth while he's at war. 2 years for him end up being 26 on Earth due to time relativity. It only gets worst as the war progresses.

The rest was a mess for me. This book is often mentioned as a "classic sci-fi" and is on so many "best sci-fi of all time" lists... To me a classic has to survive the test of time and this book did not age wel
J.L.   Sutton
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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?”

Forever War, The – Grovel

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), Joe Haldeman's The Forever War takes a different turn. Haldeman's book focuses o
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SF Masterworks 1(!). That's right, this book was the first released under the SF Masterworks brand, so it's gotta be good then? It sure damn was! This book!

A star gate like natural phenomena has been discovered that allows man to roam the stars - but each journey albeit instantaneous, sees the passing of the equivalent amount of REAL TIME on Earth. As the UN-led Earth ratchets up space colonisation, an alien race (the Taurans), attacks and destroys some Earth ships, thus sparking a war... a war
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.
Emily May
Dec 28, 2013 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.
Piotr Reysner
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
Leonard Gaya
Jul 30, 2014 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 (and way better than) Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. The book tells the story of an intergalactic war with an alien race, that spans well over a millennium, as seen from Private Mandella. It starts with drill instruction and training on a freezing satellite of Pluto, expanding further on until the conflict reaches the Great ...more
Review to follow

This was a book which I had been wanting to read for a long time, and then as part of March's Bossy Book Challenge (Time Travel for one of the SF groups I belong to - Apocalypse Whenever, the person I was paired with gave me this novel as one of my choices , and so I jumped at it.

Was it a good SF novel, well yes, for certain, would I class it as Time Travel, erm no. Yes it had time passing (ultra quickly) whilst the hero (and heroines) were travelling just sub-light (Time Dilatio
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-shelf, sci-fi
Still a classic. Want a war-driven novel constrained by the limits of relativity but still as inexplicable, funny, and as sad as the regular kind?

How about a novel right out of 1977 that explores what it means when all of society transforms over millennia into something awfully strange... a world where the hetero norm has become a homo norm in response to overpopulation...

To where the old outdated concept of future-shock is dusted off and given new life...

To where it's only reasonable for old s
Kevin Kuhn
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With the anniversary of D-Day being just a few days ago, this was timely reading. Joe Haldeman’s book, “The Forever War” is engaging, well-written, and meaningful, originally published in 1974. It was a Hugo and Nebula winner. I read an edition published in 2010 which Haldeman identified as the ‘definitive edition’. I read the first edition back in college in the mid-eighties. While I remember greatly enjoying the book in college, this re-read was much more impactful. I don’t know if that is due ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and narrated by George Wilson is a good old fashion sci-fi adventure! Space travel, aliens, action, battles, social changes, military intrigue, and a hint of romance! This book has it all in written expertly! I hung on every word! I loved this book! I read this in 1975 or about then and couldn't remember all the details only parts and that I enjoyed it. I wanted to revisit this now that I am older and wiser. Also to see what social changes time has come true from ...more
mark monday
it is easy to see why this one is a bonafide classic of the genre. Haldeman succeeded in doing everything he set out to do, and he never loses focus: this is a story about the futility of war and the ever-changing yet ever-cyclical nature of humankind. his prose is straightforward, his ideas are clearly thought-out, his pacing is perfect, his protagonist is realistically and empathetically characterized. this is a smart, fast-paced, and very compassionate, humane book.

for me, the most important
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

I'm really surprised this has such a high rating. There's really not much to it.

Okay, it presents a cool concept. What would it really be like to fight a war with an alien race across the vast reaches of space? Even with something that allowed you to "jump" vast distances you would have to get to these places. As the ship you travel in nears the speed of light, time for you slows down. So for the main character who was born in 1997, he returns from the war in 3143 having aged only a few years bu


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
Every November (for the last few years) I try to read at least 2 books with a military theme. This year I chose the Forever War (which I had read before but did not remember). The Forever War is the much reputed analogy of the authors experience in the Vietnam War through a "space opera lens". So first, I'll put in the disclaimers. I read this as a war novel not a scifi novel. Of course the scifi elements are inescapable and in truth do detract from the book, but for me what Haldeman was saying ...more
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Conscript-to-brutal bootcamp-to-faraway-alien-war. Countless novels have followed this story structure, aping Heinlein’s Starship Troopers with mixed results.

Like me, you might be getting tired of encountering this storyline. Tired of reading what too often turns out to be Full Metal Jacket In Space - Minus The Social Criticism.

If that’s the case, borrow twenty bucks, get to a bookstore and order a copy of The Forever War. This is military-flavoured bootcamp-to-war Science Fiction in its fine
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I've not fared super well reading the sci-fi classics over the years but this 1975 Nebula and 1976 Hugo and Locus award winner was one of the few sci-fi classics I still had high expectations for since I enjoyed reading Joe Haldeman's More Than the Sum of His Parts short story in a Lighspeed collection years ago. The good news is this book did live up to my expectations and was pretty good! It is probably not quite so good as More Than the Sum of His Parts but there is no shame in that as that s ...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
Raeden  Zen
May 23, 2013 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
Rick Riordan
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character William Mandella is among the first recruits sent off to fight an alien species. The only problem? The distances are so vast that every faster-than-light jump means decades have passed back on earth. With each campaign that Mandella fights, his home planet changes until it is almost unrecognizable. As many readers have noted, Haldeman's book is first and foremost a great novel of war and its effects on society. You can tell it was written at the close of Vietnam, as it speaks ...more
donna backshall

If I had to choose one theme for The Forever War, it would be futility. As a reader, I knew the futility the "but I'm no military leader" characters felt, as they were recruited to fight an alien race, for reasons they didn't understand, to protect a world and people they returned to find they could neither relate to nor appreciate.

To truly value this novel, one must realize it mirrors the issues faced by those who fought in Vietnam, and likely countless other wars and conflicts. (Hald
Vit Babenco
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Forever War is what is happening on the Earth since the most ancient times till these days. I guess there wasn’t a single day without war in the entire history of humankind.
“‘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.”
Does it sound fantastic? No, it doesn’t. It sounds very real.
“The planet, which we ha
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Oct 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021

The collapsar Stargate was a perfect sphere about three kilometers in radius. It was suspended forever in a state of gravitational collapse that should have meant its surface was dropping towards its center at nearly the speed of light. Relativity propped it up, at least gave it the illusion of being there ... the way all reality becomes illusory and observer-oriented when you study general relativity. Or Buddhism. Or get drafted.

Humanity is spreading to the stars in the galaxy, thanks to new
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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

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Articles featuring this book

Until this summer, Lindsay Ellis was mainly known as a super smart and witty film critic and YouTube essayist, making videos that range from...
182 likes · 19 comments
“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?”
“Reality becomes illusory and observer-oriented when you study general relativity. Or Buddhism. Or get drafted.” 44 likes
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