Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Forever War” as Want to Read:
The Forever War
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Forever War (The Forever War #1)

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  99,793 Ratings  ·  4,257 Reviews
Series Info:
This is the first part of the "Forever War" series, however it can be read as a standalone.

Book Description:
Private William Mandella is a hero in spite of himself -- a reluctant conscript drafted into an elite military unit, and propelled through space and time to fight in a distant thousand-year conflict. He never wanted to go to war, but the leaders on Earth
...more
Paperback, 218 pages
Published June 1980 by Del Rey (first published December 1974)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Forever War, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Chickenmittens
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Kemper
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
...more
Lyn
Jul 30, 2011 Lyn rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Emily May
Dec 28, 2013 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.
Manny
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.
Scurra
Jul 26, 2008 Scurra 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.
...more
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
...more
Trudi

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
...more
Kyle
Mar 12, 2017 Kyle 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

...more
Apatt
Apr 28, 2014 Apatt 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
Bookwraiths
Sep 01, 2013 Bookwraiths 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
...more
Raeden Zen
May 23, 2013 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
...more
Scott
Nov 20, 2014 Scott 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 finest
...more
Steve
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
...more
Nandakishore Varma
Hey! This is not about American intervention in the Middle East! Really!!!





Kane
Dec 28, 2010 Kane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kᴇᴇ 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
...more
Ron
Dec 11, 2016 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, war
After completing The Forever War, I had to take a step back and think about what I’d just read. This is good and this is not so good. I did not particularly care for the story, in fact I’d expected better, but there was a meaning behind that story, and therefore I was left with an indelible impression. A lot of praise has been given to this book written in 1974 by Haldeman, a Vietnam Veteran. His experience is felt in these pages, but not in an obvious manner. The Forever War is analogous to wha ...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
...more
Stuart
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
...more
Mark
Dec 03, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kyle
Dec 24, 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,
...more
Megan Baxter
Nov 07, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
J.L.   Sutton
Jul 03, 2015 J.L. Sutton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
thefourthvine
Aug 22, 2015 thefourthvine 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
...more
seak
May 11, 2009 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 Stars ...more
Gary
Oct 04, 2016 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another notch in my journey to revisit the classics of SF I read as a youth. I think I was a sophomore in high school when I first read this one; now, as then, I preferred it to that other classic of MilSF - Starship Troopers. I suppose it is a preference, with fiction, for story and character over political philosophy lectures, particularly when the lectures are tendentious and self serving.
In The Forever War, Haldeman's protagonist and narrator William Mandela is a soldier who fights a thousa
...more
Stephen
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
...more
F.R.
Jun 30, 2013 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading some science fiction can be like reading history. The author’s vision of the future is so tied up with the NOW of his/her present, the result can’t help but read as social commentary. ‘Forever War’ is such an example. It’s impossible to engage with this novel without having Vietnam enter your consciousness; to enter its world without being transported back to the early seventies – even as the narrative takes you far into the future.

William Mandella is a physics graduate drafted as a grun
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Hugo Awards B...: February 2017: The Forever War 16 21 May 12, 2017 03:35AM  
  • A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought, #1)
  • Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)
  • A Case of Conscience (After Such Knowledge, #4)
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • The Terminal Experiment
  • Spin (Spin, #1)
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
  • Dreamsnake
  • Rite of Passage
  • Tau Zero
  • The Demolished Man
  • Timescape
  • Stand on Zanzibar
  • Downbelow Station (The Company Wars #1)
  • Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)
  • The Fifth Head of Cerberus
  • The Dog King (The Human Division, #7)
  • Stations of the Tide
12476
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
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)

Share This Book



“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?”
64 likes
“Reality becomes illusory and observer-oriented when you study general relativity. Or Buddhism. Or get drafted.” 24 likes
More quotes…