Adam's Reviews > The Forever War

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
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This is a great science fiction novel. I wish more were like it. It's terse, emotionally powerful, and doesn't spend hundreds of pages with tedious "world building." You're dropped into the action, much like the protagonist, and all the horror and emotional devastation of war is thrown at you.

It's tough to write a book about warfare on alien worlds against bizarre extraterrestrial species and not come off sounding a little silly. The fact that Joe Haldeman makes this book every bit as gripping as a "real" war memoir is commendable.

In case you haven't read it, it's about the earth going to war with an alien race light years away. Since this involves faster-than-light travel through collapsars, there is a time dilation effect. Every time the book's protagonist, William Mandella, returns to earth, he's only a few years older, but decades and even centuries have passed. This is an obvious metaphor for the dislocation and alienation returning combat veterans often feel when they return to "familiar" surroundings, but it's a powerful one.

My only complaints about the book are that Mandella's first return to earth involves changes that seem mired in the concerns of the '70s. These sections seem a little dated. Also, the conclusion of the book involves a ridiculous deus ex machina that undercuts much of the power of the narrative.

But those are fairly minor complaints in the end. This is not only a powerful story, it's incredibly influential in the world of military sci-fi. I don't know if James Cameron's "Aliens" would exist in the form it does if Haldeman hadn't written this novel more than 10 years earlier.
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Reading Progress

February 8, 2011 – Started Reading
February 8, 2011 – Shelved
February 11, 2011 –
page 81
February 14, 2011 –
page 146
February 23, 2011 –
page 220
February 24, 2011 – Shelved as: hugo-award-for-best-novel
February 24, 2011 – Shelved as: locus-award-for-best-novel
February 24, 2011 – Shelved as: nebula-award-for-best-novel
February 24, 2011 – Shelved as: science-fiction
February 24, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-7)

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message 7: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Schwent Some of us are eagerly awaiting your review. No pressure.

Adam None at all.

My wife and I have a little book club with my buddy and his girlfriend in which we take turns picking Hugo Award-winning novels, so I may wait until after the four of us meet to write an actual review, but rest assured I will write one eventually.

Adam Oh, and in related news, Joe Haldeman is recovering from surgery he had last week, so let's all think good thoughts about him.

Adam There you go, Dan. Better late than never, right?

message 3: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Schwent Adam wrote: "There you go, Dan. Better late than never, right?"

Yup. It was worth the wait.

Adam Thanks, Dan. This one has really been hanging over my head.

message 1: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Schwent I will now point the Sword of Damocles elsewhere.

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