Science Fiction

The Forever War

Author: Joe Haldeman

Published By: St. Martin's Press

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                Once upon a time, a Star Wars geek bought a collection of twenty hardcover books for $20.00US simply because the collection contained two Star Wars books.  The Star Wars geek was actually an avid science fiction fan, so she figured that the other eighteen books wouldnít go to waste.  Indeed, they did not, for the Star Wars geek had no idea of the true value of the collection she had purchased.  Included in the mix were some of the greatest science fiction/fantasy books ever written.  Beginning with the smallest of the bunch, the Star Wars geek opened the cover of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and discovered that once she picked it up, she simply could not put the book back down.

                The Forever War follows the life of William Mandella, a young man drafted to fight a war far from home upon completion of his degree in physics.  Far from home in this novel doesnít just mean another country.  Far from home translates into far from the planet Earth.  The enemy is known only as The Taurans, an alien race that no one has really laid eyes upon.  All that is truly known is alien ships from the constellation Taurus attacked and destroyed ships from the planet Earth.  Mandella was being trained to engage in a war with an unknown enemy.

                Beginning much like Robert Heinlienís Starship Troopers, we follow Mandella through basic training, through space travel, and battle from the year 1996 through to the year 3143.  We learn that although it takes several years to reach a destination point, those traveling in the ships barely age thanks to collapsars (something like hyperspace jumps or the travel time as seen in the movie Aliens).  While the passage of time may seem to be only a week to the travelers, it is quite possible that they have actually been away from Earth for several years, something that becomes very disconcerting for Mandella upon completion of his first tour.

                We learn more about the enemy Mandella faces with each battle he engages in and soon begin to wonder just exactly who is the real enemy - the people Mandella is engaging in war or the beaurocracy that sent him there.  With implanted manipulative suggestions, laws that make it impossible for the average citizen to live by legal means, a health care system that decides when you are too old to receive care, we start to wonder whether Mandella is better off at war with an alien race, or at peace on Earth. 

                What is most interesting about The Forever War is Haldemanís interpretation of what Earth will be like in the future.  He doesnít just touch upon what legal changes a world at war might go through, but actually expands that view to encompass the social values of that world and the economic impact.  Even more amazing is how insightful Haldemanís view of the future truly is when you consider that this novel was first published in the early 1970s.  Bringing post war syndrome to the ultimate level, Haldeman shows us what it could be like for a soldier to return home after decades of war in space.  We experience Mandellaís disorientation and despair and his growing cynicism. 

                Joe Haldeman makes us care about what happens to William Mandella and those around him.  Thereís an amazing is the twist at the end of the novel that you canít afford to miss.  I donít want to give anything away, so youíll have to read it to find out what Iím talking about. 

                The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is a must read for any science fiction fan.  Thank goodness that Star Wars geek purchased those twenty science fiction novels!


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