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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Forever War

Copyright 1974 by Joe Haldeman

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point    Superb (5/5)

I first read this in December 1984 and most recently on the 25th October 2002

It's 1997 and William Mandella is twenty-two years old. He's a Physics graduate and he wanted to become a teacher. All that's changed. He's been drafted into the United Nations Exploratory Force and he's being taught every thing that humans know about killing.

In 1987, mankind discovered FTL travel by means of the "collapsar jump", and began to explore and colonise the galaxy. Soon after, mankind discovered Taurans, alien enemies of mankind and the destroyers of our starships.

Thus the drafting of unfortunate Mandella. He's off to fight the aliens.

Even though the "collapsar jump" provides instantaneous FTL travel from one collapsar to another, it still takes significant time, even at a significant fraction of the speed of light, to get to and from the collapsars. So this war is going to be long and slow, drawn out over decades and much, much longer.

Mandella is going to be in it through to the end, watching his friends die, fighting for his life, defending a society with which he no longer has any connection

This is it, the classic Haldeman masterpiece. An astonishing work, it shows the other side of space war - the side you didn't really see with Heinlein et al. Haldeman's Vietnam experience pervades this novel, and his disaffected style powerfully conveys the human cost of war, both for the combatants and for the civilians back home.

Now when I first read this book, the start date were still in the future and it was darn convincing. Nowadays, it's disconcerting but throw in a little suspension of disbelief and you can roll quite happily through it. Anyway, after a few pages the novel has passed the present day and it's steamrolling down through the future, this unstoppable war crushing and distorting everything in its path to achieve the wrong results for mistaken reasons from the best of motives.

What's it got? FTL travel, red-hot fighting-suits, repulsive aliens, space battles, sex, girls with guns, and true romance.

Loaded on the 31st October 2002.
Cover of The Forever War