Note: This is a guest review by Michael.
The Forever War is an entertaining novel with an interesting mix of science fiction, war and social issues. In this classic science fiction novel, which won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, Joe Haldeman sets a good pace in an accessible language that isn’t overly complex or intimidating so everyone from high school students, to professionals many years removed from college can easily read it. It’s also a good introductory book to the science fiction genre. The Forever War looked like a short read when I picked it up but it went even faster than I expected.
It’s quite apparent that Haldeman dips heavily into his experiences in the military as well as his Vietnam war experiences, not only from a combat perspective, but also from a social and procedural standpoint. This book says a lot about the social impact of war and the plodding, oxymoronic bureaucracy of governments and the military industrial complex. Pick any country and I’m sure the same bureaucracy applies. Technological progress of the military outpacing social progression due to budgeting disparity. . . yeah, unfortunately that applies, applied yesterday, and will still apply in the future.
Especially for Private William Mandella, drafted into a brutal interstellar conflict that raged millions of light years from Earth. But battling a savage alien enemy was not the hard part. Nor was fighting alongside a promiscuous co-ed cadre of misfits who considered Mandella a degenerate.
The real test would be coping with the astonishing changes the Earth would undergo during Mandella’s tour of duty. For while the loyal soldier aged mere months . . . his home planet was aging centuries.
I always find it entertaining to read older novels that “predict the future.” We never seem to get flying cars or jet packs but we do get soy patties that resemble meat. More interesting than some of the science predictions Haldeman makes are some of the social changes that deal with population growth and food shortages.
Apparently there is nothing to do in space as the soldiers travel from one battle to another. A reoccurring theme in some of the science fiction books I have read lately is that space is so boring that people pretty much hook up the first night and have relations every night until they land at the next planet. It all seems purely recreational although some of the characters in this story do build stronger bonds towards the end of the novel. Free love is alive and well in the future.
All in all I found The Forever War a thought provoking and entertaining read, with many parallels to the the experiences war veterans go through during combat and when they return home from a long campaign.
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