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The Forever War

A book by Joe Haldeman

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Classic hard and soft sci-fi at its very best

  • Jan 28, 2010
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University student William Mandella, an exceptionally bright university student with an IQ well north of 150 has been drafted. After a thoroughly modern and terrifyingly brutal boot camp with very deadly and very live modern weapons conducted in deep space conditions beyond Pluto's orbit, he'll be part of an interstellar war against the enigmatic Taurans, an alien species discovered when they supposedly attacked human ships.

Sci-fi fans know that most authors have a tendency to favour the hard or soft side of the genre. Clifford Simak, for example, is well known for his pastoral writing style that takes eager fans by the hands and lovingly guides them on astonishing tours through the soft side of science philosophy. Robert Sawyer, on the other hand, a talented and thoroughly modern Canadian author, grabs his readers by the throat and pulls them deep into the other side of the sci-fi spectrum through the implications of modern hardware and scientific discovery. Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War" cleverly straddles BOTH sides of the fence and beyond all expectations deals brilliantly with four separate themes, two soft and two hard, combining them into a single compelling but surprisingly short novel!

The titles gives away the obvious fact that war is an issue. "The Forever War" was published in 1974 and Haldeman is writing his story in the politically turbulent aftermath of the US experience in Vietnam. Whether Haldeman is vilifying warfare or simply presenting it as a fact of life and leaving it up to his readers for their own decisions will, of course, be a moral judgment that you will have to make for yourselves. (Comparisons will be made between this novel and Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and Scalzi's "Old Man War" which also touch on the same topic of war with slightly different approaches).

Also on the softer side of the sci-fi genre, Haldeman has postulated a future in which asexual cloning has replaced normal reproduction and world governments have encouraged homosexuality as a solution to the world's population problems. In a clever twist on the world's current prejudices, Haldeman ultimately creates a world in which homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is perceived to be a perverted deviation. I've no doubt in my mind that a reader's current comfort level with alternative sexual orientations will also determine their reaction to this particular theme in the novel and whether or not they find it amusing or deeply disturbing!

On the hard side of the science spectrum, Haldeman deals imaginatively but realistically with two realities - the hard core rigors of deep space travel and the realities of relativistic effects such as time dilation.

No matter which side of the sci-fi spectrum you favour, you owe it to yourself as a fan to read Haldeman's novel. Unequivocally recommended as I go out to the second hand book stores to seek out the other books in the series, "Forever Peace" and "Forever Free".

Paul Weiss

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review by . September 09, 2006
I must admit to having read better SiFi, on the other hand, I have certainly read worse. The overall premise of this work is good and certainly has a lot of potential. Wars, futile wars, lasting for centuries, are not all that far fetched. The sillyness of the war here is not all that much different than some of our past wars. This work gives you something to think about. I did enjoy many of the characters in this work, although their developement could have been better at times. This is one of …
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Paul Weiss ()
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   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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In the 1970s Joe Haldeman approached more than a dozen different publishers before he finally found one interested inThe Forever War. The book went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, although a large chunk of the story had been cut out before it saw publication. Now Haldeman and Avon Books have released the definitive version ofThe Forever War, published for the first time as Haldeman originally intended. The book tells the timeless story of war, in this case a conflict between humanity and the alien Taurans. Humans first bumped heads with the Taurans when we began using collapsars to travel the stars. Although the collapsars provide nearly instantaneous travel across vast distances, the relativistic speeds associated with the process means that time passes slower for those aboard ship. For William Mandella, a physics student drafted as a soldier, that means more than 27 years will have passed between his first encounter with the Taurans and his homecoming, though he himself will have aged only a year. When Mandella finds that he can't adjust to Earth after being gone so long from home, he reenlists, only to find himself shuttled endlessly from battle to battle as the centuries pass.--Craig E. Engler--This text refers to theMass Market Paperbackedition.
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ISBN-10: 0060510862
ISBN-13: 978-0060510862
Author: Joe Haldeman
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Eos
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