The Forever War

Joe Haldeman
The Forever War Cover

The Forever War


In my quest to collect and read all Hugo award winners (novels), I read the Dutch translation of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman this week. This is the first version of the book, without the extended middle section about life on earth in 2007.

It is the story of William Mandella, born in the 1970′s, intellectual, and forced into the army. In the 1990′s humankind has discovered how to ‘jump’ through space to cover many light years in the blink of an eye. On one of the expeditions the spacecraft from earth is attacked by the Taurans, an alien species. That is how the war starts, and Mandella is one of the first 100 soldiers in training to fight this unknown enemy. In the book the fighting expeditions that Mandella is sent on are described, coupled with the given fact that time passes much faster for those on earth than for those on the expeditions. The first time he returns this means that he has been away for a couple of months, but for his family it has been decades. Centuries are quickly added to this time, adding up to more than a thousand years that have passed. This also means that those fighting never know how far behind their techniques will be, and what they will find when they return to the base to report.

The book, while a bit dated in the science/technical side of the story, deals with this time difference very well. Everything changes on earth, not only scientific advances, but also language and culture. One time heterosexuality is taboo, then it’s not. Sometimes there is war, peace, rebellion, hunger, bliss etc. The book is said to be a reflection on the author’s time in the army during the Vietnam War, the alienation the soldiers felt when returning home and the futility of war. I can see that in this book, especially the alienation but also the author’s feelings about war, why it starts and the conscription of soldiers. For me, this is one of those books that keeps me thinking long after finishing it. Four out of five stars.