William Mandella is a soldier in Earth's elite brigade. As the war against the Taurans sends him from galaxy to galaxy, he learns to use protective body shells and sophisticated weapons. He adapts to the cultures and terrains of distant outposts. But with each month in space, years are passing on Earth. Where will he call home when (and if) the Forever War ends?
Narrator George Wilson's performance conveys all the imaginative technology and human drama of The Forever War. Set against a backdrop of vivid battle scenes, this absorbing work asks provocative questions about the very nature of war.
©1974 Joe W. Haldeman; (P)1999 Recorded Books
"A vastly entertaining trip." (The New York Times)
The Forever War is science fiction at its best: A commentary on war cast in a science fiction motif.
Haldeman wrote this specifically as a reaction to the Vietnam War, of which he was a veteran. It is dated a bit, given that it posits the availability of collapsar jump technology in the 1990s, but that's just an interesting plot device, not the point of the book.
One reviewer suggests Starship Troopers as a better alternative. I strongly disagree and believe she has missed the point of The Forever War entirely. Starship Troopers is a lot more like Heinlein's version of Plato's Republic, especially clear if you've read his non-science fiction works. The Forever War is no such animal.
In short, I put The Forever War beside Stranger in a Strange Land and Foundation as the best examples of the science fiction genre and well worth your time to listen. Pure and simple.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit:
William Mandella, a genius studying physics, has been drafted into the elite division of the United Nations Exploratory Force, which is fighting a seemingly never-ending war with the Taurans. After strenuous training with other elites on the Earth and in space, William and his colleagues are sent on various missions throughout the universe, traveling through black holes to get to each warfront. During each mission some of William’s friends die, but that’s expected. What’s surprising is that when he returns home, very little time has passed for him, but space-time relativity has caused many years to pass on Earth. Thus each time he comes back, he’s shocked by the changes that have occurred — changes in people he knows, changes in society, and technological advances which affect the progress of the war.
These changes are so drastic that Mandella, who was a reluctant soldier to begin with, would rather re-enlist — which means almost certain death — than live in a society he no longer relates to. He quickly moves up the ranks, but only because he’s the only soldier who has managed to survive this long, though it’s only been a few years of his own lifetime. The cultural changes on Earth have affected the military, too, and soon William, who’s so different from the people he leads, feels like an old man living in a young man’s body.
As you can probably tell, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is a military science fiction story that’s so much more than that. On the surface, it’s got all the stuff you’d expect from the sort of tense and exciting story where humans are fighting hordes of aliens, but on a deeper level, The Forever War is surprisingly emotional and thought-provoking. Joe Haldeman has called it “an sf treatment of what I’d seen and learned in Vietnam.” It deals with the expected themes — the horrors of war, xenophobia, survivor’s guilt, the disappointment of a tepid reception at home, the use of drugs and alcohol to cope and, especially in the case of Vietnam, the meaningless of it all. Haldeman’s SF-spin cleverly uses the relativity problem to show us the plight of soldiers who come back to a culture they hardly recognize, who lose family members and lovers who die or move on while they’re gone, and who feel like they’ve lost their former place in society and have trouble settling down. It’s tragically beautiful with an ending that offers hope.
Joe Haldeman wrote The Forever War as his thesis for an MFA. It was serialized in Analog Magazine and published as a novel in 1974. The Forever War won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the Locus Award. I read Recorded Books’ audio version, which was superbly narrated by George Wilson.
My hearing will surely go out early in life due to all the audiobooks I listen to!
"Back in the 20th century they had established-to everyone's satisfaction-that "I was just following orders" was an inadequate excuse for inhuman conduct". But what can you do when the orders come from deep down in that puppet master of the unconscious?"
A story that goes beyond stories. Is what Forever War is.
Homosexuality is used as a means of birth control. Currency takes the form of "Kilo-calories" (K) as the world-at that time-has become dependent upon food consumption and inadequate regulation. Frivolous excursions with accumulated capital. Injury and regeneration. Loss of love. The last campaign of the over 1300 year Forever War; successful due to a "stasis field".
Understandably, there are some very strong insinuations in the novel. But the writing and story are one, how do you say...for the books. I highly recommend this novel, no matter your stance on military actions.
the future soldier caught in time may be a trope of sorts now, but I'm sure that when this book was written, it was a fresh concept. It is a great book. It is well read and not at all what I expected. My only complaint is that it is a little heavy on the sex.
I have been rereading some classic science fiction and have found that a lot of it has not aged well. Not the case with this book. It is still fresh and relevant, and does not feel dated at all.
An absolute joy ride through time! The concepts, the machines, and the changing culture were not only facinating, but I think maybe a little prophetic.
Many years have passed since I have read this excellent book, it still rates for me as one of the best sci-fi reads. Not too much battle action, just enough romance and for a story, spread as the name suggests, over many centuries, it is entirely believable.
The main characters are entirely believable as well.
Written before many of our 2010 incarnations of technology, the authors mind picture of the immediate future is very close to reality but also much that he describes as happening in the far off future is real today.
Joe's depictions of society and his assumption that homosexuality would become more accepted prove very close to actuality, although happening earlier than Joe anticipated.
Altogether a great listen, well narrated.
If you missed this and like Heinlein, Moorecock, Aldiss, Asimov and the like, give it a go you wont be disappointed... Brian
Having always wanted to read this book, I took the opportunity of a long commute to listen to it instead. it is slightly dated, but if you cannot rise above the tide of time, you shouldn't read any book older than a couple of years old, which rules out rather a lot of good books - "That Treasure Island, it's sooo dated!"
The narration is good, and the story itself, despite having travelled in strange directions as far as predicting a future world is concerned, is charming with believable characters and plays with interesting ideas. Not sure how it won the Hugo and Nebula, as I can think of better books, but still well worth listening to.
"A classic tale- needs an updated narration"
Still a great story after all these years, i read it when it first came out and it has stood the test of time.
However the narration is dated, it sounds old, tired and lacks any passion, it could really do with being redone in a more lively modern context and then it would be nudging 5 stars
"Great story, strong performance"
The idea is fascinating, very well written and explained. Kept my attention the whole way through. The idea of sexuality being a method of birth control is an interesting one and one that's well explored in this book... However, I feel like sexuality becomes too much of a topic later in the book. I feel like other cultural shifts could have been explored further.
"A haunting looking into the mind of a soldier"
I would highly recommend this book, it's narrative leaves you with an urgency to finish the book and learn the characters ultimate fates
I found it often drew similarities to starship troopers in its use of military propaganda and the way this fictional military treated it's peaceful war protesters
George wilson's voice broadcast a wide range of emotions that brought the story to life and helped you to empathise with the characters worries and trials
will not bringing tears to my eyes, the book took me on a journey through a range of emotions, all of which culminating into the crescendo of the books ending
"Forever?- This went pretty quickly!"
This has been one of my favourite books in a 'best sci-fi' list that I have been working through lately. The structure is great as it keeps the pace of the story motoring along and alternates between the action based military campaign, and a more thoughtful reflection on the society that has been left behind. It's not a dumb book, but it remains completely unpretentious at all times which is not always the case with the old sci-fi. Pleased I came across this one.
"A good classic"
I'd heard great things about this book, but honestly, it left me a little cold. It took me a long time to get through it, with long breaks between bouts of listen. Perhaps that's why, but I found it a bit disjointed as a story. Narration: Excellent
Doesn't have the final Novella that was Written after the Forever War - 'Forever free' Which continues the story of Mandala and his Family on the planet Middle Finger .. It's not as good as the Forever War , but does tye in nicely the two books 'Forever War ' and 'Forever Peace' - as both of the other books are available as audio books it seems shame not to have this one available.
The Book itself is faultless so I guess when reviewing a book the question is- Is the reader up to the job?' In this case the reader George Wilson does a fantastic job - Sounding -Cynical and laconic about the situation he's been put in.
The Forever War has to be on of my favourite books, and this recording does it justice. I normally listen to audio books when working, and this one had me listening on the train, at work and on the way home too! If you like sci-fi, then this is a definite must read/listen.
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