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Publisher's Summary

When it was first published over 20 years ago, Joe Haldeman's novel won the Hugo and Nebula awards and was chosen Best Novel in several countries. Today, it is hailed a classic of science fiction that foreshadowed many of the futuristic themes of the 1990s: bionics, sensory manipulation, and time distortion.

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

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1976
  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1975

"A vastly entertaining trip." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • John
  • Vail, AZ, USA
  • 09-24-08

A classic.

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.

40 of 42 people found this review helpful

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F U Sir!

When I first read this in the early 80's it was considered cutting edge, now it is considered a Classic. This does not surprise those who have read it, most of us knew back in the 70's and 80's that this would reach classic status. Before David Weber and John Ringo, there was Joe Haldeman. This involves a lot of physics, a lot of time paradoxes and a little anti-war. The physics in most cases is explained so that the common layman can understand and it is done in an entertaining way. In the beginning of the book Mandella goes to a planet out past Pluto. The suits they wear and how they deal with the climate make the book very entertaining. It is nota lot of speeches, it is more if you do this you will blow up, etc... It is written in a way in which you do not feel you are in a class room. There was some stuff, especially toward the end of the book that did go over my head, but the book was still great as a whole.

M*A*S*H
Is the theme song going through your head? The anti war is not overly done. You are not beat over the head with it. There are no long Alan Alda speeches. You can be a war hawk and still love this book. I will admit that the book does drag a little toward the end, but still as a whole it is great. Think a more modern version of Arthur C. Clarke.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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The Terrans vs the Taurans, + lots of weird stuff

A fun read. It takes a realistic-feeling approach to the physics of war in space. The politics as well. The characters are refreshingly down-to-earth (no apologies, pun-haters), instead of someone's fantasy of what a cool and macho space warrior should be like.

It's really an amazing book if you take into account that it was written in the 1970s. Until I finished reading it and checked, I had assumed it was written later.

Final note: at double speed, which is how I often listen to fiction, the narrator sounded like Peter Parker from the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon. Funny. I kept waiting to hear him say, 'Wallopping web-snappers!'

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • William
  • Lake Mary, FL, USA
  • 01-04-10

Holds up very well

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Still one of the best,and well narrated.

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

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Relevant Today

Written in the 1970s, this sci-fi novel is one of the greatest visualizations of space warfare you could find, period. It provides plenty of thought provoking themes, some of which are controversial to most people. Just avoid the sequels, they're rubbish.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Anti-War?...Might be...

"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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Katherine
  • St. Johns, FL, United States
  • 03-12-13

An SF treatment of Vietnam

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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • TEGA CAY, SC, United States
  • 10-08-12

A good read

What did you love best about The Forever War?

Time travel has always been a fascination of mine.

Who was your favorite character and why?

William Mandella of course

What about George Wilson’s performance did you like?

He did a very good job not being mono toned, kept it interesting

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It could have been, you really didn't need a break.

Any additional comments?

Very good SiFi.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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a classic

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Sara
  • 01-07-09

Loved it.

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Ben
  • 09-26-14

Forever?- This went pretty quickly!

What did you like best about this story?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • steve
  • 03-27-13

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • PL
  • 08-06-17

another great sci-fi classic

easy to listen to. not too much details but enough to keep it a little cool and a little nerdy. enjoy it.

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  • Neil
  • 06-22-17

Fantastic storey, well read.

I think this ius a great story and now thanks to this audio book I've experienced it again, with out have to fund the time to read it.

If you're into SciFi and you've not read this before it's a must.

If you have read it before, go on enjoy it again!

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  • A. Macgregor
  • 06-22-17

Wow. Just Wow.

I bought this because of reviews saying how much of a seminal piece of science fiction it was but was delighted to find it was that AND an incredibly good read. So many ideas from this book have gone on to become reality it's almost unbelievable to think the author didn't have a time machine. Could not recommend more highly.

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  • Frazer webb
  • 05-10-17

wicked concept

love the concept behind this story just finished it too quick. gonna miss it

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  • Dan
  • 12-27-16

Good narrator, meh story.

It's a fun enough book but a little light on the detail and overall plot. It felt like it was in a rush to get to its mediocre ending.

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  • Mark
  • 12-08-16

it's a gay old romp across the universe

i do love a happy ending. my only complaint is the somewhat overbearing focus on sexuality that crops up more often than its really needed. the themes are ALMOST progressive, but it still seems to matter over 1000 years in the future what your sexual preferance is. still abloody good story that really uses the time dilation of space travel to push the story forward in 3 neat acts.

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  • martin
  • 02-08-16

loved it

great classic sci fi. found it funny how the author describes homosexuality from a 1975 perspective.

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  • thereadaholic
  • 08-24-17

Great concept but marred by dated attitudes

The underlying story of soldiers who skip hundreds of earth years every time they go out in space to fight (due to the time dilation of space travel) is a great concept.

The lack of information about - or interest in -their enemy is annoying.

But what really destroyed the book for me was the dated attitudes and understanding of both women and homosexuality. Women in the army seem to accept and even enjoy the requirement they service the sexual needs of their male counterparts. The greatest complaint is a reference to them feeling tired and looking forward to some rest after visiting a base where there had previously been only two women to service dozens of men.

Attitudes toward and understanding of homosexuality is even worse. It doesn't exist until they are propelled into a future where homosexuality is promoted and eventually mandated by the UN as a form of birth control.

While none of this will put off the target audience - heterosexual men who don't think much about other people, it is disappointing for the other 60% of us who cannot fully enjoy the great book this had the potential to be.

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  • Ross
  • 02-06-17

Good Science.

I really enjoyed the concept of time in this novel. It realy highlights the problems of near the speed of light travel that may become a reality in our future. I also enjoyed the authors take on what direction humanity will take both socially and politically. Really enjoyed it....but I am a massive sci fi fan so definitely biased 😊

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  • Mike
  • 09-03-16

Classic

Would you listen to The Forever War again? Why?

The story Is a classic.

What about George Wilson’s performance did you like?

Very listenable

Any additional comments?

Read this as a book and the audio was better

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  • Rainer
  • 03-30-14

A great story about time travel

What did you like most about The Forever War?

The insight into what the human race might be like hundreds of years from now.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Obvioulsy it has to be William, but Charlie was pretty cool too. William, the main character is very relateable to.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Probably when he first arrives at Heaven for rehab. Everyone is talking English, but with a weird dialect.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I liked the ending, can't say for spoiler reasons.

Any additional comments?

If you like time travel and stories about the future, then this is for you. If you don't like war stories, don't stress too much, the military stuff is very light, it's more about the characters.

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