The Forever War

Narrated by: George Wilson
Series: The Forever War, Book 1
Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (6,126 ratings)

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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 listeners say about The Forever War

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance
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Story
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    79

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

74 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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!'

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Unique Perspective of the Vietnam War Experience

After listening to this book, I was curious about the author and his actual experience as a Soldier. As one myself, I was intrigued at Haldeman's capture of the Soldier's psyche as well as that of the view of civilians after returning from combat. Wikipedia said that he was in fact a Soldier in Vietnam and similarities of names and perspectives ostensibly show that he in fact wrote the book about his experiences both during and after returning from that war.

The story itself probably isn't a retelling of any specific event, but rather some intended hyperbole to facilitate civilians being able to relate to his experience (e.g., vast cultural acceptance and practice of homosexuality within a generation (i.e., future shock) juxtaposed against civilian inability to fully appreciate the horror that the protagonist had experienced).

I compare this book with, Starship Troopers (Heinlein) and Armor (Steakley) as philosophy disguised within science fiction but really trying to expose the psychology of a Soldier's growth into a leader (in the first) and (in the second work) dealing with the repercussions of trauma. All three are required reading for my Soldiers.

The narrator was fine, but his more mature voice was not necessarily representative of the young Mandella (however fine for the senior officer version). Also, it seemed to me that he really pushed the "femmy" tone of the homosexual males. I realize he's trying to paint a stark contrast as pushed forth by the author, but seriously, not all homosexuals talk in a more feminine tone. Related to the tone, but more about the story is how the author portrayed the protagonist as only dealing with the female Soldiers (despite equal mix) except for his male First Sergeant and Commander... missing the entire "brotherhood" of war concept that almost every Soldier experiences (regardless of gender, but this book portrays mostly sexual encounters between the sexes in his earlier years, except with his primary lover in subsequent years). I listen at 3x speed and had no problems with it for this narration.

I highly recommend this book and it will be added to my list of annuals reads/listens.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Neat story, Emotionless narrator.

What didn’t you like about George Wilson’s performance?

Lack of emotion, weird inflections. Struggled to finish the story due to the narration.

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Ahead of its time...

A very enjoyable book... Very different than other space infantry books I've read. Futuristic topics were detailed, and handles superbly.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

13 people found this helpful

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Great listen.

Amazing story. Narration was excellent. Kept me glued from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Red Storm
  • 04-16-19

Starship Troopers for the thinking pacifist

War is Hell... Coming back home is also Hell.

Mandella is conscripted into the army and unwillingly gets caught up in a war he never wanted to be a part of, for an army he doesn't want to fight for, and for a planet he knows that he will eventually no longer even recognise as home.
Mandella will have to forfeit his life and experience time dilation where earth will advance hundreds of years to his few. This means leaving behind his family, his home, his career and any anyone else he has ever loved. Will there even be a planet to go back to when his tour of duty is up? It's anyone's guess.

Forever War is an epic tale of intergalactic war, time travel (of a sort), and the human condition. A bleak and dystopian look at war, waged by governments and fought by men. Halderman has written a brilliant tale.

Jon Halderman's own military experience is evident throughout this book. I don't think his opinion of war, government, and the military is necessarily a great one. His own experience speaks volume, and lends real weight and depth to the story.

I almost couldn't believe this book was written in 1974, Halderman hits the nail on the head as he writes about a lot of modern societies problems and even predicts technologies! The writing has aged impeccably and could easily have been written today, never mind nearly 45 years ago.

Excellently narrated by George Wilson, the characters are really brought to life. His accents are spot on and he really nails the heavy emotional tone of the novel.

If you're a fan of Old Man's War or Starship Troopers you'll lap this one up. However, unlike those 2 books this takes a very grim view of war and does not glorify it the same way as these other novels.

This is Starship Troopers for the thinking pacifist. There is no glory in war, war is Hell.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • jandehenderson
  • 08-15-19

A true SciFi classic.

This was a great reading of a fantastic book. It moved me emotionally much more than I expected and I kept making time to listen to this instead of doing other things. The text felt a bit dated at a couple of points but it's of its time and it wasn't anything major - especially in the context of when these moments occured.

In summary, it was thought-provoking, interesting and moving. I highly recommend it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Andrew
  • 02-11-19

slow start good story. a bit short

slow start good story. a bit short. enjoyed it in the end. good narration too

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • emil
  • 11-16-18

magnificen

A slow and lovely sci fi. very much enjoyed it. Recommended read from me .

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Savvas Kleanthous
  • 05-28-18

Quite good after a bit

A weird one for me. The whole book "reads" like a list of what-ifs and some that don't really make a lot of sense. Some of the physics don't make sense and it's not part of what the book puts as suspension of disbelief, but are easilly excusable due to the books age. Similarly there are issues in other aspects. The book tries a lot to sound futuristic and tolerant, but its age shows there too.

However, even with the points above, it grows on you quite a bit ending up to be a quite enjoyable listen. Overall I would give it 3.5 out of 5 stars rounded up since audible does not allow half stars.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • DavieDee1990
  • 03-15-18

Best sci-fi book I've read...heard! in ages!

Great story, characters and development throughout. Fantastic narration too. Can't wait to get my hands on the next in the series!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ricci M.
  • 01-02-18

Great story. Average narrator

I loved the story from the first to the last page. The narrator, however, could have made a little more of an effort in differentiating the various characters

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • adam
  • 12-08-17

classic Sci fi

Really enjoyed this classic Sci fi novel. I loved the time shifting and resulting culture shifts. Great nerdy dialogue, with some good battles, but the story lacks tension and a feeling of "being there" to make it 5 stars for me. Would recommend this book still tho

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ken K
  • 10-16-17

PIAOWW! *laser finger*

Entertaining sci-fi which does a particularly good job in its portrayal of military strategies, time dilation and potential futures.

Brings a few original angles to some common genre themes. The narrative is a touch dated here and there as you’d expect from a book of its age but a thoroughly enjoyable story nevertheless.

If I had to be critical I’d say that The Forever War could be a little hammily performed by George Wilson; however, for me, that lent it a certain charm of its own.

Recommended for those that like a touch of Heinlein with their sci-fi.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Vytautas
  • 06-28-20

Good read for sci fi classic fans

Good story about time dilation experienced by future soldiers. A left-leaning story about soldiers from someone with a great imagination and probably hasn't met many soldiers.

Voice actor sounded a little stuffy, not really a good characterisation of the title character but very clear and precise.

As far as the story:
Science and interest 8/10
Military understanding 5/10

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Bret
  • 04-18-20

The life of a pleb

The story is focused on the life of an everyday American who doesn't realise he is a pleb, he believes he is important but is mediocre in every sense. His life has no impact on the world, the universe or the war campaign and yet he still believes that he knows better than those around him.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-23-20

Poor version

There are multiple versions of this story. This one has loads of internal inconsistencies because of changes made that were not carried through the book.

A really crappy edit.

The performance is below average. I don't think the reader knew the story very well, and seemed to have odd pacing.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-02-19

Wish I had read it earlier

I was recommended this book a while ago and I didn't read it until recently when I had nothing to read... wow.. what an amazing take on soldiering through time when what you are fighting for changes to be something you don't even know anymore... very thought provoking

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-07-18

Loved it!

Fantastic science fiction has not aged at all.
such a great listen hard to believe it was written so long ago, nearly all the science holds up.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ken
  • 08-01-18

Good story, good narration

I really like the imagination of Joe Haldeman. There were a few ideas that didn't really hit the mark for me but overall I enjoyed the journey of possible future that the author provided. I have studied a bit of physics but I still didn't quite understand all of the concepts. It gets quite technical so be prepared to struggle a bit if you're not up to speed with that.

Narration was really good.

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  • Nat
  • 06-02-18

One of the Best of all time

I loved this book so much. I can't recommend it enough.
I have loved Sci Fi my whole life and read all the classics yet this left me floored. After I finished it, I started agin from the beginning straight away. It was magic.

This is easily one of the best future war stories ever, one of the best anti war stories ever and one of the best sci fi stories as well.

Truly one of the greats!!!

***
(Avoid the sequel Forever Free, it's garbage)

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Reuben
  • 04-11-18

Good book very good story

Definitely worth a listen. George Wilsons performance is perfect!

Story is brilliant with interesting physics ideas.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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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 😊