Friday, February 24, 2006
06.09 The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Forever War is a slim little sci-fi novel that I have known of for many years but never read. This story might be classed as one of the earliest examples of the genre of military sci-fi something along the lines of Heinlein's Starship Troopers.
The discovery of "collapsars" (basically wormholes) has allowed humanity to achieve interstellar travel. Initially, however, several of the exploratory ships disappear and the subsequent discovery of an alien species, the Taurans, sparks an interstellar war.
William Mandella has been drafted into the space army because he has a background in physics. Because the Taurans are completely unknown, the army has recruited people with a diverse array of skills (luck, languages, empathy, etc.) in the hopes of fielding a victorious cadre. The story tracks Mandella's training and first chaotic encounters with the Taurans.
Through pure chance he manages to survive the first few encounters and is allowed to retire back to Earth. Unfortunately, the effects of time dialation via his travels means the world has moved ahead decades in only a short subjective time. In fact, he is so unable to deal with the new realities of a strange time that he re-ups back into the army. As he ships from battle to battle, the war continues across centuries, and time dilation takes them through a new cultural upheaval on every trip. Hence, the forever war.
This was a great book. Read as a straight up sci-fi, it comes across as a bit cliche which often happens with older genre books. The ideas are pretty fantastic as are descriptions of the aliens and the crazy encounters.
Where the book really rises to another level (Hugo and Nebula award winner) is when you look at the allegorical aspects. This was Joe Haldeman's second novel after returning from Vietnam where he was a combat engineer. His descriptions of both the battle situations and the alienation of returning home are sparse and powerful.
Definitely a excellent book to add to the list this year.
Posted by Jason L