Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Eagle Butte

The Forever War — a good summer read

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman was published in 1974 and was a Hugo Award winner.

The novel, branded as a classic and iconic science fiction war novel, circles around the drafted soldier and physicist William Mandella, who is trained and then shipped to fight the alien race of Taurens who pose some threat to the strongholds of Earth as they travel through “collapsers” and explore and mine other planets in the universe.

Most people who write or talk about Haldeman’s Forever War, also drop a reference to Starship Troopers by Robert Heinline, which I have not read.

What the novel offered and what I expected were not one in the same; regardless, the novel is worth the read.

Haldeman has a quick, flat tone in his story-telling, jumping through time and describing advancements in technology like a tour guide through time.

While the story fails to dive deeply into the psychology and emotions of the characters, it effectively shares the banality of a war that seems to have no purpose other than to kill and spur technology and the economy.

Mandella is a tourist through the entire war who is sucked in and pushed about by his superiors and an ever-changing society that baffles his sensibilities and leaves him an outsider over time to the human race.

Haldeman, a Vietnam vet, makes no apologies or excuses that his book is a commentary about the way veterans of the war felt going in and coming out of battle, and provides reasons why they chose to re-enlist after returning to a strange world to which they had a hard time adjusting.

Two years of war, light years away, are hundreds of years on Earth in the novel. Interpersonal relationships are minimal and their depth surface-level in this novel, but then again, the novel is more about the idea of war, and how war can distance someone from everything and everyone else as it keeps the economy going into an ever-changing social and economic construct.

If you are looking for a quick and thought-provoking summer read, and you like books about war, I highly recommend a tour through a thousand years of The Forever War.