A while back I was given the recommendation to read Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. In truth, at first I was not entirely excited nor interested in the book. For whatever reason, before this, military sci-fi had never fully gripped me – maybe it’s something I never felt that I could truly relate to having never been in the military myself. Despite these initial misgivings, I gave the book a shot and almost immediately found myself immersed in a story that I would soon consider to be one of the best pieces of science fiction I’ve read yet.
The Forever War is an excellent example of the type of vehicle that the science-fiction genre can be to not only serve as commentary on society, but also pack a punch while doing so.
Haldeman crafts a solid, allegorical, thought-provoking piece of hard science-fiction. Through what the reader comes to know as future shock (traveling at relativistic speeds while fighting a seemingly never-ending, inter-galactic war) the story’s protagonist, William Mandella, witnesses and feels the consequences of a society that passes him by while he’s away. As he periodically returns home from the seemingly endless war, Mandella experiences the continuous, emotional draw back to the fight despite a more rational desire to the contrary. As we follow him through the story, we see how he lives through the isolation, loneliness, and even excitement that his experiences at war and at home bring him.
In reading this, it is evident that Joe Haldeman found this to be a deeply personal and important story to tell. The author himself spent time serving in the Vietnam war, and I’m sure that many of the frustrations and contradictory feelings that Mandella experiences throughout The Forever War reflect what the author had gone through in his own life as well.
All of the facets of this book – the personal, the fantastic, the other-worldly, and the realistic – come together to make this story tragic, fascinating, and at times uplifting all while being an incredibly unique and vivid look at humanity as a whole.