Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hugo Winner Review: 1976 The Forever War

Joe Haldeman
Read 1981, 2012, reviewed 5/19/2013
4 stars

This is one of the books I first read for my SF class in college.  I enjoyed it then and enjoyed it now.  It is a brilliant interpretation of the Viet Nam war: frustrating, unwinnable, and pointless. 

The brilliance of the novel is in the change of the society while the main character, William Mandella, is at battle.  Since the war is so far away, the paradox of time dilation causes time to move slower for Mandella than it does on the earth.  So whenever he returns to Earth on leave, hundreds of years have passed and society has changed dramatically, leaving Mandella feeling like a stranger in his own home.

My favorite change is when the Earth becomes predominantly homosexual.  It is portrayed as matter of fact, with no moralilty approving or condemning it.  It just is.  And it emphasizes how difficult it is for a soldier to readjust to being home after being at war. 

The characters are well-developed.  I cared about the main character and his girlfriend and their relationship.  It wasn’t soapy, although it had the potential for leaning that way.  I particularly liked the sequence where they are at her home farm and must survive a marauding gang.  I didn’t remember this from my original reading, which may be because it was a later edition with some restored material. 

I give this book 4 stars, particularly for the time dilation aspect, and because of my affinity for the main character feeling like an outsider.  It is a great novel about the futility of war and its affect on the lives of the soldiers who must deal live with it.

1 comment:

  1. Good review! I really enjoyed the story, and liked the part where it was revealed that the entire war was a mistake that was capitalized on by unscrupulous profiteers. How like life. :)