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The Forever War Paperback – Feb 17 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 263 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (Feb. 17 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312536631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312536633
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.9 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 426 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 263 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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In the 1970s Joe Haldeman approached more than a dozen different publishers before he finally found one interested in The Forever War. The book went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, although a large chunk of the story had been cut out before it saw publication. Now Haldeman and Avon Books have released the definitive version of The Forever War, published for the first time as Haldeman originally intended. The book tells the timeless story of war, in this case a conflict between humanity and the alien Taurans. Humans first bumped heads with the Taurans when we began using collapsars to travel the stars. Although the collapsars provide nearly instantaneous travel across vast distances, the relativistic speeds associated with the process means that time passes slower for those aboard ship. For William Mandella, a physics student drafted as a soldier, that means more than 27 years will have passed between his first encounter with the Taurans and his homecoming, though he himself will have aged only a year. When Mandella finds that he can't adjust to Earth after being gone so long from home, he reenlists, only to find himself shuttled endlessly from battle to battle as the centuries pass. --Craig E. Engler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise. It is, for all its techno-extrapolative brilliance, as fine and woundingly genuine a war story as any I've read.” ―William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, Spook Country

“There are a handful of moments when an American science fiction novel abruptly and seemingly effortlessly satisfied every possible expectation conveyed not only by the genre's ambitions, but of those of the whole literary landscape with which it was contemporary: Sturgeon's More Than Human, Dick's The Man In The High Castle, LeGuin's Dispossessed, Gibson's Neuromancer. The Forever War is one such book, and like those others still carries with it that air of recognition and possibility.” ―Jonathan Lethem, author of Gun With Occcasional Music, Fortress of Solitude

“Perhaps the most important war novel written since Vietnam . . . Haldeman, a veteran, is a flat-out visionary . . . and protagonist William Mandella's attempt to survive and remain human in the face of an absurd almost endless war is harrowing hilarious heartbreaking and true . . . like all the best works of literature THE FOREVER WAR takes you apart and then, before you can turn that last page, puts you back together: better, wiser, more human. Simply extraordinary.” ―Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“If there was a Fort Knox for Science Fiction writers, we'd have to lock Joe Haldeman up.” ―Stephen King, author of The Shining, The Dead Zone, The Stand

The Forever War is not just a great Science Fiction novel, it's a great Vietnam war novel - and a great war novel, without qualification- that is also Science Fiction. A classic to grace either genre.” ―James Sallis, author of The Long Legged Fly, Drive, Cripple Creek

“FOREVER WAR is brilliant--one of the most influential war novels of our time. That it happens to be set in the future only broadens and enhances its message.” ―Greg Bear, author of Moving Mars, Eon, The Forge of God

“A parable whose lessons are needful learning once more.” ―John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, Zoe’s Tale

“I first read this twenty years ago and have never forgotten the wonder and fury it kindled at the time. Anyone who talks about the glory of war has obviously never read it. A beautifully detailed and intensely personal account of a conflict which lasts for over a thousand years, as told by one grunt who lives through it all. Only a writer as skillfull and knowledgeable as Haldeman could use war's dark glamour to lure the reader in and then deplou the sam fascination to show just what kind of effect this orchestrated barbarism can have on the human soul.” ―Peter F. Hamilton, author of Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained, The Dreaming Void

“In a literature of ideas, The Forever War is a titan: a book filled with mind-bending ideas about relatavistic time-distortion and world-shaking ideas about the futility of war. In today's world, where we think declaring war on abstract nouns like TERROR is a winning strategy, we need THE FOREVER WAR.” ―Cory Doctorow, author of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Little Brother X

“It is to the Vietnam War what Catch-22 was to World War II, the definitive, bleakly comic satire.” ―Thomas M. Disch, author of Camp Concentration, 334

The Forever War does what the very best science fiction does. It deals with extremes both societal and teleological; it places a frame around humankind's place in the universe to show us what is outside the frame; and it functions simultaneously at the literal and metaphorical level. Inarguably one of the genre's great novels, it is also among the finest novels ever written about war.” ―James Sallis, author of The Long Legged Fly, Drive, Cripple Creek

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Format: Paperback
This slim military sci-fi novel won both a Hugo and Nebula awards following its publication in 1975, but readers today probably need a little context to understand why it was so well-received at the time. First and foremost, it was written as a direct response to the Vietnam War by Haldeman, who served a tour of duty there as a combat engineer and was severely wounded (he's also written several Vietnam-specific novels, including War Year and 1968). In the book, a young physics student named Mandella is drafted for a war against a mysterious alien race. We follow him through complicated and dangerous training, several violent battles, and his return home. Not surprisingly, Haldeman's portrayal of war is a brutal and messy picture, where long periods of boredom are followed by intense battles, death is arbitrary, and heroism nonexistent. Also not surprisingly, the war is revealed to be a misguided endeavor brought on by hawkish political leaders who lie to the public about the war. Needless to say, the public climate of the time was very receptive to such sentiments.
The other main noteworthy element of the book is the treatment of interstellar travel, and the distortion of time that results. After his first battle, Mandella returns to Earth to find his loved ones aged 27 years and society largely antiseptic. Just as many Vietnam vets had a difficult time returning home, he and many of his cohort can't handle life of Earth, and re-enlist. The book continues with Mandella shuttling from battle to battle, rising rapidly in seniority as hundreds of subjective years pass to his own few. Haldeman is a physicist, and there's a lot of scientific jargon about relativity theory to explain everything, and for the time, it was pretty exciting stuff for sci-fi readers.
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Format: Paperback
I did enjoy this book and think that it was very well-written. Unfortunately, having missed Vietnam by a generation, I would not have seen it as an allegory to that, if I hadn't known this going in. (Possibly this is because the two Gulf Wars have been no less politically-motivated or fruitless than Vietnam was, so for me this book just describes war in general.)

The author has done a good job of making this hard SF, with solid science theory behind the technology. And he's done a fantastic job of creating a main character the reader will empathise with and care about.

I read this 4 years after having read Old Man's War -- which is often compared to The Forever War. I can see why Scalzi has been accused of cribbing from this book, despite not having read it before writing his own (I am quite sure that if he had, he would have chosen to do some things differently, simply to avoid such accusations.) If you enjoy one of these, you will almost certainly enjoy the other.

The only detraction I can make is that, like any SF novel that is 40 years old, it reads as a bit dated. I imagine for its time that it was very sexually progressive; but today, it made me more than a bit uncomfortable with its protagonist's frequently-mentioned homophobia -- simply by making a big deal out of what should not be a big deal at all (sexual gender preference), and by the idea that the only way to control and defuse mens' lust in a combat environment was for the female soldiers to be willing to "service" all of the men in turn.

All in all, though, it's an excellent book. Its laurels are well-deserved -- and it's good enough to make me decide to read the less-lauded sequels. I highly encourage giving The Forever War a read.
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Format: Paperback
Wow. What an excellent collection of reviews. Proof, if it were needed, that Sci Fi fans are a cut above your average Joe and Josephine.
Yes, The Forever War is a Vietnam allegory, and one of the ways in which it succeeds mightily is in the way our hero becomes increasingly alienated from his HomeWorld, and re-enlists.
Of the two-tour Vietnam Vets I know, including two Army Nurses, they all said the same thing - that they could no longer identify with the World they had returned to and felt that the familiar madness of Vietnam beckoned them infinitely more.
TFW is a fascinating book in the way it portrays the Einsteinian temporal paradoxes and their effects on Earth and Earth Forces in the field, fighting many light years away. The impossibility of having effective real-time command and control from Earth is just one of the factors that makes the war seem pointless.
Many Vietnam Vets found that Time seemed to pass at a different rate In Country compared to the States (which they called The World). Only when you entered your Short period, when you got down to your last 99 days, when you became a two-digit midget, or your last 9 days, when you became a one-digit midget, did Time begin to resume any kind of linear perspective.
While it's true to say that the only good thing about war is its ending, war is not always futile. When it is undertaken without a very clear attainable objective, i.e. something which makes it 'winnable', such as the Forever War and the Vietnam War, there is a crushing sense of futility, which comes across well in this book.
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