I might earn myself the receiving end of “eight silent ways to kill a man” for saying this, but I thought that Joe Haldeman’s award winning novel The Forever War was, well… okay. I could be persuaded to use the word ‘good,’ but you definitely won’t hear me gush over it like some faithful do. Sorry not sorry.
Here’s why: The interstellar war and time travel parts are wildly entertaining, but there’s a crucial catch. At its heart, The Forever War is not an endless war against the alien Taurans, but a love story between William Mandella and Marygay Potter (albeit a love story delayed by a few centuries or even millenniums). Maybe romantic tensions are necessary—most stories have a love component—but for a Hugo and Nebula winner, I just thought it would be more compelling.
Critics and readers alike have—and I think Haldeman himself—compared the novel to Vietnam. Some have even gone so far as to call The Forever War a Vietnam novel told “through a space opera filter.” I wouldn’t say it’s that glaring since to say so takes the novel out of a fictional story and turns it into biography (Haldeman served in Vietnam). And let’s be honest, all authors incorporate parts of themselves into their fiction. I read fiction because it’s not non-fiction. If I want to know about Vietnam I’ll pick up a history book.
Anyhow, Haldeman followed up The Forever War with Forever Free and Forever Peace to complete the Forever Trilogy, but on the whole it stands alone as a hallmark of science fiction and—to my knowledge—the other two are kind of ignored. That tidbit makes me wonder: if The Forever War is so good then why don’t people race to read the other two?
Look, I didn’t hate it. Truly. But I think the way it’s been hyped, my expectations were way too high. Only disappointment could follow. Still, if you’re a sci-fi purist, then yes, you should read it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the weird sexual stuff. 2/5 stars.
PS: I’d like to hear (receive a comment) from someone who disagrees with me. Tell me what I’ve missed, and what’s to be appreciated about The Forever War. I’m all ears.
P.P.S: Word on the street is there is a Forever War movie adaptation coming out in the near future (nope, not light years). Keep a lookout!