Joe Haldeman’s Forever War was on my radar for a while, but it actually moved into the queue last year, after seeing HP at Every Day Should Be Tuesday had given it a 5/5. I didn’t actually read HP’s review until now, though, since the writeup is rather meaty and quite spoilery. I’m going to share some more in-depth thoughts, myself, in another post. For now, a few general thoughts.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, I read the Author’s Preferred Edition, which apparently restores some material that was originally rejected by Ben Bova and changed when the story was serialized in Analog magazine.
1. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Going into this, I thought I was going to get some straight-up Military SF. Not exactly. HP says “It’s not just a military SF novel, it’s a war novel…” And that’s not wrong.
If I had to categorize it (as we love to do), I’d be tempted to throw it in with 1984 (which was also set against a backdrop of perpetual war; at least so the reader is told), or Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451. The Forever War, for me at least, is a dystopian story framed by a futuristic war against an alien race.
The first time the story shifted away from the military side of things, I was thrown for a major loop. Things get rather bleak, but the Forever War is also very thoughtful and thought-provoking.
2. On that note, there’s a lot of 70’s thinking in the book, especially when it comes to sexuality. Also population growth and bureaucracy. The directions Haldeman goes with these elements wasn’t what I was expecting, though (see #1 above).
3. For a good chunk of the book, I was reminded of both Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land. Positives and negatives apply.
4. It’s quite crunchy on its science (the protagonist is, after all, a physicist). Maybe it’s because I’ve now read enough Niven to kind of gloss over these parts and absorb what I can without getting too hung up on it, but I wasn’t bored by the “sciency” elements, and my eyes did not glaze.
5. The ending was satisfying enough. I’ll leave it at that for now.
I didn’t love it enough to give it a full 5/5, but it was quite a good read. 4.5/5.