Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review: "The Forever War" (SPOILERS)

I just got done reading The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Time for the review...

The novel was written by Haldeman, a Vietnam combat veteran, as a deconstruction of military SF and (I think) as a criticism of war. Many people also believe it's a philosophical response to Starship Troopers, which many people have accused of glorifying the military and war, but it's actually not. According to the Wikipedia, Haldeman actually liked ST and was happy to receive Heinlein's praise for TFW (according to the Wikipedia, he liked that better than winning the Nebula Award).

Overall, I thought it was a decent book. The combat scenes had interesting concepts, but were not executed in a particularly interesting fashion.

The parts I liked best were actually the ones involving the characters. The scene where the protagonist William Mandella is parted from his lover and fellow veteran Marygay Potter by an uncaring military bureaucracy that sends them to units that will be serving thousands of light years and decades if not centuries apart (due to time dilation--at 99% light-speed, a voyage that seems to be days will take years) is actually extremely touching and sad, while how their whole situation is resolved (I tried to make it so one could read spoilers by highlighting the text but can't figure out how to) is actually quite sweet.

Overall, I think Starship Troopers is a better book than The Forever War, but in terms of character development, TFW is superior. I had much more feeling for Mandella and Potter than I had for Johnny Rico and the other characters in ST.

Now to read Armor by John Steakley. That seems to be a straight up "power armor vs. the Bugs" without the politics of either ST or TFW.


  1. Good review. Succinct and it made me want to read it again.

  2. Thanks. Was that one of the "Books Matt Must Read" from Fellini's?

  3. 'Armor' is...strange. It starts out as straight up Bug War-style stuff, though focusing more on the psychological aspect of the war. Then it gets pretty disjointed. It's alright and having read it once I wander back to it every few years or so but it never grips me. I've never finished re-reading it.

  4. I looked at the Amazon entry and there's something about an entity called "Engine" living in the protagonist's head or something like that.

  5. On another note, since you've served in a conscript army, what do you think about "The Forever War"?