Friday 1 September 2006

The Forever War by: Joe Haldeman

The Forever War
Joe Haldeman
Avon EOS Science Fiction
ISBN 0380708213

This book arrived in my hands with much advance praise and high recommendations. It did not live up to its press. Joe Haldeman, who wished to become a power in the genre of Science-Fiction, wanted to write a book in the style of, and after that famous worthy Robert A. Heinlien. Unfortunately Haldeman had neither the skill nor the gifts that Heinlien did.

This book, The Forever War, like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or Orphanage by Robert Buettner, is set in a fictional future when earth is at war with an unknown alien species. It deals with issues such as conscription, political unrest, and a human race devastated by the effects of an interplanetary war.

In this book soldiers are all conscripted from the intelligentsia, to lead mankind in space war against unknown forces. Our Hero, if we can call him a hero, is Private William Mandella. But in the future, soldiers are psychologically conditioned to kill in a frenzy, and to be dependent upon drugs. Unlike both Buettner’s and Heinlien’s books that have drugs as a detriment to military life, Haldeman uses drugs for everything from recreation to encouraged addictions.

This book, though the winner of many awards including the Nebula and Hugo, is not worth your time and effort. One of the possible reasons for this is that the book has gone through four different major revisions. It was rejected by eighteen publishers before finally being published in 1974 with some major editing. It was not believed that as a book about the ‘Vietnam War’, the forever war would have a large market. But a publisher took a chance and published it. Then The Forever War went on and won a few awards.
Since then, the author has revised it through two major revisions. The first put a section back in that messed up the timeline of the story, and the second returned it to the original unedited version, known as the definitive edition of the book. It is the only version currently in print.

The writing is poor, and this unedited – so-called restored version of the book - is lackluster at best and downright boring! The story drags at many points and, at other times, so little story is given that it seems to jump from scene to scene without filling you in on how our characters got where they are.

This book in some version may have won the top two science fiction novel of the year awards, but it is really not worth the effort. Read either Heinlien’s or Buettner’s version of the story. Both are much more satisfying and enjoyable.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-09-01 as ‘Hate It’ part of the ‘Love It/Hate It’ book review column.)

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