Archive for November 27th, 2012

Haldeman’s SF classic ‘The Forever War’ proves to be timeless in more ways than one

November 27, 2012

In 1974, Joe Haldeman published a science fiction novel called The Forever War. Its subgenre, military science fiction, made it a clear heir to Robert Heinlein’s classic 1959 book, Starship Troopers. And just like its predecessor, Haldeman’s work also became a revered science fiction novel.

I did not read Forever War until this fall, and I’m sorry I waited so long.

The book is the first-person account of William Mandella, who had wanted to become a physics teacher. His plans changed when the world government began drafting Earth’s intellectual and physical elite for the United Nations Exploratory Force. (“Emphasis on the ‘force,’” Mandella wryly notes.) The organization’s purpose is to guard Earth and its fledgling colonies against a mysterious alien race that has vaporized a colony ship.

Beginning in 1997 — remember when it was written! — The Forever War tracks Mandella through basic training, an early ground campaign against an enemy outpost and subsequent assignments.

Haldeman, who wrote this book as a master’s thesis, per Wikipedia, has enough sense of how the world works to interweave exciting bits with rather duller bits. Some of the early chapters deal with the rigorous exercises Mandella’s unit undergoes on the remote Plutonian moon of Charon.

“You might as well regard all the training you got on Earth and the moon as just an elementary exercise, designed to give you a fair chance of surviving Charon. You’ll have to go through your whole repertory here: tools, weapons, maneuvers. And you’ll find that, at these temperatures, tools don’t work the way they should; weapons don’t want to fire. And people move v-e-r-y cautiously…. Read the rest of this entry »

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