One of my fellow students in the writing workshop that I attended through work (see previous post) recommended reading Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. I had heard of this book before, but it had never appealed to me. At his suggestion, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did.
The Forever War takes place in the future where mankind is at war with an alien species. Soldiers travel through wormholes to find and engage the enemy. This travel is essentially time travel into the future. Due to relativity, the soldiers age much more slowly than those left back on earth. By the time they return (if they return), hundreds of years will have passed and their home will likely feel alien.
The book is about how a never-ending war affects soldiers both as they fight that war as well as what happens when they return home. The book was written during the Vietnam War. It does an excellent job of projecting the feelings from that war into the future and generalizing them. I suspect that any veteran of any war could commiserate with the soldiers in this novel on the alienation of war, bureaucratic mindlessness, and returning home to people who just don’t understand what they went through.
Despite how heavy I just made it sound, the story is a personal one. It tells the story of one person as he fights to survive this war and figure out how to live his life through it and after it, should he survive. It is at the same time personal and cosmic in its scope, perhaps even timeless.