The Forever War by Joe Haldeman


The Forever War (1974) is a science fiction novel which depicts a futuristic war between Earth and an alien race. It is also a reflection of the author’s time in the American army during the Vietnam war, and so the book contains many observations that we are now familiar with. War is futile, ‘a disease,’ and it alienates its participants from their communities.

The book is written in the first person from a ‘grunts eye’ perspective. The prose is laconic, but there is a fair amount of technical and scientific writing which is used to describe various futuristic technologies. I found myself glazing over at these passages, but they are not necessary in order to appreciate the novel as a piece of indirect social commentary.

There is substantial action, a love plot, and an amusing view of sexuality (the novel’s principal source of comic relief.) This is combined with an embittered look at war and its effect on us. The Forever War is recommended for those interested in war stories and dystopian books – but don’t expect a lot in the way of characterisation.

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