Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Forever War

by Joe Haldeman

Story summary: William Mandella, one of Earth's best and brightest, is forced into the military to fight the new war against the aliens. But this is a war of the stars, where unimaginably huge distances and the effects of relativity cause time dilation--where a few years of Mandella's life mean centuries on Earth, and the war goes on for endless ages.

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • Fascinating view on what interstellar war would actually be like (complete with fancy new tech, time delays due to relativity, interesting and unusual war tactics, etc.).
  • Written by a real veteran of the Vietnam War, so has a distinct realism (despite the sci-fi elements).

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are parts of this story that take place in what was then the near future, and is now the present. People who try to predict the near future are almost always wrong in many ways, and it brings me out of the story somewhat.
  • Many people have found it too grim for them. I didn't personally, but it might be an issue for others. It was written by a war veteran, after all.

Thoughts: It's already 2016 and I'm behind on reviews and I still have to write the awesome end-of-year posts. This book should probably have a detailed review with in depth analysis, as befitting its status and subject and themes, but I'm not sure if I could do that anyway, even if I had the time. So I'll make do with a couple quick points that struck me.
  • The premise is a great one, and what drew me to the book. What would it be like to fight an interstellar war, where relativity meant you'd be fighting through endless ages of Earth history?
  • Trying to predict the near future is a dangerous business and can date your book very quickly. I found the part of the book that took place around this time (I couldn't find the exact date, but probably somewhere in the 2010's) seemed quite unrealistic with hindsight, and it brought me out of the story somewhat. One that bugs me in many books is how people never realize how resourceful we actually are in terms of feeding the population. (The reason people are starving in some countries today is not because the earth can't support the amount of people.) And everything in the future is always so clunky in an old-fashioned way. (The part in Chapter 27 (pg. 175) where he describes the equivalent of credit cards... And this was supposed to be 2189.)

Grade: 3 1/2 stars (probably 3 stars for enjoyment, but I'm adding an extra 1/2 star for some interesting ideas)

If You Like This, You Might Also Like: (I haven't read much military science fiction, or military-focused books at all, really. So these are pretty much the only options. But worth reading all the same.)
--Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: this gets across the horrible nature of war, the human (especially military-human) lack of communication with aliens, the interesting tech needed for war in unimaginably huge spaces. Plus it has a more realistic future and more interesting character development. (Such a good book. Read it if you haven't.)
--Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose: follows the soldiers of "Easy" Company during WWII, and is the book the miniseries was based on. Personally, I would actually recommend watching the series over reading the book, unless you want the most accurate information possible. But the miniseries is one of my favourite of all time, although brutal.

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