Joe Haldeman – The Forever War

One genre in which instant classics can be created is science fiction as authors can explore a concept or idea based on certain developments in current society and thus provide a warning on how it can go wrong, creating a powerful impact that can resonate through the generations.

One of these novels is The Forever War (1974) by Joe Haldeman. It is hardly known these days although it won pretty much all the major science fiction awards after it was published. It may be because Haldeman takes a number of staggering courses for humanity, that certainly in the years it was published, might have shocked many, and even today. This is something that other classic novels like 1984 and Brave New World steered clear from. In my opinion The Forever War takes the ideas of those novels to a higher level and Haldeman increases the impact by not just creating one future society, but several, and all of them turn out to be haunting in very different ways.

The Forever War is a very focused novel. The story is told from the view of one person and this main protagonist is the most normal of those we encounter and the most relatable for the reader. A strong connections is created at the start of the novel and reader and protagonist hang on to each other as the story takes us into the future. Haldeman keeps the character grounded and familiar and that is something that other classic SF novels usually don’t manage to do.

The plot is set up in different stages. It is in fact a collection of episodes of which three are explored in detail. The others remain relatively short. The plot progresses quickly while the story keeps a calmer and more steady pace. The ending is sudden and almost shocking like many of the different episodes. Every part is thought provoking. Every scene is used to maximum effect and the message(s) Haldeman puts into his work resound strongly while they are never obvious. He remains an observer. He tells things as they are and how they are experienced. It is to the reader to judge but it is impossible not to.

Even 40 years after its publication The Forever War has lost none of its potency. One can only agree with all the awards it has been granted in recognition of it being a classic. It is more the pity that it is not as well known as 1984 or Brave New World. Highly recommended.

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