The Forever War

So glad to catch up and talk about the psychotropic, dissociative trip that was The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch with all you Book Clubbers. For this month, we thought we’d take a bit of a different tack.

The book selected for February is the Hugo AND Nebula award-winning The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Published in 1974, the novel follows newly conscripted soldier William Mandella as he fights in and returns from an intergalactic war. Interesting connection: Both this and Palmer Eldrich feature the UN as the predominant military force that guides humanity. Curious to see if there are any other commonalities.

We learned a few interesting facts about The Forever War about during this month’s meeting. People know that this is Haldeman’s first novel (many would also say his best) and is a reaction to his time spent as a soldier in Vietnam. But one member let us in on the fact that the book started as a series of letters home to his wife from the front lines. I assumed it was a personal project written in a notebook (btw, my favorite example of a wartime journal is the World War II sketchbook from illustrator/cartoonist Weston Emmart). Can you imagine being state-side and hoping for the best while receiving these incredible notes and bits of narrative from an interstellar war?! I like to imagine that Joe included no preamble. Just wrote as if he was Mandela living the story he wanted to tell. It feels like Sands of Mars at times and the cult classic movie Starship Troopers at others. While it may be a bit tone-deaf on sexuality and a sexist at times, overall it was refreshing to see equal representation of females in battle and in command.

In The Forever War, we see a soldier processing the futility and future of war. But the biggest highlight of the novel is the author’s use of time dilation as a narrative device. Other stories have incorporated time slippage as a concept (ie. Ender’s Game) but Haldeman really pushes it to the max here and it was an absolute highlight. He takes a thorough and still engaging look at the mechanics and technology of space travel then let’s the consequences of those jumps sink in. Overall another win for Book Club, this one scored 4 aliens out of 5.

Book of the Month: The Forever War
Author: Joe Haldeman
Available at AmazonAudible,the Strand or your local books store
Next Meeting: Sunday, February 17th
Location: Woods and Ales – 234 W 14th Street, New York, NY

Side Note: If you’ve read this month’s book or just burn through it, I thought I’d mention a novella series that I’ve been enjoying the heck out. Martha Wells series called The Murderbot Diaries follows a cyborg security soldier (or “Murderbot” for short) trying to figure out how to interact with humanity and learn about a past it can’t remember.

The first in Wells’ series is called All Systems Red and is a great, quick read. Just finishing the second one myself and loving the irreverent humor and explosive action. Read more about the series here and there’s a solid review from TOR here. I recommend buying them digitally if you have the means.

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