Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Joe Haldeman and The Forever War

Joe Haldeman's SF novel, The Forever War is a great militaristic novel.  A friend of mine mentioned it one time while we were chatting, so I decided to read it, and ever since then, I wished they'd make it into a movie. Supposedly Ridley Scott bought the rights to make the film, but whether or not it will ever come to fruition is anyone's guess.  In some ways it is similar to Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Trooper in that they are both SF military books, but where Heinlein took a more gung-ho,  right winged look at the military (and with his philosophy as well), Haldeman's The Forever War is a counterpoint to it. 

For a bit of background, Haldeman got a BS in physics and astronomy before he was drafted into the military.  He served as a combat engineer in Vietnam (1967-9), where he was severely wounded, earning a Purple Heart.  Later on 1975, he got an MFA.  The range of degrees was an early demonstration of the complexity of his interest in science and art, and hard SF with which he's generally identified. His experiences in Vietnam have marked many of the books he's written as well. 

In The Forever War interstellar travel is effected by collapsar jumps, which basically means the futuristic marines fly their ships into wormholes for space travel.  The troopers are sent off on many engagements to fight their alien foes, and after a while they get to return to earth.   By doing these wormhole jumps the troops experience little to no aging, but once they get back to earth, many years have passed, and they find it hard to adjust to the many changes.  They experience alienation from the civilization for which they are fighting.  Different things within our culture have changed. One of the things about the story I found fascinating is those return trips, and how the world has changed.  I certainly won't spoil it here.

Tonight while looking around on the web I ran across this page  written by Haldeman on his brother who had died a few years back from cancer.  I found it very poignant in how he eulogized his brother, and it also gives a bit of background how they both got into writing, how and where they both grew up when they were younger, and  how they both developed an interest in the SF genre.  It's certainly worth a read for those interested. Check it out here. 


At 5:45 AM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

At the time Vietnam indeed seemed to be a forever war – though the Afghan war has exceeded it as the longest US conflict – and I can see how it influenced Joe. I enjoyed “The Forever War” too. I don’t know if (due to time dilation) the protagonist’s return to an essentially alien culture also reflected Joe’s experience. The cultural shift in the US in the years he was in the military was a major one.

If you haven’t read it yet, let me recommend Harry Harrison’s “Bill the Galactic Hero”; Harry clearly aims at “Starship Troopers” and never has been funnier.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

I've heard of Bill the Galactic Hero, but I don't know that I have a copy tucked away somewhere. It's fun to read something lighthearted at times.

I'll have to keep an eye out for it, if I don't have a copy (I'm going to have to look.) I have a lot of books upstairs that are boxed up. I know I have a copy of The Stainless Steel Rat, but that's a different thing entirely, and if memory serves, more straight forward action-type hero. But yes, Bill sounds fun. Thanks for the rec!


Post a Comment

<< Home