Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Forever War

The Politics of War. Perspective. Centuries contrasted with the critical, minute actions of a life. These are some of the thoughts that went through my mind the day after I finished reading the 1976 Hugo and Locus Awards and 1975 Nebula Award winning novel, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. In a nutshell, the novel is the story of William Mandella, from his basic training and combat in the first real battle in the war against the Taurans (an alien species) to his—and the war’s—final battle over a thousand years later. Due to time dilation caused when the troops travel through space, decades and even centuries pass between each battle and between Mandella’s communications from earth. This gives Mandella and the reader the unique opportunity to witness the radically changing cultural and social norms on earth.

I enjoyed The Forever War much more than an earlier Hugo winning war story, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. I found I could much more easily care about Mandella, even though at times I was irritated by some of his homophobia. While the novel was written partially as a response to Vietnam—in which Halderman served, it still speaks to the experience of war today. I was painfully reminded of the way US troops are deployed repeatedly to Afghanistan and Iraq during the current war. Because I am not a person who would normally read a war novel, The Forever War helped to expand my awareness of the troops who have fought and continue to fight in wars.

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