Author: Joe Haldeman
Publisher: Orion Books
Genre: Military Science Fiction
In the 1990's William Mandella joins the United Nations Exploratory Force and begins training for a war against a recently discovered alien species, the Taurans. As the war rages on for centuries, William begins to lose touch with everything about the planet he decide to fight and serve for.
Written in the 70's as a critique on the Vietnam War, The Forever War, at least as a futuristic story holds up well. Humanity is a lot more technologically advanced in Haldeman's version of the 90's, already having landed humans on a planet that's further away than Pluto, and giving soldiers powerful armored suits that allow them to survive on these planets as well as take significant military punishment.
Although the future predictions may be off, Haldeman is really trying to explore the psychological effect war has on a person, and how those psychological effects impact a soldiers decision making during times of war and peace. The author takes this one step further by having the Theory of Relativity play a large role in the plot. As Mandella makes his way into his thirties, hundreds of Earth years go by. So each time Mandella returns from a mission he finds himself becoming more and more disconnected from humanity. His only connection to the war and the Earth as he remembers it is his romantic interest Marygay Potter.
It's no secret that loneliness is the cause of a lot of depression and sadness for many people, but reading The Forever War, loneliness really takes a whole new perspective. I don't think I've ever examined the issue like I did when reading this book. At times separated by hundreds of years from his contemporaries, Mandella gets as close to experiencing what it would be like to be the last human alive. I found this aspect of the story to be as horrifying if not more so than all of the combat.
Hailed as a classic science fiction book for over the last forty years, The Forever War has certainly lived up to the hype. Thematically it has aged well, and it's a quick short read that makes an impact.