This book was on my to read list for years. YEARS! I knew it was something that I would really enjoy and that it wasn’t terribly long so I kept putting it off. I can’t fully explain why I did that and as I think I always knew, I wish I hadn’t. I wished that I’d read it earlier. Which is kind of funny because I read version with an introduction by John Scalzi who writes the Old Man’s War series which is often compared, justifiably, with The Forever War. Yet in that forward, Scalzi admits that when he met Haldeman, he fessed that he’d never read the award winning book. Years later when Scalzi did read it, and loved it, he wrote a letter to Haldeman stating that he’s glad he hadn’t read it earlier because he knew it would have influenced his own writing. I found that kind of interesting.
The Forever War is an allegory for the Vietnam War, in which Haldeman served. Haldeman gets all of the little details right, as I’d expect, and makes his characters and units fully believable. The book is about a war with an alien species that requires interstellar travel which means that soldiers and ships may be gone for only a few months but decades have passed back on Earth. It leads to some interesting scenarios that I can appreciate as someone who has returned from a war that that has existed my entire adult life. While Haldeman’s characters have aged only months in real time, they are utterly left behind in their new society and I get how that feels. All of my veteran friends who’ve read this book seem to feel the same way.