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Book Review: The Forever War

Updated on August 22, 2012
It's been on my list for a while now.
It's been on my list for a while now.

A while ago, I added four science fiction books to my "to-read" list. I considered them to be pinnacles for my reading experience, as they all seemed to be important and well-respected. I figured if I could read all four, I would do well in round table discussion later in life. Ringworld, Neuromancer, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Forever War . These were my Fantastic Four, of sorts, and I've finally finished one of them.

I can't lie; I wanted to read The Forever War first. Having read Starship Troopers and loving it, I was looking for another good military sci-fi book to dig into. The Forever War's concept (as I knew it) grabbed me right away. A soldier, due to the time dilation of space travel, is trapped in a never ending war, all while being an allegory for Vietnam. It's strange how much and little this book actually lived up to my assumptions. When I first heard of it, I imagined a soldier who fought on jungle planets and watched his own home age without him. He would come home, find out that a new war had broken out, and continued an almost ageless life of war. The real book follows a soldier through one war and only returns to earth once. There is no jungle planet.

It's weird how we do that.

The book reminded me of Starship Troopers right away, starting the book in boot camp and moving up. Honestly, I wasn't that interested at first. In fact, it took past all of the training, military life, and first battles to hook me. It was when we see the first effects of time dilation that I became heavily interested. When our hero returned to Earth, I was hooked. Though I was afraid the rest of the book would stay Earth-bound, I was enjoying the future-shock our hero, William, was going through. When he returns back to the war, the dilation effects only get more and more interesting. It was interesting watching the philosophies of Earth bang up against William's "outdated" beliefs. While the book lost it's momentum at the final battle, the ending was satisfying. It's strange it could be both tragic and such an uplifting ending.

As for the parallels to Vietnam, I have to say I was at a loss for the most part. I was guessing most of the way if something was meant to be a mirror. Was the future shock William experienced a reference to a culture shock the returning soldiers felt? I gathered the pointlessness of the war and the faulty cause to be allegories, and even the forced volunteering of the people who had no business in a war. Did I miss anything? It's hard to tell, but I suppose that's because I was expecting more of an Apocalypse Now in space.

See! Jungle Planet!
See! Jungle Planet!

Say...I'd read that.

I enjoyed Starship Troopers more but this was great read and I think I might be praising the time dilation a bit too much, but I love that sort of stuff. I would love to see the proposed film by Ridley Scott; in fact, the tease that it might happen is almost too much. I'm not sure if I'll give the sequels a shot or not, I feel like the story wrapped itself up well. But now I'm ready to tackle more of my list. But first, I need to finish the second Wheel of Time book...

I should probably talk about that next time.

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