Friday, March 9, 2012


THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman is a science fiction masterpiece conveying the ironies of mankind's fears, which inevitably instigate conflict and death.  The US vs. THEM mentality is here projected to the stars, as an alien race called the Taurans destroy a colony ship on a distant outpost, and an elite brigade of warriors is sent on an engage-and-destroy mission.  Narrator George Wilson tells the story of William Mandella, a former physics student conscripted to join the Exploratory Force, from harsh training on a nearby moon to a wormhole-like jump across the galaxy to confront the enemy.  Wilson's casual confessional tone is effective, especially since it is contrasted and tempered with personalized depictions of high tech battle scenes.  The brilliant trick of this novel, though, which won it accolades and awards (including both the Hugo and Nebula awards) is evinced near the end, as the soldiers return to an Earth they hardly recognize, due to Einstein's light speed time dilation effect.  For each month they were gone, the Earth has aged years.  So from the point of view of those whom the men are fighting for, the war has effectively been going on forever (kinda like Vietnam did, and which continues in Iraq and Afghanistan), and mankind has evolved beyond war since individual ego is only retained on certain other worlds (which are run by macho military men who then start up the thousand year war once more.)  The question asked by the novel, then, is What meaning has war other than waste?  Or as more than one pacifist (Einstein included) has said, "War is not about who is right, but only who is left."  Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien) has optioned rights to the book for a 3D film that may rival Avatar.  The scriptwriter hired for it also penned Blade Runner.  So you may as well order and listen to this book now, because you most definitely will eventually.  Companion audiobooks I suggest to go along with it include an excellent non-fiction account of war in the Middle East with the same title: The Forever War by Dexter Filkins, read by Robertson Dean, and BREACH OF TRUST by former Col. Andrew Bacevich. Also, The Culture of War, which tries to make the case that we are doomed to repeat our mistakes due to our instinct to kill.

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1 comment:

  1. What are your thoughts on war as it relates to our instinct to kill to survive?