If you are a fan of sci-fi, then this book is a must read. Forever War by Joe Haldeman is a study of not simply interstellar and faster-than-light (FTL) travel, but its implications on human society, economics, and culture. It follows William Mandella, a physics major who is conscripted into an elite task force within the United Nations Exploratory Force assigned to dealing with the unknown and an unseen enemy known as the Taurans, an alien species discovered when they attack a human colonist ship.
Yes, there is fighting. And space travel. And more fighting. But you quickly come to the realization that the Taurans aren’t the real focus. They’re not the real enemy. Well, they’re the enemy, but they aren’t the focus. This novel dives into the impact of the science of the times on humanity as a whole. When Mandella leaves Earth the first time, it is 1997. As he travels through space to his various posts, battles, and eventually back to Earth several times, Haldeman describes a commonly discussed theory of “time dilation.” To understand this, you need to understand that interstellar space travel in Forever War is achieved through the use of inter-connected “collapsars”, which are basically wormhole-like tunnels that allow near instantaneous travel across thousands of light years. Every time Mandella travels through these collapsars, he suffers from time dilation- his perceived time could be a matter of minutes or months, but in reality, years have passed. Technology has advanced. The techniques he had been taught to use to fight the Taurans are no longer viable, as during those years of transit they have developed new methods of dealing with everything humanity could bring to bear in a wartime situation. In the span of a few months, we go from guns and lasers and shields to swords and arrows.
And this isn’t even looking at Earth and society. The first time Mandella returns to Earth, the world is on one economic structure- and it is failing. The next time he returns, nearly everyone is homosexual (because of a massive population expansion several hundred years ago which forced an evolutionary change to control human numbers.) Eventually, children are not born, but lab created, and it has become the societal norm.
This book was fascinating from cover to cover, not only because of the time dilation and aliens, but because it gives us a glimpse of its effect on people. It is powerfully written and a must read for all sci-fi lovers.
But I’m not going to spoil it for you… You want to know how it ends? Go read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
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