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The forever war, p.1
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       The Forever War, p.1

           Joe Haldeman
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The Forever War

  As relevant today as when first released, the award winning military science fiction classic is now available in ebook formats.

  An elite military force returns after a brief interstellar operation to find that more than twenty-years have passed. During their time away Earth has changed drastically and the squad has difficulty reintegrating into the new world order. Hoping to find familiarity by re-enlisting, William Mandella discovers doing so comes with its own set of consequences.

  The Forever War won all major science fiction awards including the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus. Ridley Scott, director of Blade Runner and Alien is currently adapting the classic for film. This is the author's preferred version and includes a Foreword by John Scalzi, author of Old Man's War.

  Praise for The Forever War

  “To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise. It is, for all its techno-extrapolative brilliance, as fine and woundingly genuine a war story as any I’ve read.” — William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and Spook Country

  “There are a handful of moments when an American science fiction novel abruptly and seemingly effortlessly satisfied every possible expectation conveyed, not only by the genre’s ambitions, but of those of the whole literary landscape with which it was contemporary; Sturgeon’s More Than Human, Dicks’s The Man in the High Castle, LeGuin’s The Dispossessed, [and] Gibson’s Neuromancer. The Forever War is one such book, and like those others still carries with it that air of recognition and possibility.” — Jonathan Lethem

  “Perhaps the most important war novel written since Vietnam…Haldeman, a veteran, is a flat-out visionary…and protagonist William Mandella’s attempt to survive and remain human in the face of an absurd, almost endless war is harrowing, hilarious, heartbreaking, and true…Like all the best works of literature, The Forever War takes you apart and then, before you can turn that last page, puts you back together: better, wiser, more human. Simply extraordinary.” — Junot Díaz

  “The Forever War is not just a great science fiction novel, it’s a great Vietnam war novel—and a great war novel, without qualification—that is also science fiction. A classic to grace either genre.” — Iain Banks

  “The Forever War is brilliant—one of the most influential war novels of our time. That it happens to be set in the future only broadens and enhances its message.” — Greg Bear

  “The Forever War does what the very best science fiction does: It deals with extremes both societal and teleological; it places a frame around humankind’s place in the universe to show us what is outside the frame; and it functions simultaneously at the literal and metaphorical level. Inarguably one of the genre’s great novels, it is also among the finest novels ever written about war.” — James Sallis

  “In a literature of ideas, The Forever War is a titan: a book filled with mind-bending ideas about relativistic time distortion and world-shaking ideas about the futility of war. In today’s world, where we think declaring war on abstract nouns like terror is a winning strategy, we need The Forever War.” — Cory Doctorow

  “I first read this twenty years ago and have never forgotten the wonder and fury it kindled at the time. Anyone who talks about the glory of war has obviously never read it. A beautifully detailed and intensely personal account of a conflict that lasts for over a thousand years, as told by one grunt who lives through it all. Only a writer as skillful and knowledgeable as Haldeman could use war’s dark glamour to lure the reader in and then deploy the same fascination to show just what kind of effect this orchestrated barbarism can have on the human soul.” — Peter F. Hamilton, author of Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained, and Emergence

  “It is to the Vietnam War what Catch-22 was to World War II, the definitive, bleakly comic satire.” — Thomas M. Disch, author of Camp Concentration, and 334

  “If there was a Fort Knox for science fiction, we’d have to lock Joe Haldeman up and throw away the key.” — Steven King

  This book and parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by the United States of America copyright law.

  Ridan and its logo are copyrighted and trademarked by Ridan Publishing. All rights reserved.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.

  A Ridan Publication

  Copyright © 1974, 1975, 1997 by Joe Haldeman.

  Foreword © 2009 by John Scalzi.

  Cover Art © 2011 by Michael J. Sullivan

  Formatting by Robin Sullivan

  Release Date: June 2011

  For Ben and, always, for Gay

  Works by Joe Haldeman


  War Year (1972)

  The Forever War (1974)

  Attar's Revenge (1975)

  War of Nerves (1975)

  Mindbridge (1976)

  All My Sins Remembered (1977)

  Planet of Judgment (1977)

  World without End (1979)

  Worlds (1981)

  There is No Darkness (w/Jack C. Haldeman II) (1983)

  Worlds Apart (1983)

  Tool of the Trade (1987)

  Buying Time/The Long Habit of Living (1989)

  The Hemingway Hoax (1990)

  Worlds Enough and Time (1992)

  1968 (1995)

  Forever Peace (1997)

  Forever Free (1999)

  The Coming (2000)

  Guardian (2002)

  Camouflage (2004)

  Old Twentieth (2005)

  The Accidental Time Machine (2007)

  Marsbound (2008)

  Starbound (2010)


  Infinite Dreams (1979)

  Dealing in Futures (1985)

  Vietnam and other Alien Worlds (1993)

  War Stories (1995)

  None so Blind (1996)

  Saul's Death and Other Stories (1997)

  A Separate War and Other Stories (2006)

  Peace and War: The Omnibus Edition (2006)

  Awards: Joe Haldeman


  2010 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement

  2009 Robert A. Heinlein Award

  2004 Southeastern Science Fiction Lifetime Achievement Award

  1996 New England Science Fiction Association Skylark Award (along with Gay Haldeman)

  1989 Interzone Poll All Time Best Science Fiction Author


  2005 Nebula: Best Novel (Camouflage)

  2004 Southeastern SF Achievement Award: Novel (Camouflage)

  2004 James Tiptree Award (Camouflage)

  2002 Asimov's Reader Poll: Poem (January Fires)

  2001 Rhysling Award: Long Poem (January Fires)

  1999 Spanish Science Fiction Association Ignotus: Best Novel (Forever Peace)

  1998 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (Forever Peace)

  1998 Hugo: Best Novel (Forever Peace)

  1998 Nebula: Best Novel (Forever Peace)

  1997 Locus: Collection (None so Blind)

  1995 Hugo: Short Story (None So Blind)

  1995 Homer: Short Story (None So Blind)

  1995 Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Awards (None So Blind)

  1994 Southeastern SF Achievement Award: Short Story (Faces)

  1994 Nebula: Best Short Story (Graves)

  1993 World Fantasy Award: Best Short Story (Grave

  1991 Hugo: Best Novella (The Hemingway Hoax)

  1991 Rhysling Award: Short Poem (Eighteen Years Old, October Eleventh)

  1991 Nebula: Best Novella (The Hemingway Hoax)

  1984 Rhysling Award: Long Poem (Saul's Death)

  1979 Analog Analytic Laboratory: Science Fact (This Space for Rent)

  1977 Hugo: Short Story (Tricentennial)

  1977 Locus: Short Story (Tricentennial)

  1976 Hugo: Best Novel (The Forever War)

  1976 Locus: Best Novel (The Forever War)

  1976 Ditmar Award (The Forever War)

  1976 Nebula: Best Novel (The Forever War)


  Hey Joe, I Read Your Book, or,

  An Open Letter to Joe Haldeman, Cleverly

  Disguised as a Foreword to The Forever War

  Dear Joe:

  To get this letter to you started, and to set the scene for a theme I’ll get back to, I want to remind you (and share with the onlookers reading this letter to you) about the first time I met both you and Gay, which was at the Worldcon in Glasgow in 2005. I forget the specific manner in which we were introduced—I suspect my editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden may have made the introduction, as introducing science fictional people to each other is something he’s very good at. I remember saying hello and then being marvelously flattered as Gay told me that she had enjoyed Old Man’s War, which was at the time my sole novel, having come out six months earlier. After she was done saying very nice things about it, you said “I’ve heard good things about it, but I’m afraid I haven’t read it yet.”

  “That’s all right,” I said. “I’ve heard good things about The Forever War, and I haven’t read it, either.” To which you laughed, then you and I and Gay went on to have a very nice conversation about other things. So that’s how we met.

  Let me note two things about our meeting. First, you were entirely gracious to me in the aftermath of my attempted witty banter, because in retrospect (i.e., three seconds later) I could see how the comment might have seemed snarky and dismissive, even if it was not meant that way. Fortunately for me, you took it the right way. Second, in terms of high science fictional crimes and misdemeanors, mine in not having read your novel was a far sight greater than yours in not reading mine. My novel was the work of a newbie writer whom only a few people knew existed (thus my pleasure in Gay’s having read it at all), whereas your novel was (and remains) a science fiction classic—a winner of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards, widely recognized as one of the two cornerstone works of military science fiction, along with Starship Troopers. You could be forgiven for not having gotten around to my book. I, on the other hand, did not get off so easily.

  Indeed, it’s a measure of the significance of The Forever War in science fiction literature that readers and reviewers simply assumed a) that I had read it of course, and b) that my own novel of military science fiction was riffing off of yours to some greater or lesser extent. When I admitted to people that, in fact, I had not read your book, I usually got one of two reactions, depending on whether they liked my book or not.

  Here’s the one for if they liked the book:

  Reader: I liked your book, man. I really like how you played the changes off of The Forever War in it.

  Me: Well, thank you. But I have to admit I haven’t read The Forever War yet.

  Reader: Really?

  Me: Yeah.

  Reader: Have you been, like, trapped in a box for the last 30 years?

  And here’s the one for when they didn’t like it:

  Reader: Jeez, Scalzi, I sure hope you’re paying Joe Haldeman royalties for how much you ripped off The Forever War.

  Me: Well, actually, I haven’t read the book.

  Reader: Uh-huh. So you’re not only a thief, you’re also a liar.

  So it went, for a few years, until, in fact, I actually did start lying about whether I’d read the book, because I was tired of being told how I needed to read it. I knew I needed to read it, you know? But I was busy. Writing my own books. And, um, being distracted by shiny bits of foil. Yes, that was it. That was it exactly.

  Finally, for various reasons, this last year I came to a time and place where I was ready for The Forever War. I took it down from the shelf (where it had been, actually, for a few years—did I mention that I am easily distractible?), closed the door of my office, and settled down for a good read.

  When I finished it, this was the thought I had about it: Wow, I’m glad I waited until now to read this.

  Really, I was—and am.

  There are two reasons for this. The first is a simple and practical writing matter: If I had known going in about all the plot and character choices you made in your novel, I probably wouldn’t have ended up making the same basic choices in mine, because, you know. As a writer I have an ego, and I wouldn’t have wanted to step in your footprints, and walked a path you had, even if it were better for my novel to have done so. I would have been self-conscious of it; I would have danced around certain footfalls, and I suspect my own novel would have not been the better for it. There’s a whole other letter I could write, unpacking this statement and what it means, but I won’t get into that now; suffice it to say for the moment that I would have felt like I would have to be original, even to the detriment of being good. It’s easier on the finished end of the writing process to be compared to The Forever War (flattering, too); on the writing end, it would have been an elephant on my head—too much pressure; thanks, no. I'm happy to have missed that. The second reason is that I believe that The Forever War was a novel of its time, and its time, for better or worse, has come around again.

  It’s no secret, to you or me or most of the people peering over our shoulders here, that The Forever War comes out of the crucible of the Vietnam War, in which you served, and which as I understand marked you for its own, as it did with many who served in it. Science fiction as a genre has the benefit of being able to act as parable, to set up a story at a remove so you can make a real-world point without people throwing up a wall in front of it. You’d already essayed your experience in Vietnam in the contemporary novel War Year, (which I had actually read, and gave to my father-in-law, himself a veteran, as a gift), but The Forever War was another, bigger bite of that apple—your chance to explain to people who hadn’t been there the confusion and bureaucracy, the muddled aims and random horror, and the alienation that those who went felt when they came back home to a nation and culture that they no longer quite fit into, because both had changed.

  I grew up as part of the fortunate generation between Vietnam and 9/11, the ones whose cohort didn’t have to experience what war was, save for a few short weeks in Grenada and Iraq, in ‘91. There’s another generation, behind mine, that did not get to be so lucky. Hundreds of thousands of them went to the Middle East and a good portion of them are still there. Thousands have come back with flags draped over their coffins. Tens of thousands have come back injured, physically or mentally or both, and some portion of them feel the same disassociation to the land they’ve returned to that Mandella and Marygay felt with theirs. Whether one feels the war in Iraq or Afghanistan is right and necessary or not, there’s no doubt a generation will be marked by it and claimed by it.

  To my mind, there are two things that make a novel a “classic”—a genuine classic, as opposed to merely “old and continuing to sell.” The first is that it speaks to the time in which the novel first appeared. There is no doubt The Forever War did this; its awards and acclaim are signifiers of that fact. The second thing is tougher, and that is that it keeps speaking to readers outside its time, because what’s in the book touches on something that never goes away, or at the very least keeps coming around.

  I also think there’s no doubt The Forever War is doing this, too, right now, in this time—it’s a parable whose lessons need to be learned once more. Like its hero, the book has come through time to be part of something; in this case it’s to be a reminder to all those who are looking to come
home again—and those who care about them—that there’s someone who’s been where they are now, and who knows what they feel, and why. Maybe it will help them find their way back. I would have missed the power of that if I had read the novel earlier than this. I’m aware of it now—and glad for it.

  All of which is to say: Hey, Joe, I read your book.

  Everyone was right about it.

  Thank you.


  John Scalzi

  July, 2008

  Author’s Note

  This is the definitive version of The Forever War. There are two other versions, and my publisher has been kind enough to allow me to clarify things here.

  The one you’re holding in your hand is the book as it was originally written. But it has a pretty tortuous history.

  It’s ironic, since it later won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and has won “Best Novel” awards in other countries, but The Forever War was not an easy book to sell back in the early seventies. It was rejected by eighteen publishers before St. Martin’s Press decided to take a chance on it. “Pretty good book,” was the usual reaction, “but nobody wants to read a science fiction novel about Vietnam.” Twenty-five years later, most young readers don’t even see the parallels between The Forever War and the seemingly endless one we were involved in at the time, and that’s okay. It’s about Vietnam because that’s the war the author was in. But it’s mainly about war, about soldiers, and about the reasons we think we need them.

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