I'm normally hesitant to break out the E-word in a non-sarcastic way, but I don't think I have any problems saying that Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is both the best war novel and "time travel" story I've ever read. But don't take my word for it, I think William Gibson's quote on the recently republished edition of the book sums it up nicely:

"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 ever read."

Now, I put "time travel" in quotes because the narrative's chronology is entirely linear. It's not about someone going back in time and causing a big hullaballoo, it's about a war that is fought in the future against an alien race called the Taurans. The "time travel" aspect comes into play when a soldier voyage deep into the universe to fight in the war results in time dilation upon return home. For example, what may be roughly two years to them is over a decade on Earth. So the "time travel" aspect of the story deals entirely with the increasingly bizarre future shock that the protagonist, a soldier named William Mandella, experiences every time he returns home from the war.

Not only is it an entirely novel concept from a sci-fi standpoint, but it allows Haldeman to create a truly astounding allegory for how war irrevocably changes a soldier's perception of the world and how nothing in their civilian life can ever be the same again. Plus, it's just an overall brilliant thought experiment about how the military industrial complex will adapt to people's evolving concepts of sexuality and personal identity. But I digress...
The whole point of bringing up Haldeman's book is that the author himself has updated his Livejournal with news thatBlade Runner screenwriter David Webb Peoples has just turned in a fourth draft of the script to director Ridley Scott. Haldeman doesn't actually single out People's by name, but he does allude to Unforgiven being one of the screenwriter's "good credits". And since he's the only person who received a writing credit for Clint Eastwood's classic Western, it's not hard to put two and two together.

Interestingly enough, Haldeman also makes mention of the fact that the film's producers never solicited him for a script despite the accomplished author also being an accomplished screenwriter. In his own words, this was, "No surprise. They don't want the book's author saying "Hold it! I wrote the book, and that's not the way it goes."" That bums me out a little bit, but if it means that the man who wrote Blade Runner, Unforgiven and 12 Monkeys is the one who is powering the screenplay, I'm okay with that. I don't think there are many screenwriters who could whittle down Haldeman's dense tome (the book itself is a short read, it's just its ideas that are difficult to breakdown) to its most fundamental aspects, but someone like Peoples is a big step in the right direction.

However, even with my confidence in Peoples behind the screenplay, I can't help but find myself reciting the same mantra many a fanboys before me have: Please don't frak this up, Hollywood. Please don't frak this up, Hollywood. Please don't frak this up, Hollywood.
categories Movies, Sci-Fi