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...
categories Movies, Sci-Fi