by Akim Reinhardt
In 1974, noted science fiction author Joe Haldeman published a novel called The Forever War, which won several awards and spawned sequels, a comic version, and even a board game. The Forever War tells the story of William Mandella, a young physics student drafted into a war that humans are waging against an alien race called the Taurans. The Taurans are thousands of light years away, and traveling there and back at light speed leads Mandella and other soldiers to experience time differently. During two years of battle, decades pass by on Earth. Consequently, the world Mandella returns to each time is increasingly different and foreign to him. He eventually finds his home planet’s culture unrecognizable; even English has changed to the point that he can no longer understand it.
Born in 1943, Joe Haldeman is a Vietnam War veteran. He was drafted in 1967, served two years as a combat engineer, and earned a Purple Heart. Many have speculated that the disaffection William Mandella experiences upon returning home from war reflects Haldeman’s own alienation after Vietnam. But there is another element of The Forever War that has recently proven timely 45 years after its initial publication: its title.
The Donald Trump administration appears to be ramping up for a possible war with Iran even as the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan enter their sixteenth year, and the United States maintains a more indirect but important role in wars in Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Lybia. Indeed, just yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence informed members of the West Point Military Academy graduating class that “it is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life.” Read more »