Monday, 4 February 2008

SF Masterworks #1 The Forever War

A Cloverfield review, amongst other ideas, is pending but I'll give you all a chance to see it before discussing it here. This is something I've been meaning to do for a while, but I took a bit longer reading the book than I thought I would. I don't often review literature here, but this book deserves the merit.

The Series of SF Masterworks is a selection of Science Fiction books highly regarded by authors, publishers and readers. The series reprints the books they feel deserve the merit both to acknowledge their accomplishment and to ensure that worthy books remain in print. So when I spotted that the book I was reading happened to be the first included on this list I thought it was worth mentioning. I've encountered and read several of these books, but I'll probably document them as I find them in numerical order meaning the posts will be quite sporadic and spread out. If you're interested the next book on the list is I Am Legend, which I may get out of interest...if the huge stack of unread books in my room begins to dwindle.

The Forever War is a bold telling of a war that alienates the soldiers that fight in it. While especially relevant to the Vietnam War that the author experienced it is still relevant to a modern reader because it doesn't just parallel the 'Nam war but offers a commentary on warfare itself and an eye into the life of those who fight in something much bigger than themselves. The main sense you get as you read the book is not "oh war is bad it should be stopped!" but rather a sense of despair and anger at the generals who send their inexperienced troops into a situation they barely even understand themselves and who continue to have an iron hold on their troops who have done more than their fair share. And we come to a depressing conclusion that there's not much anybody can or will do about it. When forced back into active service after being promised retirement the main character shrugs and says "It's so army."

As with other succesful army SF novels (such as Starship Troopers) the reason for the success is the main character. Mandella is recruited into the army because he's a genius. They call in the best of the best to handle the extreme environments and challanges of interstellar conflict. As soon as people start dying in often meaningless ways he realises he is only as good as his trigger finger. Soon we forget about his past and get sucked into the life of a man struggling to survive, though he's not sure why.

Of course it's also succesful because it's set in a war and setting far removed from our own. We get that there's something strange from the start when army customs dictate that soldiers swear at their commanders and that female soldiers cohabit with males. Soon we move onto low gravity moons and super armoured fighting suits eqipped with "laser-fingers." But that is not the strangest thing of all the technology used to wage war means the fighting rages across both time and space.

"Time-dillation" occurs when the ships used for combat travel across the stars meaning that though the campaigns last only weeks when the crew return home decades have passed returning them to a drastically different Earth. And again he is called up, knowing that when he returns there will be nothing left of what he once knew - seperated from anything that means anything, fighting a war he no longer understands and for a world that is no longer his home will he find any meaning or happiness out there in the stars? To find out buy and read this excellent book.

Gripping from start to finish with a touch of genuine sadness that has made this book a well deserved classic this book is well worth picking up, 'cause you won't put it down!

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