Joe Haldeman’s Forever War

[Science fiction novelist Joe] Haldeman [experienced] “the dislocating effect of warfare”…firsthand. Like the soldiers in Haldeman’s book, Vietnam veterans came home to a society that had changed rapidly in their absence. “Soldiers find out they’re not fighting for their own culture,” he said.

In The Forever War, about as many casualties come during training exercises or because of accidents as come from contact with the alien enemy. “In Vietnam, it didn’t take you long to see that the actual enemy was the people on your side” — the draft boards and the Army itself, Haldeman said. “You had no personal problem with the Vietnamese.”

The film, like the book, will probably have an “obvious antiwar message,” Haldeman said. “I want people to understand what a dislocating experience it is, which the Army certainly isn’t telling anybody. People don’t understand that when you sign up you lose your civil rights. The Bill of Rights no longer applies to you. Once you’re inside, in a sense you have less citizenship than someone who’s in prison.”

 

Novel repudiates Starship

 

In some ways The Forever War reads as a post-Vietnam response to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, the hawkish 1959 novel that tracks the career of a soldier fighting against an uncommunicative alien race; the novel follows him from enlistment, throughout an exciting series of combat actions, to a climactic final battle.

In the Starship Troopers version of Earth, service guarantees citizenship: only veterans can vote. The protagonist and his friends are enthusiastic volunteers.

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