A Beginner’s Guide to The Forever War by Joe Haldeman - The Fantasy Review

A Beginner’s Guide to The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Fantasy Review’s beginner’s guide to The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

Published in 1974, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is an ultimate classic of the science fiction genre. It won the Nebula Award in 1975, and the Hugo and Locus awards in 1976.

I absolutely adored this book, so please check out my glowing review of The Forever War if you want my opinions on it!


The Forever War takes place in the near future (well, starts in the 1990s, but imagine it’s an alternate world) and follows a new conscripted recruit in the United Nations Exploratory Force (UNEF), William Mandella.

Mandella, who was previously a physics student, is the ultimate everyman. He could be anyone, and that only enhances the impact of the narrative. Despite the rather vanilla characterisation initially, you will grow to love Mandella as the book progresses.

The Forever War tells the story of Earth’s war against an alien species called the Taurans. We know and learn very little about these aliens, except for the way they look and how they fight. 

The book is an exploration of the alienation veterans can experience when they return home from war. Joe Haldeman was an engineer in Vietnam, so this book is sometimes seen as a criticism of war and a way of depicting his experiences during that time and after.

The Forever War series

The Forever War can be read as a standalone, and when you go into it, expect a standalone story. However, Haldeman has expanded on the original novel from 1974 with a short story called A Seperate War (1999), which depicts a story of Marygay Potter during some of the events from The Forever War

Haldeman also wrote a sequel to The Forever War, called Forever Free (1999).

Similar Books

In addition to The Forever War series, Haldeman also wrote another series called The Forever Peace. This is thematically related to The Forever War but is not set in the same universe and is narratively unrelated. This series includes:

  • Forever Peace (1997) – a novel
  • Forever Bound (2010) – a prequel short-story to Forever Peace

There are reports that Haldeman wrote The Forever War after reading Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein and being disappointed in its glorification of war. He did, however, like the book and respect the author.

Old Man’s War (2005) by John Scalzi is thematically similar to The Forever War and would be enjoyed by modern audiences who are looking for a similar thing. There are six main books in the Old Man’s War series, so it is perfect for people who want a longer read.

Related to our Beginner’s Guide to The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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