The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

4.5 out of 5

The Earth’s leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand–despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant thousand-year conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But “home” may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time dilation caused by space travel, Mandella is aging months while the Earth he left behind is aging centuries…

The Forever War is a military science fiction novel set in the future. It tells the story of an intergalactic war that is fought over millennia. But for the soldiers actually fighting, the war lasts only years. Every time they come home for a little R&R (rest and relaxation), they find their world completely changed. Even the language isn’t the same. William Mandella’s journey is both inspiring and heartbreaking, and I could not put this book down.

While this story is fiction, Joe Haldeman wrote it for a purpose. The Forever War is widely perceived to be an account of Haldeman’s experience in Vietnam. As with Spencer Quinn’s The Right Side, Haldeman’s account of Mandella’s time in service evokes similar feelings in the reader as perhaps Haldeman felt on his return home after Vietnam. The seemingly dramatic span of time in this novel allows us as readers to understand the alien feel that home had for many. The Vietnam War occurred during a time of tumultuous change in the United States, and while we back home may not have been speaking a language quite so literally foreign as Mandella’s fellows in The Forever War, those who served in Vietnam returned to a place in which they didn’t seem to belong anymore.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, even those who are not fans of science fiction or space operas. It’s a short novel, and while it clearly introduces new technology and a new society, it’s not heavily focused on those things. It is definitely more about the individual experience than about advanced societies. You don’t need to buy this book, but you should definitely pick it up at your local library.



The Right Side by Spencer Quinn

3.5 stars

The Right Side follows a woman returning from war as she struggles to find her place and purpose back home. Helping to find a friend’s missing daughter reminds her of her purpose in life, and of the goals she once had for herself. She also finds a friend in a dog who won’t let her get too down on herself.

I randomly picked The Right Side up at my local library when I was there to pick up some holds. I’m a sucker for things that businesses put on display and make look exciting, so at least the library is free and I didn’t spend money I hadn’t planned on spending…

For my own personal reasons, I rarely read serious non-fiction books, especially any that deal with Iraq and Afghanistan or returning veterans. But this book intrigued me.

The Right Side is very well written. I thought the author told a great story, but also detailed the struggle many veterans face returning to the U.S. and/or to civilian life after spending time in Iraq or Afghanistan. There were some times I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the book, not because it wasn’t good, but because the author really made you feel what the main character was experiencing.

It’s not a must-read, and definitely not a buy, but if you like contemporary fiction and a little bit of mystery, you should definitely check this book out. I still think about it sometimes, and what it taught me about the human ability to overcome trauma.