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Joe Haldeman’s ‘The Forever War’ Ready for the Big Screen?

(Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.)

It looks like Warner Brothers has outbid everyone else to bring Joe Haldeman’s classic The Forever War to movie theaters hopefully within a reasonable time-frame.

The Hollywood Reporter notes:

Making the package go supernova was the involvement of Prometheus and Passengers screenwriter Jon Spaihts and producer Roy Lee. Producing with Lee are Tatum and his Free Association execs as well as Film 360.

The package started to heat up last week but went fiery Thursday when Warners, Sony and another studio were all ready to write hefty checks. Warners won the project late afternoon paying low six figures against seven for the movie rights. Spaihts’ deal to write the script topped seven figures.

Haldeman’s 1974 novel offers a perspective on his experience as a Vietnam veteran. In it, humans have discovered how to use collapsars (mini-black holes) to travel instantaneously to other parts of the galaxy and beyond. However, the time spent traveling to various destinations (excluding collapsar-to-collapsar), most especially that at, and around. the black holes, makes our protagonist, William Mandella, a “man out of time” as a member of Earth’s fighting forces via the Elite Conscription Act.

(This is sort of a bizarre reversal of what we saw in Vietnam: There, college attendees were exempt from being drafted; in TFW only the very intelligent and educated are conscripted into service.)

The alien enemy are the Taurans, so named because we encountered them near the constellation of that name. We’re at war with them because one of Earth’s ships disappeared … and the Taurans were whom we named the responsible party — because one of their ships was “close by.” Gulf of Tonkin, anyone?

The entire planet Earth is on a war footing, and all resources go towards the war effort. Most of the population exists on subsistence living, and as such, crime is rampant. Mandella discovers this situation on his first excursion back to Earth years after a few interstellar battles.

The situation at home is so bleak that William decides to head back out to fight.

There is little-to-no communication between humans and Taurans; the latter, we learn, essentially have a hive mind and possess no concept of the individual. Humans win many battles, but the Taurans always catch up eventually.

So much time passes back home while Mandella is out fighting that humanity eventually forms a sort of hive mind of its own — called, simply, “Man.” Once this is achieved communication with the Taurans becomes possible … and Man learns that, to its great dismay, that the “Forever War” was the sad result of humans presuming the worst — because it simply did not understand something.

Mandella’s love and fellow soldier, Marygay, has survived the long war too, and has been awaiting him on a “time shuttle” — a craft circling a collapsar so as to keep passing time at a minimum.

The Forever War’s sequel, Forever Free, details Mandella’s and his family’s life of planet Middle Finger and shows their eventual return to Earth. But the plot involves an annoying deus ex machina which results in a rather disappointing finale to The Forever War saga.

Image credit: xenomorphosis.com

Dave Huber

Dave "Hube" Huber has been blogging about politics, entertainment, and education for over a decade, mainly at The Colossus of Rhodey. He's also contributed to the popular media bias site Newsbusters, and the entertainment webzine Advanced Iron. He is currently an assistant editor of The College Fix.

  • Patrick Reasonover

    I’d never heard of this novel.