Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is one of the most honored science-fiction novels of the 1970s. That Vietnam-War-influenced book (Haldeman served with the Fourth Engineers and was severely wounded in Vietnam in 1968), which deals with a thousand-year terrestrial war, was awarded the Hugo, Nebula and Ditmar awards as the best science fiction novel of 1975.
And now, according to Variety magazine, Fox 2000 has acquired rights to The Forever War,” for the famed British director Ridley Scott, who will turn it into his first science fiction film since his iconic Blade Runner (1982) and Alien (1979).
According to Variety, Scott had his eye on The Forever War since the late seventies, “but rights complications delayed his plans for more than two decades.”
“I first pursued Forever War 25 years ago, and the book has only grown more timely and relevant since,” Scott told Daily Variety. “It’s a science-fiction epic, a bit of The Odyssey by way of Blade Runner, built upon a brilliant, disorienting premise.”
Haldeman’s other books include Forever Peace (1997), and Nineteen Sixty Eight (1995). Here’s my review of the latter, which appeared in the July 1995 issue of The VVA Veteran.
Writers who create realistic war novels run the risk of glorifying and sanitizing combat — even if they intend to do the opposite and try to warn about the horrors of battle. It’s a fact of life that some people — especially young males — revel in reading gory stories about life-and-death adventures, no matter what cautionary ideas an author has in mind.
That said, it seems difficult to imagine how anyone will take away an iota of glamor from the picture of war that Joe Haldeman paints in 1968 (Morrow, 340 pp., $22), a well-crafted, biting novel set in Vietnam and on the home front in the momentous year of its title. Haldeman is best known for his science fiction novels and short stories, and for his short in-country Vietnam novel War Year (1972). In 1968 Haldeman depicts the most unglamorous view of war and its aftermath this side of All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s an in-your-face, realistic, decidedly grim picture.
Haldeman’s story centers on John “Spider” Spiedel, an everyman college dropout who gets drafted and spends a nightmarish abbreviated combat tour in Vietnam. The novel’s parallel story involves Spider’s pre-war girlfriend, Beverly, and her journey from naive college student to counte-rcultural veteran. Haldeman spits out Spider and Beverly’s stories in short, biting paragraphs grouped into brief chapter bursts. This bluntly straight-ahead style works well in conjuring up Spider’s nightmarish world and Beverly’s not exactly smooth coming-of-age adventures.
Haldeman served in Vietnam as a combat engineer and was severely wounded in September 1968. The author’s voice of authenticity shines through in 1968®’s in-country segments in which Haldeman creates true-to-life evocations of the physical and emotional landscapes of the American fightingman’s war in Vietnam. In one telling sentence Haldeman likens the jungle on a moon-lit night to a “washed-out black-and-white photograph of snarled and shifting lines and curves” that “could have hidden anything.”
The author spices up the narrative with some science-fiction-like passages and sometimes bogs it down with reportorial asides on mundane topics including military knives and bayonets, schizophrenia, concertina wire, electric shock treatments, sexual mores of the sixties, post-traumatic stress disorder and the 1968 Democratic National Convention. These reportorial passages could have sabotaged the book. But Haldeman knows when to cut them short. They therefore become easily navigable detours that only slightly detract from an exemplary and creatively told tale of the war life and post-war times of Spider Spiedel.
Posted on October 21st 2008 in Feature Films