Review by Frank Plowright
We pick up with William Mandella, now aged 412, but looking like a man in his late forties. He’s still an instructor with Earth forces combating the almost never seen Tauran people, and the sample page shows another surprise awaits him. In order to control population levels on Earth the military now supports homosexuality, and humans are genetically engineered to ensure this. Mandella cares neither for his cause, nor much else. Due to decades in stasis he can no longer understand the technology perpetuating the war he fights, noting the separation between his physics degree and the present day is the span between Galileo and Einstein, yet merely surviving combat has seen him promoted to a major. No, Joe Haldeman’s certainly not dropping the depressing sardonic tone of The Forever War in the final stage, proposing technology negating any electronically controlled devices, reducing human soldiers to fighting with swords, spears and shields.
More than the previous books in the series, this finale provides space war scenes, long, deadly battles with the Tauran enemies in a war that’s lasted centuries. Mandella is stationed on a planet forming almost the remotest outpost of humanity in the known universe, yet it’s of strategic value and must be defended. Merely reaching there is a journey of several hundred years. Marvano creates a suitably bleak and desolate location for pitiful events, and there’s not a shred of glory about his battle scenes, just a deep desire for survival.
As might be expected given the remainder of the series, Haldeman’s conclusion fits the tone and is both cynical and brilliant. The war has lasted 1143 years, and given Haldeman’s story over the previous books, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that it’s been utterly pointless. This is hardly a spoiler, as the story throughout has underlined that reasoning, if not so emphatically. Haldeman, however, does have a minute sentimental streak amid his cynicism, so read into that what you will about Mandella’s ultimate fate.
All three volumes of The Forever War are more easily found collected in a single Titan Comics publication, and combined they’re a stunning excoriation of both war and the military mindset. The colouring is of its era, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that a book created to damn the war in Vietnam is any less relevant today.