Haldeman's Marvelous Forever Warriors

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I finished Joe Haldeman's incredible novel The Forever War a few minutes ago, and I just want to urge anybody, and everybody, who has some time this holiday to read this book. It is easily one of my 10 favorite books ever, and if not for the rather ubiquitous presence of Doctorow on that list, it probably would be in my top five.

My aesthetics were pretty much shaped by hip-hop. I believe in art as a melange of things, and my favorite literature generally pulls from a variety of places. This is more than the idea of mashups, and perhaps even beyond sampling. I am more thinking about how the Bomb Squad in their heyday could pull from five different records and make an entirely new one. Or (to some extent) the masterful chopping of DJ Premier. Maybe some Rza too.

Haldeman is writing science fiction, in the same way that E.L. Doctorow writes historical fiction. That is, that the foundation of science and the past are there, but only as the foundation. I think this is really true of any genre, or subgenre, by the way. In 1994, Nas was doing something beyond what I had recognized MCing to be. Same for the Bomb Squad. My point is that this isn't a shot at sci-fi; transcending is ultimately the point. And there's just so much in this book—questions of war, the ghosts of Vietnam, questions of sexuality, etc.

Beyond that, I just want to, again, make a brief for the page-turner. I've read "difficult books" and I think "difficult books" should be read—especially by writers. But as I age, my bias is really toward the book that doesn't make me work as a reader, but as a thinker. In other words, I don't want to have to slug my way through in order to finish. What I want is to spend the days while I am engaged considering the thing, and then the years after turning it over.

Speaking of which, I am dying to know what those who've read the book think about its presentation of homosexuality. Thoughts?

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