Excerpt: The Forever War

The Forever War is a tremendous book, and definitely a worthy read. That being said, most of the language in this book is fairly direct and simple, which matches the tone of the book well. The main character is a very grounded person who tends to think and talk in simple, concrete terms.

The Forever War is a classic work of science fiction about a war that (due to the nature of relativity) is fought over the span of centuries, Earth time. The story follows the main character throughout his military career, and gives us a first hand look at what it’s like to be a cog in the war machine.

The Forever War Cover We were being ignored by the ship’s two doctors, who stood in bright light at operating tables, absorbed in blood rituals. I watched them for a long time. Squinting into the bright light, the blood on their green tunics could have been grease, the swathed bodies, odd soft machines that they were fixing. But the machines would cry out in their sleep, and the mechanics muttered reassurances while they plied their greasy tools.
– Joe Haldeman, The Forever War


What I like about this passage:

  1. The contrast. The narrator is badly wounded and lying in the infirmary in this scene. The author’s switch from a gritty, direct observation of surroundings to a surreal portrait of the world reinforces that the narrator is not his normal self – to great effect.
  2. I like the use of the phrase “blood rituals.” It has an evocative negative connotation that gives us a lot of insight into what the narrator thinks/feels about the surgeons.
  3. The machine metaphor used here contributes to the overarching thesis of the book – that men in times of war are reduced to nothing more than valuable tools, and it also emphasizes the narrators feelings, both positive, and negative about the effectiveness and lack of caring of the doctors, respectively. It’s also beautifully poetic.
  4. The short length of the second sentence makes this passage easier to digest and more rhythmically pleasing.
  5. Breaking the last sentence in two with a period before the “But” changes it into a separate thought, which creates the sense of a separation in time between the observation that they are like machines and the crying out.

Posted by Brett Noneman

Hi! I'm Brett. You're on my site! I live in Northern Indiana with my wife and my two beautiful daughters and our grouchy but lovable old dog Nasdaq. I enjoy writing, playing board games with friends, and spending time with my girls.

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