The Forever Movie

By Phil Plait | October 15, 2008 8:00 am

Warning: blatant name dropping ahead.

The Forever War coverWhen I was in high school, I read a book called The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. It was already a classic then, and it’s more so now — the story of a soldier in a war with aliens; the weirdness of interstellar flight means the war takes thousands of years, but only a few years elapse to him. He is basically watching the future unfold, and he’s not thrilled with it. The book is fantastic, a beautiful satire that many people compare to Catch-22.

This book is crying out to be made into a movie. I never understood why it hasn’t been, so when I was talking with My Close Personal Friend™ Joe Haldeman at World Con a couple of years ago, I asked him. He got a pained look on his face, and I knew right away I had stepped in it. Evidently, the rights to the book have been in some sort of battle for years. I quickly dropped the subject.

So it was with much joy today that I saw that not only is The Forever War finally going to be made into a movie, it’s going to be done by Ridley Scott. Yes, that Ridley Scott. "Alien" and "Blade Runner" Ridley Scott.

Ska. Whee.

I emailed Joe right away to get info and congratulate him. I love that guy; within minutes I got a reply confirming the report, saying he was "tickled" about it. Cripes, tickled? I’d be plotzing.

So I’m really excited about this, even though I know it’ll be a few years before we see the final movie. The story is incredible, and I think special effects have caught up with the ideas in the book, too. This’ll be a barn burner.

Congrats to Joe, and congrats to us — science fiction fans everywhere. This is very cool news.

And, hmmm. I gave my copy away or sold it years and years ago (probably in the Great Paperback Purge when I got a job after grad school). Time to pick up a copy… and one of Catch-22, too.


Comments (66)

  1. Darrin

    You know, I’ve never heard of this book…but now you’ve got me interested. I’ll have to track down a copy.

    And it’s being made into a movie by Ridley Frakin’ Scott?! SWEET! I smell the next epic space movie not too far off…

  2. Oh, man, that is SO cool… I loved that book… and Haldeman’s writing in general…

  3. BigBob

    I’ll ask for it at the library.
    BTW, how does one plotz? Would it be SFW?

  4. SF Reader

    And you didn’t even carp about using black holes for interstellar travel!

    It’s one of my favorite books, too.


  5. Tuuk17

    Be careful what you wish for. I know you are no fan of Michael Crichton the person, but Ridley Scott took a classic book in the “Andromeda Strain” and turned it into a two night crap fest of epic proportions.

    Hopefully he can turn the page on this one…

  6. mocular

    Yea, I’m old enough to have read this one in the first paperback edition. Great story by a great writer. With Ridley Scott directing this is gonna be a kick.

    BA, thanks for the heads up!

  7. Geran

    I managed to find myself a copy of the book, I hope you are right on it being good…

  8. Daffy

    The book is a classic…and we know what Hollywood does to classics. If I were Haldeman, I wouldn’t be that excited either.

    The comparison to Catch-22 is interesting, though. That was a movie that really did try to stay true to the book. So maybe there’s hope.

    A little.

  9. guruwench

    Oh, I have loved The Forever War for ages, and reread it from time to time. If anyone is going to mess up the movie least, I figure Ridley Scott is that person.

    However, we’ll see… and I won’t be first in line to watch, just in case…

    (I have yet to see Starship Troopers, on principle…)

  10. scotth


    Wow, this rocks. Best news all week. Truly a classic tale.

  11. There are two sequels too. Forever Free and Forever Peace.

    If you want to listen to a podcast that discusses The Forever War you can find it here (lots of spoilers though):

    The Ninjas have chatted about heaps of classic SF. Check it out.

    BTW, squeeeee.

  12. Manveet

    Never really like too much science fiction.

    Gonna have to check this one out when I get the chance.

  13. kuhnigget

    To be fair, Tuuk17, Ridley Scott was only nominally involved in A&E’s “Andromeda Strain,” or so I heard. His brother, Tony, supposedly was more of a force, and the actual director was Mikael (sic) Salomon, who also directed the horrible TV movie, “Aftershock.”

    I suspect Ridley Scott will put a little more thought into one of his own films. I hope.

  14. mike

    Apparently, this is a difficult book to find. None of the big book sites have it, I will have to check the old brick and mortar stores.

  15. Richard

    Absolutely my favourite sci-fi book. My ancient copy is so worn from re-reading that I have to reassemble the pages every time, and I’ve had to stop loaning it to people, for fear of not getting it all back. This book caused me to read all the rest of Joe’s work, and it’s great. (Mindbridge is another treasure.) I’m thrilled – and hope they do a decent job of moving this story to film.

  16. Quiet Desperation

    Forever Peace is not a sequel to Forever War.

    Forever Free IS a sequel, and most people seem to hate it for the ending.

    I actually liked the ending because it was just flat out bizarre, and I like bizarre.

  17. Thomas Siefert

    I find Ridley Scott to be a bit of a hit-and-miss director, but at least he always takes a realistic down to earth approach.

  18. Yoo

    A movie done properly would be totally cool, but I have fears that it might be dumbed down too much for the “general audience”.

  19. QD, Forever Peace is thematically a sequel then. And it has Forever in the title… :-)

  20. Annette

    I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of it… but then again, I’m just a youngin’ who thought that Battlestar Galactica was a brand new show. ūüėČ

    I’ll be there opening night, as I am there for every other space oriented sci-fi. Gotta also pick up the book so I can be one of those jerks that say “yeah, but the book was SOOOOO much better” while the credits are rolling. :B

  21. Stan9FOS

    When I read this, all the little malenky little hairs on the back of my plotz stood up lengthways. Here’s hoping Scott & company do the original novel justice. It’s been decades since I read it, but I remember describing it to my wife not too long ago & saying, “Now THIS one would be a great subject for a movie – if it was done right!” Thanks for the heads up, Phil!

  22. rjbrash

    This is wonderful IF it stays true to the book. I shudder whenever I think of what happened to NightFall and Starship Troopers. The people that made those two movies should be strung up by their …

    Hope you get the idea.

  23. NoAstronomer

    Great news! (I hope). I never had my own copy of the book … bad luck for you if you were trying to borrow it from my local library.

    And actually I think that the time might be right for a remake of catch-22.

  24. Nightfall? They made a Nightfall movie?

    *Looks up IMDB*

    Well whaddaya know… Nightfall, 1988, IMDB rating – 2.7 out of 10.

  25. Todd W.

    For those worried about Ridley Scott, keep in mind also that the production company has just as much, if not more, power as the director to make or break a film. Anyone care to look into the history of the production company or companies backing this?

  26. I think Scott Free is Ridley Scott’s production company. Created By represents Haldeman.

    More, limited, info here…

  27. Arguably, Robert Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS was a “powered armor infantry” SF novel written pre-Vietnam, and Joe Haldeman’s THE FOREVER WAR was a “powered armor infantry” SF novel written post-Vietnam.

    For one in the middle of the spectrum, there is John Steakley’s ARMOR.

  28. Gary Ansorge

    It’s been a loooong time since I read this, so I ordered it, Forever Free and Forever Peace.

    Thanks for reminding me of these cool stories,,,

    Really looking forward to the movie.

    GAry 7

  29. rjbrash


    I thought NightFall was the WORST movie ever made. No one could possibly rape and mutilate a story like those jerks did.

    Then along comes Starship Troopers …

  30. Quiet Desperation

    Then along comes Starship Troopers …

    Mmmm, no. Nightfall was a far worse rape case.

  31. favvr

    You should also check out the three part graphic novel THE FOREVER WAR by Flemish artist Marvano.

  32. rob

    i am SOOOO excited about this movie. i have been wanting to re-read the book. (for the fifth or sixth time. it is short, but good: it won a Nebula and a Hugo)

    i hope it doesn’t get craptastified like Starship Troopers. you would think that movie was based on a video game judging from the way hollywood fraked it up.

  33. I like Starship Troopers :-)

  34. Stuart Greig

    This rang a bell but couldn’t quite pin down if I had read it or not. Did some digging and I must have read it in the late seventies as my father had Analog magazine from the early sixties and it was serialised in them before it was published in book form. It’s one of those stories that sticks in your head in the background and probably influences your life more than you realise (especially reading it in your early teens).

    Just been and bought the omnibus edition of all three books and can’t wait for the film. I reckon there’s a better than average chance that Ridley Scott will do it justice (although we may have to wait for a DVD directors cut edition if the studios get nervous and start changing it).

  35. rjbrash

    Duck and cover, Shane. Duck and cover! ūüėČ

  36. billsmithaz

    > Well whaddaya know… Nightfall, 1988, IMDB rating Р2.7 out of 10.

    If that’s a dash between “rating” and “2.7”, I’m surprised that it was scored that high.

    If it’s a negative sign, I’d wholeheartedly agree with it.

    A friend and I saw Nightfall in the theater on the second day of its release. We were quite literally the only ones in the place, so we ended up doing our own live version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. As I recall, at the end of the movie, snow begins to fall. Our joke was that it was all of the leftover coke that hadn’t been used by the cast and crew.

  37. drow

    awesome.. the forever war has been on my must-read-sometime list since, uhm, college. ack. i’m just afraid that the movie is going to be full of spoilers for the book.

  38. Devin

    You’ve actually done yourself a favor by losing your old copy… What you’ll find on the shelves now will probably be the original text, while virtually all previous book editions had a watered-down middle section.

  39. Andy C

    Ugh, Catch-22… that has put me off reading this book somewhat; Catch-22 is the most overrated book in history.

  40. Why have I never heard of this book? Once I’m through “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson, I’ll absolutely pick this one up.

    Then I’ll probably pee myself thinking about Ridley Scott making it into a movie.

  41. icepick3383

    Don’t worry shane, I like Starship Troopers too! in fact, I just bought the 3 movie box set with a cool Marauder power armor toy thingy too! :)

    with that being said, I absolutely “squee’d” when I read this tidbit from BA. I can’t wait! I loved this book and totally thought it would make a great movie or video game. Ridley kicked large amounts of azz with Alien, so I hope it’s got that kind of feel.

  42. MrMarkAZ

    My $0.02: I thought “The Forever War” was an inferior version of “Starship Troopers,” although the time dilation angle was interesting. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. On the other hand, I liked both the Nightfall novella and the movie, though for different reasons, so I guess my tastes are a bit suspect.

  43. JeffS

    Yes!!! Great news, great book. In fact, I actually re-read it only 6 weeks ago. Timeless classic.

  44. zeb

    Wow, I actually squeeed out loud when I saw this post. Good thing no one else is home right now. I LOVE this book. The sequel was a bit strange, but I do like how it was wrapped up after all the weird stuff happened. Can’t wait until it comes out.

  45. Arthur Maruyama

    In one of Haldeman’s anthologies he tells the story of meeting Heinlein at an SF convention shortly after the publication of “The Forever War” (FW) Haldeman was nervous because the book is in many ways an homage to Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” (ST) because both are tales of interstellar war from the frontline grunt’s point-of-view rather than usual swashbuckling hero who–almost single-handedly–overturns the Empire and gets the girl. On top of everything else other people didn’t know what Heinlein thought of FW before this meeting, so there were a number of onlookers watching for Heinlein’s reaction. Haldeman introduced himself, explained how FW was very much inspired by ST, then asked if Heinlein had read FW. When Heinlein pronounced it “good” and said he appreciated the homage, as Haldeman put it he doesn’t remember the rest of that convention at all because he spent it walking three feet in the air.

    I guess Haldeman already had his “squeee!” moment for Forever War–the Ridley Scott movie may only be icing on the cake.

    I would consider reading Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (MUCH better than the movie which gets so many things completely wrong) before reading the Forever War.

  46. Ian

    It’s pretty hard SF. I wonder how much of that will make it onto the screen?

  47. BMurray

    Another great book gets humped to death by the Hollywood entertainment machine. Glad Joe’s getting a chunk of cash, though, and it will mean a new edition of the book, but my expectations for this are very low indeed.

  48. John Foudy

    “I thought NightFall was the WORST movie ever made. No one could possibly rape and mutilate a story like those jerks did.

    Then along comes Starship Troopers ‚Ķ”

    Nightfall was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theatre (meaning I paid $ to see it) that I walked out on about halfway through… utterly horrible.

    Considered as an adaptation of Heinlein’s novel, Starship Troopers was terrible…
    as a generic summer blockbuster bad movie it was entertaining enough I thought.

  49. duffytvs

    Thanks for the info., Phil. I read it a couple of years ago and thought it was great. I loved ‘Camouflage’ also (and think it’d make a good movie). I’ve wanted to see this one on screen since I read it; it’s a close second to my desire to see ‘Spin’ made into a movie.

  50. Neil

    Hmmm…I guees I’m in the minority here. I find Heinlen’s short stories to be inventive and entertaining, and contain lots of little points to think about. I find his novels irritating…as in not very interesting, with shallow characters, simplistic, jingoistic philosophies parading as “gritty” or “hard realities”, and a level of hero/soldier worship that is beyond pathetic.
    I was a bit irritated by the movie at first, but then I realized that it was at least a little bit of a farce, using the extremely brutal nature of the bugs’ invasion to highlight the extremly brutal nature of Heinlen’s ideals. I wish the farce had been taken further, but I guess it’s enough that the movie made one big point, quite different from the one the book intended: Ideas and policies that Heinlen seems to endorse are only reasonable in the most unreasonable situations. Until giant bugs attack the planet and try to kill everyone, there’s really no excuse for such shallow and callous thinking.
    Enough Heinlen Bashing…I’ll have to give Haldeman a try and see if I like The Forever War any better. If it really is in any way a satire, and is anything like Catch-22(one of the two best war books ever written, along with Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead) I’ll probably like it a lot more than Heinlen’s weapons-fetish snuff porn.
    Oooh, Bonus…I just remebered I still have a $20 gift certificate for my local used book store…It probably won’t do me much good concerning Death From the Skies, but maybe there will be a copy of The Forever War.

  51. Pierre

    Wow… thanks to your post, Phil, I was able to solve an old mystery. It seems I have
    read The Forever War about 20 years ago, but I had forgotten both the title and the
    name of the author. I only remembered some plot elements. When I read your post,
    I went to Wikipedia to find out more about the book, and made the connection. I
    had been wondering for years what book it was. I’m trying to buy back a copy of all the
    books I’ve ever read; I was reading all the time as a teenager, but I couldn’t afford
    to buy my books so the library was a convenient place to find some novels. Now
    I know I can add TFW to my list of things to get. (My bookshelves are now quite

  52. BaldApe

    (I have yet to see Starship Troopers, on principle…)

    Yer not missin’ much.

    Actually, I agree with John Foudy. As long as you didn’t expect Starship Troupers to have anything to do with the novel, it was OK. The sequels are just stoopid.

    I am looking forward to The Forever War. That was a seriously cool book, especially the end.

    Been a long time since I’ve read it. I guess I have to get a copy.

  53. a lurker

    Some years ago Haldeman stated that if The Forever War was made into a movie that he would probably cry all the way to the bank. If Ridley Scott is able to make a good script that reasonably true to novel, then maybe Haldeman will get to laugh all the way to the bank after all.

  54. shane Says: “I like Starship Troopers”

    I do too, Shane, but only because I am able to successfully partition my brain and convince myself that the movie has nothing to do with Heinlein.

    For me, the low spot of the film was Denise Richards. I never for a millisecond believed that she was piloting that ship. It seemed she was just moving the control yoke back and forth at random while talking over her shoulder. Of course, if she’d participated in the co-ed shower scene, I could have forgiven her…

    – Jack

  55. Jim Atkins

    According to Amazon, The Forever War is going to be re-released in paperback in March 2009- I lost my copy in a move a few years ago. COOL!!!

  56. Doug

    Well I hate to sound pessimistic, but I think of Dave Brin’s “Postman”, and Zelazny’s “Damnation Alley” as movies. “Forever War” has a lot of elements that are going to be difficult to bring to the big screen; so my guess is they won’t be. I think the best hope is the keep expectations low. If they use FW as a point of departure for a movie and make a good movie, that would be fine, too. That’s what happened to “Red October” IMO. Both the book and the movie were excellent, but they only vaguely resembled each other; which worked out.

  57. Yossarian

    I saw this done as a play(!) some years ago, and it wasn’t half bad.

  58. BMcP

    This book is crying out to be made into a movie. I never understood why it hasn’t been

    Because Hollywood stands a pretty good chance of firing off a big ol’ cowpie all over it and missing the satrical tone of the book. Ridley Scott has a great early record with Alien and Blade Runner, but in the last few years he has been more known for flops like G.I. Jane and Kingdom of Heaven.

    I can only imagine what the family values set response would be to some of the future societies presented that the main character is confronted with when he makes returns to Earth over so many years. There was one point where the government official encouraged gay relations to keep the population down, I can just see the religious flipping out if that is kept in the movie. LOL.

  59. Gary Ansorge

    Point of order: Heinlien did say that Starship troopers wasn’t about the “glories of war”. It was about the Horror of War. Big difference there,,,

    Gry 7

  60. Roberto

    I read it ages ago and I loved it. I also read the sequels. I really enjoy Haldeman’s work and I llok forward to this movie. Greetings from Argentina.

  61. RonS

    This might sound a bit odd…
    I love the skies and I love anime and I love sci fi books and I dislike tall, bearded men.
    See where this is headed yet ?
    You probably don’t and I don’t blame you : I am relating to a short Makoto Shinkai marvelously animated piece called “Voices of Distant Star” – read it up on wikipedia. It carried the same concept of relativistic time distortion separting two childhood lovers (WOW!). Yet it does all that, and provides a rather bittersweet conclusion, all within 22 minutes. That was what first pulled me towards those two sci classics : THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman and FALLEN DRAGON by Peter F. Hamilton. They are both crying out for a movie, and their prayers have been answered.
    TOLD you this would be a weird discussion…

  62. John Charles

    Just like Stuart and his dad, I read The Forever War in its Analog serialzation in the 1970s. Haldeman impressed me as a giant of detiled, hard-edged science fiction, right up there with Heinlein and Clarke. Really hope the movie does it justice.

  63. The original novel apparently was heavily cut when first published. There is a new uncut edition coming out February 9th. Order on Amazon today! :)

  64. coolstar

    Please, The Forever War is THE most over-rated novel in history (more so than even Catch-22). ho-hum, another cynical anti-war novel by another hack Vietnam vet writer.
    not original in 1974, worse now. Scalzi’s Old Man’s War is much, much better on so many levels: more realistic (not just stupidly cynical), MUCH better characterization, and on and on…….


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