Why teach The Forever War?

“To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise. It is, for all its techno-extrapolative brilliance, as fine and woundingly genuine a war story as any I’ve read.” – William Gibson

Written by a Vietnam War veteran, The Forever War explores the experience of being drafted, of loss, trauma, the painful process of reintegration to civilian life, and the effect of perpetual war on the civilian population through the story of a war spanning solar systems and centuries.

Though the parallels with the Vietnam War were seen as obvious at the time The Forever War was written, the parallels are less obvious to readers who do not remember that war, and its timeliness in the 1970s does not detract from the ability to talk about the novel as ‘out of time’. Using this story as a foil, students can explore ideas like conscription, mental health, group psychology, and even language.

The author of this study guide reached out to combat veterans to find some resources that they wish every teenager could see about post-traumatic stress disorder to try to chip away at some of the myths and stigma surrounding mental health.

The Forever War can be read with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (see study guide at LiberalStudiesGuides.ca), another book written by a war veteran and exploring similar themes.

The Forever War Study Guide

Exercise Sheets

Private Mandella (Chapter 1-15) Exercises

Sergeant Mandella (Chapter 16-26) Exercises

Lieutenant and Major Mandella (Chapter 27-36)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Canadian Mental Health Agency – Pamplet on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

CBC News – The traumatic effects of extreme stress

Romeo Dallaire – The war doesn’t end when soldiers return home – The Globe and Mail

Health Sciences Association of Alberta – Canada’s warrior will not quit – Roméo Dallaire has left the Armed Forces, but he’s still fighting for those with PTSD

Canadian War Museum – Trench Conditions – “Shellshock” _ Canada and the First World War

The Globe and Mail Video – Romeo Dallaire talking about child soldiers, PTSD, and mental health



Conscription – The Canadian Encyclopedia


Are people programmable?

Excerpt from The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Reintegration after war

Russell – How Canadian vets struggle to transition from combat to civilian life (Global News)

Investigation reveals 54 Canadian soldiers died by suicide after war in Afghanistan – The Globe and Mail

Video of Survivors in the Veterans Transition Network


Language and Time

English-to-English translation sheet

Video: Beowulf read in Old English with text on-screen 

The Globe and Mail – Suicide toll reveals how system failed Canada’s soldiers and veterans

Swaminathan – Use It or Lose It: Why Language Changes over Time (Scientific American)


The War is Over?

New Resource!

Does your class believe that war is inevitable and ongoing? Have them read these articles and write an essay or debate in-class.

The Author of Our Best SF Military Novel Explains the Future of War – Motherboard

Steven Pinker – The surprising decline in violence (TED Talk Transcript)