Review of The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - The Forever War by Joe HaldemanThe Forever War
By Joe Haldeman; Read by George Wilson
8 CDs – 9.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0788739832
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Military SF / War / Time Travel / Aliens / Love /

“Tonight we are going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man.”

The guy who said this was a sergeant who didn’t look five years older than me. So if he’d ever killed a man in combat, silently or otherwise, he’d done it as an infant.

This is Vietnam all over again but now it’s in space. In a world where dreams come true and Science Fiction has become part of the School’s National Curriculum, then Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War becomes compulsory reading material. It’s little wonder it sits at No.1 on Gollancz list of “Science Fiction Masterworks.” And rightly so. Here is a story still fit and ready for duty thirty-three years after winning the Hugo award for “Best Science Fiction Novel.”

William Mandela is a gifted and brilliant college student and so is ideal fodder for the army’s war against an unknown alien race called the Taurans. Mandela is drafted into a harsh training program that kills more recruits than it can mould into soldiers. He is educated and trained to the highest of army standards, becoming one of Earth’s elite foot soldiers in a war against the alien Taurans. He is also a reluctant soldier caught up in this futile war, a war Earth’s economy can not do without. Add to this collapsars, light speed travel, time dilation, ever changing societies and you have Science Fiction at it’s flawless.

Read by George Wilson with the skill of a seasoned veteran. His voice never invades your senses or pulls you away from the gripping tale Haldeman has delivered, and that’s crucial for an audiobook. Wilson got his start in broadcasting as a news director with American Forces Radio and Television in Thailand. He was also instrumental in forming an improvisational comedy group that performed in New York theaters and nightclubs.

The Forever War was first serialized by the science fiction magazine, Analog. Its then editor, Ben Bova, thought the middle section was just too harsh in its descriptions of war and war life, so Haldeman drafted a more mellow alternative and it’s this edition that was used in the book’s first full publication.

There are any number of occurences Haldeman has used in The Forever War from first hand knowledge. He severed in Vietnam as a combat engineer and both Haldeman and his protagonist, Mandela returned fron war to very different attitudes than the ones they left behind. Haldeman knows war, knows it up close and bloody (3 men in his 4 man unit were blown to bits in an ordinance explosion). Haldeman can also identify the boredom that inevitably comes between the battles. In combat situations his descriptions are raw. And like Mandela, every word of The Forever War had to fight to survive under Haldeman’s brutal editorship.

Everyone… here are your instructions. You are to listen to The Forever War ASAP – and that’s an ORDER!

Review of Of Fire and Night by Kevin J. Anderson

Science Fiction Audiobook Review

Science Fiction Audiobook - Of Fire and Night: Saga of the Seven Suns Book 5 by Kevin J. AndersonOf Fire and Night: The Saga of Seven Suns Book 5
By Kevin J. Anderson; Read by David Colacci
16 CD’s or 2 MP3-CDs – 19 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9781597372176 (CD), 9781597372213 (MP3-CD)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Opera / Military / Colonization / Alien Races / Political Intrigue / War /

In the science fiction/fantasy world, it’s not uncommon to be presented with the distinct challenge of writing a review of a middle volume of an ongoing saga without revealing anything that might spoil the previous volumes for potential readers. I’m very enthusiastic about this worthwhile series, though, so the job is made easier. In short, I’ve enjoyed all five books in the Saga of Seven Suns to date, and this volume in particular.

The Saga of Seven Suns is an epic space opera by the prolific Kevin J. Anderson. As the fifth volume in the epic, Of Fire and Night has much backstory and a couple of volumes to go before the story ends. In this book, humankind faces serious odds in a war against the Hydrogues, an alien race that lives inside gas giant planets. As faction after faction turns against the humans, things are dire indeed. Political and military maneuverings amongst humans and aliens are the order of the day here as humanity fights for their very survival.

Other players include the faeros, who are beings that live in suns. The Green Priests who are changed humans that are able to communicate with each other through the living World Tree, no matter where they are. The Roamers, a human faction of space dwellers that are determined to be separate from the Earth-based Hansa, but are called back into the fold by the threat to all humanity. And the enigmatic Ildyrians, whose entire history is collected in a book called “The Saga of Seven Suns”. In this universe, Anderson has created a long list of compelling characters and a darned good story.

Following this now for five volumes (all available on audio – the first two from Recorded Books and the rest from Brilliance Audio), this series has lived up to the hopes I had for it. It is thoroughly entertaining, and I find myself eager for the next volume, which is due next year. Anderson turns up the heat with each book, and juggles the many ingredients of the saga like a masterful chef. I highly recommend the entire series. It’s science fiction that has the “kick your shoes off and settle in” quality of an epic fantasy.

David Colacci is also masterful in his narration, and I’m not using that word lightly. I find him on par with some of the best narrators out there. He was as engaging and entertaining as any narrator I’ve heard throughout this long audiobook. There are some readers that I very much look forward to hearing, and Colacci is now on that list.

And a tip of the hat to the sound engineers. At times, Colacci’s voice is enhanced, like when a hydrogue is speaking, for example. I’ve said over and over again on this site how terrible a mistake it is to do that in an unabridged novel, and yet here it is, perfectly done. The vocal enhancements were sparse and completely effective.

In addition, each audiobook after the first in the series has a “the story so far” segment of significant length (20+ minutes of detail). I appreciate that very much as I’ve listened to the audiobooks as they’ve been released, around a year apart. I checked, and the segment is indeed part of the print version of the books. I found it a particularly helpful part of each audiobook, and am glad it was included.


  • Saga of Seven Suns section of Kevin J. Anderson’s website
  • Audio Sample of this book from Brilliance Audio
  • Posted by Scott D. Danielson

    Review of Rally Cry: The Lost Regiment by William R. Forstchen

    SFFaudio Review

    Rally Cry: The Lost Regiment #1Rally Cry: The Lost Regiment #1
    By William R. Forstchen; Read by Patrick Lawyor
    11 Cassettes, 12 CDs or 1 MP3-CD – 15 Hours 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
    Publisher: Blackstone Audio
    Published: 2006
    ISBN: 0786145056(Cassette), 078617199 (CDs), 078617658X (MP3-CD)
    Themes: / Science Fiction / Military / Civil War / Aliens / Early Civilizations / Alien World /

    Click here for an audio sample —

    “When Union Colonel Andrew Keane led his blue-coated soldiers aboard the transport ship, he could not have foreseen that their next port of call would be neither in the North nor the South but on an alternate world where no human was free.”

    In this exciting Military Science Fiction book, we find a regiment of Union soldiers swept away into a tunnel of light to find themselves on an alien planet. These are battle-hardened and battle-weary soldiers who have paid the terrible price of war. Their leader, Colonel Andrew Keane, has not only lost an arm but also his only brother in conflicts with the South.

    Their first encounter on this new world is with a society of humans. The society originally came from Earth through that same tunnel of light that brought Keane and his men to this planet. These people were transplanted out of Medieval Russia. The nobles and the Church rule over the peasant serfdom. Conflict ensues as these two different societies battle with weapons from different eras.

    There is also a nomadic alien race that lords over the humans of this planet. They are coming to take one out of every five humans as their tribute. What do they do to these humans? Mostly they eat them.

    This is the first novel in a long series known as The Lost Regiment. The action is strong and convincing. Patrick Lawford reads the novel with a good range of voices and accents. The story is written in third person omniscient, so we get into the heads of many of the characters. Each character has their own motivations that justifies their actions.

    The only disappointment was the lack of alien-ness to the aliens and setting. Sure the aliens are tall fangy creatures that eat humans, but their culture is not much different than many primitive nomadic warrior tribes. They measure their virtue in bravery and prowess in battle. Maybe it’s not fair to expect an alien culture to be different, after all I haven’t encountered any real ones. Maybe primitive cultures of different planets would share many of the same traits, if they are universally advantageous to that species. The setting also lacks in alieness and is very much like Earth except that it has two moons.

    Overall, this is a rousing tale with plenty of action. The battle scenes are exciting without glorifying war. The characters suffer real losses, and we feel their anguish. If you are Civil War buff or like Military SF this is a book not to be missed.

    The audiobook is only available in library editions. This means the packaging is sturdier and more permanent. Unfortunately this makes the price expensive. A more affordable download version is available at Better still, make a request to your local library to carry it (with dozens of other SFF titles, of course).

    Review of Battlestar Galactica by Jeffrey A. Carver

    SFFaudio Review

    Science Fiction Audiobook - Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica
    By Jeffrey A. Carver, based on the teleplay written by Ronald D. Moore and Christopher Eric James, based on a teleplay by Glen A. Larson
    Read by Jonathan Davis
    4 CD’s – 4 hours [ABRIDGED]
    Publisher: Audio Renaissance
    Published: 2005
    Themes: / Science Fiction / War / Robots / Military / Government / Space Travel / Mythology / Religion /

    Has anyone else noticed how good television has become during the past ten years? Well, 13 years. In 1993 Babylon 5 first aired, ushering in a new wave of science fiction and fantasy television that is both smart and damned entertaining. Following B5 was Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. Many would put Farscape and Stargate in the same category. I haven’t seen enough of either to make that judgment. We could quibble about the list of this new wave all we want, but currently at the crest of that wave is the Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica, which is, without doubt, the best science fiction show currently in production.

    This audiobook is an abridgement of the novelization of the first Battlestar Galactica show, which was a 4-hour mini-series that originally ran in 2002. I admit that even typing that makes me wince. An abridgement of the novelization of a television show. How much farther from Shakespeare can a person get? Not exactly high falutin culture here.

    But this story is edgy, tense, and complex. It opens with a complacent human race that has gotten used to life without their enemy, the Cylons. The Cylons were human-built machines that rebelled, then accepted an armistice agreement around 40 years before the beginning of this audiobook, which is primarily about the sudden unexpected attack on humanity by the Cylons. The attack leaves the Battlestar Galactica as one of the very few ships that survives, and the immediate aftermath sets up several storylines that are followed in the television series.

    Jonathan Davis, who keeps pretty busy with the many Star Wars audio titles, narrates, and does his typical and excellent job with it.

    I’m a fan of this series, and was happy to receive this audiobook. Though the audio offers nothing new over the miniseries itself, it was an enjoyable way to experience the story while driving. I’m not sure if Audio Renaissance plans to continue releasing Battlestar Galactica titles, but because of the nature of the series, they would have to release every episode since each one is dependant on what takes place before.

    Posted by Scott D. Danielson

    Review of Soldier of the Legion by Marshall S. Thomas

    Soldier Of The LegionSoldier of the Legion
    By Marshall S. Thomas, performed by a full cast
    MP3 Download – [AUDIO DRAMA]
    Publisher: Timberwolf Press
    Published: 2002
    Themes: / Science fiction / Military / Space opera / Aliens / War

    “Dat Spitz fight lak hell,” said Perrault…
    “An’ dat Buck fight lak two hells,” was Francois’s answer.
    — Jack London’s Call of the Wild

    War is hell. Ever since Sherman put it so precisely, the rest of us have been forced to merely tip our hats and let the matter rest. Then along comes Marshall S. Thomas’s Soldier of the Legion which can’t help but pick at this scab. But even if comparing war to hell weren’t a holey sock at the beginning of the book, it would be by the end of it. Every time the slightest skirmish breaks out (which is roughly every other chapter), out trots the tired old dog of hell (Cerberus, a holdover from when the Greeks ran the place) to do his duty.

    The opening hellish battle is a perfect encapsulation of the kind of mindless action and equally mindless discussion the rest of the audio play offers, proceeding from lurid descriptions of made-up, inexhaustible weapons to the effects of those weapons on the human bodies of the irredeemably evil bad guys (the Systies). Blood splatters, it sprays, it explodes, it flows, it gushes. Sometimes gore does, too, but mostly it’s blood, blood, blood. Then nearly naked women appear, and the hero tries to contain his drool and his bullets as an embarrassingly unconvincing argument breaks out among the blond-haired, blue-eyed heroes.

    The rest of the book is exactly the same, with each breakout of violence a laughable attempt to supersede the hell of the previous engagement. The troops fly to another planet, kill dinosaur-like aliens in a deep cave (double hell), save and kill primitive peoples, return to a settled world to “spy” ineptly and engage in a covert operation that plays out as stealthily as a frontal assault (hell squared), and then return to a primitive planet to battle an even worse enemy than they first thought (hell convolved with hell). But it is all just a repetition of the first chapter. In between battles, there will be awkward, pointless conversations; breasts naked and otherwise that the hero will fall in “love” with; love scenes that consist of people telling each other how much they love each other and will die and/or kill for each other; and sexless sex scenes that dither about without titillation or consummation. All acted with a style reminiscent of that seen in movies where people get paid more for how they look without clothing than for how they emote. It’s uncomfortable enough to make you actually look forward to the empty-headed shooting.

    Add to this an unthinking first-person narrator called “Thinker” and the attempted multiple use of the adverb “scarily” without ironic intent, and you have a brackish, gritty brew. The story ends, after its single interesting set-piece, with our heroes literally hanging from a cliff over (you guessed it) hell, but I would rather be tasered than be forced to listen to the sequel. This book is like a live grenade: If it comes at you, get the hell out of the way!

    This book is available at Timberwolf Press on Audio CD and MP3-CD, or from as a download.

    Posted by Kurt Dietz

    Review of Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition by Orson Scott Card

    Science Fiction Audiobooks - Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardEnder’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition
    By Orson Scott Card; Read by Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle de Cuir, David Birney and a FULL CAST
    9 CDs – 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
    Publisher: Audio Renaissance
    Published: 2004
    ISBN: 1593974744
    Themes: / Science Fiction / War / Children / Military / Politics / Spaceships / Space Station / Aliens /

    Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin isn’t just playing games at Battle School; he and the other children are being tested and trained in Earth’s attempt to find the military genius that the planet needs in its all-out war with an alien enemy. Ender Wiggin is six years old when his training begins. He will grow up fast. Ender’s two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world–if the world survives.

    Many male children covet uniforms and the manly art of war – and on the surface that is what Ender’s Game appears to be about, a wish-fulfillment novel for the pre-teen set. But it isn’t only that. Science Fiction is an accumulative literature, perhaps more so than any other kind. Good creations stick in SF and accumulate and grow. Robots once invented, need not be reinvented. Faster than light travel, time travel or Asimov’s “three laws” are tools which once created need not be ignored as outside the scope of another SF novel, quite the contrary in fact. Simply ask yourself; in what other literature could a constructed story device like an “ansible” (invented by Ursula K. Le Guin in 1966 but used in Ender’s Game) be mentioned without renaming it? But it is not just the story props that SF shares, the concepts and themes of science fiction can never be fully appreciated in isolation. Every science fiction story is in dialogue with another.

    Ender’s Game is especially engaged with two other superlative science fiction novels that preceded it, namely Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, and like those two masterpieces of science fiction Ender’s Game has something new and unique to say. Whereas Starship Troopers can be viewed as the relationship between a teenager’s individualism and his relationship to society (a neo-Hobbesian social contract concept typical of mid-career Heinlien), and The Forever War as a discussion of that same relationship but with a college aged young man and his more skeptical worldview (the post Vietnam influence) Ender’s Game engages neither an adult’s nor a teen’s relationship to his society its war. Instead Ender’s Game is that relationship from a child’s perspective. It is also, paradoxically, not a grunt’s view of a war, as was the case with both Heinlein’s and Haldeman’s novels, but rather is about how the supreme commander of an interstellar war is created.

    Orson Scott Card has not ignored the disconnect between a child’s desire to play at war and the brutal cost of killing, and the burden of ultimate responsibility. We primarily follow Ender and his classmates as they train to command Earth’s military in a genocidal war against a hostile alien threat, but the parallel story of his two siblings back on Earth compels equally. Each character in this novel is in a chess match of emotional and philosophical conflict with one another and their society. There are a few better hard science fiction stories, and a few better soft science fiction stories, but there are fewer science fiction stories as well constructed and emotionally satisfying as this one.

    The 20th anniversary of the novel’s re-publication brought about this audiobook. It is regrettable that the cover art of this edition is as generic as it is because the folks at Audio Renaissance have quite literally have brought greatness to the text. They’ve included an introduction and a postscript read by Card himself, both of which place the novel and the audiobook in its context as well as enlightening us to the author’s method of its construction. Multiple readers lead by Stefan Rudnicki work perfectly to vocally illustrate each chapter, character and scene. Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle De Cuir, David Birney and the rest of the readers have given us an audiobook perfectly rendered. In what is the pattern for the Enderverse novels adapted for Audio Renaissance readers trade off at the ends of chapters, and when two unplaced voices are unattributed – except by what they actually say – two actors engage in conversation. Multi voiced readings have never been better.

    And so it is with great pleasure that we enter this Special 20th Anniversary edition of Ender’s Game as the first into the ranks of the SFFaudio Essential audiobooks.

    Posted by Jesse Willis