The forever war, by Joe Haldeman (1974)
The forever war is a much-needed intellectual rebuttal to Starship Troopers. I really like gossip so I’m going to tell you that Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran, whereas Heinlein had to content himself with being a naval engineer, serving in the Navy and never taking part in a single armed conflict. Which makes it much easier to glorify war and the army.
In The forever war, humanity has discovered collapsars, wormholes of sorts that allow to travel interstellar distances in an insignificant amount of time, and with them come the Taurans, that destroy human ships and then run away to be unreachable due to relativistic laws. The UNEF starts drafting the best prepared, most intelligent and healthiest young men and women and sending them to their ridiculous and unnecessary deaths. William Mandella manages to survive boot camp and a single battle, but due to having travelled at relativistic speeds, when he goes back to Earth he finds that several decades have passed and there’s nothing left to recognise or love in it. War is taking up every single resource available and leaving civilians enslaved and impoverished.
It’s very obvious that’s an autobiographical novel of sorts, where soldiers are scared shitless and commanders are ruthless, untrusting and sadistic. Mandella is taken to war against his will, there defiled and rendered useless for any other lifestyle than a soldier’s lifestyle. Time dilation is used to great effect to describe the alienation a veteran must feel towards a world in peace. And yes! Time dilation is not only acknowledged but also used as a pivotal plot device (I complained that this wasn’t very common in my review of Interstellar). It’s quite hard science-fiction until the second half, where things get more trippy, but heck, it’s all a big metaphor, who cares. ***SPOILERS*** Homosexuality as a lifestyle as a form of birth control? Don’t homosexuals like children? Is that easier than convincing heterosexuals to stop having so many fucking children? It was the seventies after all. Also you might be outraged at people being turned into homosexuality/heterosexuality but it’s a fact that in some cultures certain sexual orientations are culturally smiled upon and become more common e.g. Ancient Greece and homosexuality. Worthy reflecting upon. I also liked the design of the Taurans even though I don’t understand why sci-fi authors are so obsessed over insectile invaders, hive minds and the assimilation plot but whatever.
To sum it up, excellent read and a classic that deserves its status.