My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Winner of both the Hugo & Nebula Awards, this proved to be an interesting book for me. It’s military sci fi, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not my favorite sub-genre either. Still, this didn’t go overboard, in my opinion, so that was nice. It’s about a kid drafted into an interplanetary war who, due to technology issues, ages at a rate so slow in his hyperspace jumps that centuries pass by on Earth. Meanwhile, not much is known about the aliens he’s doing battle with, and indeed, the book pays little attention to them. What interested me more about the book was Haldeman’s descriptions of his vision of Earth’s progress in the future, or lack thereof; of the changes made in society and even humanity. Where one would think positive progress is made over time, we learn that’s not necessarily the case.
Written by a Vietnam vet during the Vietnam war, there’s some occasional social commentary to be gleaned from the book, but it’s mild. One odd thing to me, though, was that women aren’t always treated overly well. When our protagonist, Mandella, is drafted, he finds that the integrated army personnel sleeps together, as in sexually and with multiple partners, and in fact, the female military members are legally obliged to be sexual partners to the men. So in essence, they’re whores. That bothered me a lot. But if you can get past that, the women are otherwise treated well, and there is a love interest in the book, which I found mildly surprising.
I was bothered by some things that took place in the last section of the book, but I don’t want to give away spoilers, so you can decide for yourself. I will say that I loved the ending, the way things were tied up so neatly, and I was actually touched by it. Good job, Haldeman.
Overall, even though I’m just giving this book a 4 out of 5 stars (some of it’s rather dated, and he was way off in terms of envisioning some technology advances), I think it’s well worth the read and I heartily recommend it to anyone out there who is not only a sci fi lover, but a reader who enjoys military books, some action, some cultural commentary, etc. Worth the time to read, and at 280 pages, it’s easy to get through. Good book!