Hard and soft classic sci-fi at their very best!
University student William Mandella, an exceptionally bright university student with an IQ well north of 150 has been drafted. After a thoroughly modern and terrifyingly brutal boot camp with very deadly and very live modern weapons conducted in deep space conditions beyond Pluto's orbit, he'll be part of an interstellar war against the enigmatic Taurans, an alien species discovered when they supposedly attacked human ships.
Sci-fi fans know that most authors have a tendency to favour the hard or soft side of the genre. Clifford Simak, for example, is well known for his pastoral writing style that takes eager fans by the hands and lovingly guides them on astonishing tours through the soft side of science philosophy. Robert Sawyer, on the other hand, a talented and thoroughly modern Canadian author, grabs his readers by the throat and pulls them deep into the other side of the sci-fi spectrum through the implications of modern hardware and scientific discovery. Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War" cleverly straddles BOTH sides of the fence and beyond all expectations deals brilliantly with four separate themes, two soft and two hard, combining them into a single compelling but surprisingly short novel!
The titles gives away the obvious fact that war is an issue. "The Forever War" was published in 1974 and Haldeman is writing his story in the politically turbulent aftermath of the US experience in Vietnam. Whether Haldeman is vilifying warfare or simply presenting it as a fact of life and leaving it up to his readers for their own decisions will, of course, be a moral judgment that you will have to make for yourselves. (Comparisons will be made between this novel and Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and Scalzi's "Old Man War" which also touch on the same topic of war with slightly different approaches).
Also on the softer side of the sci-fi genre, Haldeman has postulated a future in which asexual cloning has replaced normal reproduction and world governments have encouraged homosexuality as a solution to the world's population problems. In a clever twist on the world's current prejudices, Haldeman ultimately creates a world in which homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is perceived to be a perverted deviation. I've no doubt in my mind that a reader's current comfort level with alternative sexual orientations will also determine their reaction to this particular theme in the novel and whether or not they find it amusing or deeply disturbing!
On the hard side of the science spectrum, Haldeman deals imaginatively but realistically with two realities - the hard core rigors of deep space travel and the realities of relativistic effects such as time dilation.
No matter which side of the sci-fi spectrum you favour, you owe it to yourself as a fan to read Haldeman's novel. Unequivocally recommended as I go out to the second hand book stores to seek out the other books in the series, "Forever Peace" and "Forever Free".