The introduction to this edition introduced me to the fact that it is considered a seminal work of science fiction about war. Also that it is seen (as the author intended) as a reflection on the Vietnam war. As such I was curious how it would hold up. As a history buff, with a bent for military history, I know a bit about Vietnam. But the war was a long time ago, and not being an American it does not resonate for me as it does for Americans.
I’m happy to report for me the book killed it. The reflections on the insanity of war both physically and as an institution were timely for Vietnam but, as truth is, prove timeless as well.
The science fiction of the book is straight up brilliant. My one note is that I did not understand at least 90% of the math (and there a lot of math). I didn’t mind because the author used the concepts connected to the math so skillfully to drive the emotional arc of the story. But honest to God I have no idea if he made it all up. A look at Haldeman’s bio leads me to believe the math is a least conceptually sound but I don’t know.
Human sexuality plays a curiously prominent role right from the get go and I wasn’t always sure what to make of it. I loved the ending though which manages to be both species cynical/inevitable and personally romantic at the same time without feeling like the author cheated. To see how you have to read the book it’s to good to give away but I’m pointing it out because it highlights just how good the writing is.
Is the book perfect? It’s close. The math, though important, was to me by virtue of its incomprehensibleness at times a little slow, the sexuality the same. Some of the “home” scenes didn’t resonate with me quite as much as I feel they would have with original, intended, audience. There was one part of the ending that was as cliche as it was inevitable, albeit necessary, even important. But the bottom line is this. I enjoyed this book. I recommend it. And I’m itching to read the sequel. 4 1/2 stars