Author: Joe Haldeman
Details: (c) 1974 Joe W Haldeman; Pub Del Rey 1981; ISBN 0-345-30148-X
Verdict: The forever war is original but flawed.
Reasons for reading it: It was included in that significant SF books list and that reminded me that I had a copy waiting to be read.
How it came into my hands: rysmiel picked it out when I was book shopping in Montreal last year.
The premises of The forever war seem extremely unlikely to me, but it is an interesting and exciting exploration of those premises. There's a lot of detail of military stuff, but it's sensitively done so it doesn't overwhelm the story, or worse, expect the reader to get off on it. And it manages to keep up the pace, something which is difficult in a plot structure which is basically a series of scences where the hero nearly dies in increasing horrifically battles. It's military fiction which is exciting without being glorifying, and it's thinking about the consequences of the war in space trope without just transplanting a twentieth century war into stage scenery space. I'm fairly certain it's making a point about the Vietnam war, but it's doing so relatively subtly.
The style is very standard old-fashioned hard SF, with a lot of exposition, and a lot of our geeky hero saving the day using physics and lateral thinking. It's a masculine book, but not to the point where it's unreadably annoying. The depictions of various dystopian futures are not startlingly amazing but they make a good counterpoint to the intergalactic war sections of the book, and they're not badly executed.
My main criticisms of tFW are that it has a really bizarre attitude to both sex and gender. And there's a possible reading which isn't descipably homophobic, but it's not the most obvious one. Plus, the ending is incredibly saccharine and totally implausible given the build-up earlier in the book. Basically, its only going to be interesting to people who are deeply into traditional SF, but it's not a bad example of such.