Decided to get around to reading The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, since I’ve had the book for like over a decade, when an old roommate left it behind. Also looked intriguing.
So it starts really good. It was written in 1974 by a guy that went through the Vietnam War, and the entire book is basically about that experience. A war is started with an alien race nobody has seen, the first half of the book is spent training in exo-suits, then they actually travel to a planet and wipe out a village. The government/military is presented as being pretty evil, drafting everyone of value into the army and using a form of hypnosis to put troops into a murderous frenzy before the start of combat. There’s also some interesting stuff about time dilation, and the way in which they are sometimes fighting enemies from their past, and sometimes fighting enemies from a decade in the future, with technology that’s advanced accordingly.
UH THEN?? THEY GET BACK TO EARTH and it’s the far-flung year of 2020. Due to the time dilation, they’ve only been out at war for two years, but back on earth, thirty-something years has passed. Haldeman is going for a “troops return from world to find themselves utterly alienated culturally” kind of thing, and on the base level that works, but god, the details are a little wild.
So immediately we’re told that the population grew absurdly large in the 30 years he’s been gone, to the tune of like 13 billion. Then 4 billion died in the Ration Wars, when there wasn’t enough food to go around and wars were fought to feed everyone. Once that was over, calories became the new currency system (which I kinda liked), and farming’s kind of the only job that matters, so all space everywhere is made up of farms - there are no forests or national parks or anything. Also, it’s impossible to find jobs, since there’s way more jobs than people, so there’s a huge black market for buying other people’s jobs, with the arbiter getting a cut. So far, beyond the crazy population spike, that isn’t unbelievable - The Expanse has a similar situation with everyone on Earth on a UBI due to the lack of jobs.
So the thing is, though, the homosexual population is exploded in the last few decades, leading to a thing called “homolife,” which, is just being gay. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that homolife is in fact intentionally being driven by the government as a means of population control. So, people in the book just become gay, either willingly or without explanation, until by the book’s end the vast majority of Earth’s population is gay, and the protagonist is THE LAST STRAIGHT STANDING, spat upon by the gays in this hellish topsy-turvey future dystopia. They call his kind “breeders.”
So um!!! There’s a few problematic ideas being tossed about there. Feels like the kind of thing TVTropers would love to death.
Don’t know if I’m going to finish it. Basically he’s re-enlisted because he has no other options in this Earth gone mad, so, I guess we’re back to the grind. And I do like the war side of the book, so, might be worth it.
There was one bit I liked from the super-bleak Earth section, which reminded me of Garrick’s speech about Cardassia at the end of DS9:
The main thing that was wrong was that everything seemed to have gotten just a little worse, or at best remained the same. You would have predicted a least a few facets of everyday life would improve markedly in twenty-two years. Her father contented the War was behind it all: any person who showed a shred of talent was sucked up by UNEF; the very best fell to the Elite Conscription Act and wound up being cannon fodder.
It was hard not to agree with him. Wars in the past often accelerated social reform, provided technological benefits, even sparked artistic activity. This one, however, seemed tailor-made to provide none of these positive by-products. Such improvements as had been made on late-twentieth-century technology were – like tachyon bombs and warships two kilometers long – at best, interesting developments of things that only required the synergy of money and existing engineering techniques. Social reform? The world was technically under martial law.