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on 1 November 2012
I first read this novel in 1977 or 78, in an earlier edition which didn't have such a dystopian centre section; in that earlier version William returns to Earth after 2 years subjective service to find 20 years have passed, his brother now looks like his father, his father has died, nearly everyone is homosexual, the planet is a more ordered and well-run place, and the authorities are almost pathologically afraid of any returning soldier giving a factual account of the war to news media. After touring around aimlessly for a while, and getting fed-up with news interviews dubbing actors' voices over his own anti-war comments, William decides to go sightseeing for a while, hooks up with Marygay and they go to his mother's place in WA to find her dying because she didn't rate medical treatment. After she dies, William and Marygay decide to re-up and go back into combat. The later version has a much more detailed and depressing dystopian view, the world has deteriorated into anarchy, and after Marygay's parents are killed in an attempted home inavsion they both decide to re-enlist. While the later version is more detailed, and probably more authentic in laying-out Haldeman's view of how this should play out, I found the earlier version more exhilarating. A strange book, it's probably the first sci-fi story about the Vietnam War I've ever read, but the details of combat and the depiction of the soldiers' views about the combat they are forced into is probably the most authentic in any genre I have read. Haldeman writes with conviction and true experience on his side (he was badly wounded in Vietnam), and uses that knowledge to write a cynical, jaded, but ultimately up-beat story about war, love, loss and reunion. definitely 5 stars!
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