An SF book about a war that lasts for centuries. It has a couple of sequels but they aren’t really a series.

Publication year: 1974
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: George Wilson
Running Time: 9 hours, 19 minutes

The book follows William Mandella through his career as a soldier and life that is changed because traveling near light speed causes time dilation. Mandela is drafted from university by Elite Conscription Act. His team mates and he are trained in harrowing conditions on the planet Charon where several people die because of the tough environment and also because they are practicing with live ammo. Then they jump to action through a collapsar, which seems to be a wormhole-like phenomenon.

Most of the time, the soldiers practice and wait but finally they encounter the alien enemy called the Taurans. The aliens seem to be peaceful even though they supposedly attacked a human colony unprovoked. However, a post-hypnotic suggestion had been planted into the soldiers, so when their commanding officer triggers it, the soldiers kill without remorse and even enjoying it. Afterwards, the soldiers feel pretty awful.

Even though the first campaign lasts only two years from the soldiers’ point-of-view, because of the time distortion over a decade has gone by on Earth and society has changed drastically. Also, on the return journey, the soldiers encounter Taurans who have advanced weapons, from the human POV, because for those Taurans, the war has lasted a decade. Mendella is starting to wonder, what he’s going to find back on Earth.

First off, I found the Elite Conscription Act pretty dubious; these are, after all, men and women had been trained to do something completely different and now all that education is being wasted just so they can die on some cold planet while training? That’s huge waste! This is, of course, one of the themes of the book: that military, and bureaucracy in general, are inhuman.

However, I found the time distortion effects fascinating since we got to see how human culture evolved during several hundred years. When Mandella and his lover Marygay return to Earth for the first time, Earth is in pretty bad shape. A decade of war has brought poverty and instead of money, they us calories as currency. Overpopulation is a such a great threat that food wars have been fought and the government is encouraging homosexuality. However, if they have constant warfare, which requires a lot of soldiers to die, how can they have overpopulation at the same time? Or is the number of soldiers pretty small, after all? Because of the overpopulation problem, the government also doesn’t appreciate their elderly; people over 70 might not get medical service at all, if they don’t have skills that are thought to be valuable. In this part of the book, Mandella is a fish out of water when he gapes at what has become of Earth.

Later, we see Earth where artificial wombs have become commonplace and the only accepted sexuality is homosexuality. Heterosexuality is considered a disease and there’s a treatment for it. Also, people can grow new limbs although it seems that they need metal “bones” and then grow tissue and nerves around it. Several planets have been colonized. However, I don’t remember any mention of any other intelligent aliens than the Taurans.

Oh, and the soldiers are sent out from Stargate.

This was a wild, speculative ride and I enjoyed the book a lot. Forever Peace and Marsbound are available at Audible and I’m likely to get the at some point.

According to Wikipedia, there are several editions. I wonder which one this audio book is? I didn’t notice any inconsistencies but I’ve realized that I’ve had difficulties noticing them before in audio books.

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