cover
ISBN: 0060510862

“Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man” — could well be the opening line of any military SciFi.

A definite SF classic that still reads with freshness and relevance (this is like, my 3rd reading).

The edition I read says on the cover “the author’s preferred edition of the groundbreaking SF classic“.

The Author’s Note explains “This is the definitive version…” and there were two other versions. In the early 70s the story was rejected by 18 publishers (“pretty good book but nobody wants to read a science fiction novel about Vietnam”) before St. Martin’s Press took a chance with it. The novel was serialised in Analog but left out the chapter “You Can Never Go Back”.

Also explains why he set the novel to start an interstellar war in 1996 (so that veterans of the Vietnam war were still around).

Some key concepts – fraternization within ranks in the military (required by regulations), homosexuality as the norm. Test-tube babies, society’s treatment of heterosex and homosex.

[If you’ve read books like James Webb’s Fields Of Fire where young 19-year old American boys, from a vastly technological superior force, were sent halfway round the world to kill (and be killed by) strangers from a culture alien to theirs and not quite knowing the reason, then the premise for TFW is not strange at all].

Training phase, then their first mission where they slaughter the Taurans. Next combat mission they suffered casualties when their ship was pursued by an enemy vessel. Mandella first realises his affection for Marygay.

Then future-shock (cites from Toffner, p 108) and they learn how time-dilation can work against them when a more modern fleet is sent against them.

Chp 7 p122 Mandella learns how earth has changed.

He and Marygay returns to earth, choosing to be discharged from the army. But like some Vietnam veterans, earth life now appears so alien that they sought to return to the familiarity of war, no matter how they hated the system.

They reenlist. Suffer Injuries. Both of them recuperate on the hospital planet and then receive orders to go their separate way.

Mandella is indoctrinated into the art and science of military leadership (using an Accelerated Life Situation Computer).

P220 he is propositioned by a female officer out of curiosity.

P230 he has to deal with a disciplinary problem like a similar sub-plot in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. But unlike Heinlein’s novel, Mandella’s problem stemmed from a relationship turned sour. Remember, homosex (men and women) was the norm and heterosex was the abnormality.

Then Taurans finally arrive and they fight. Next three parts described the human’s increasingly desperate battles (the Taurans were like the vietcongs or communist army – inincreasingly better in tactics and weaponry and more in numbers).

They win and return to base, and then find that earth was now controlled by clones. to be more accurate, it’s an entity of ten billion individuals and one consciousness (possibly like what happened in a later separate novel, Forever Peace).

Breeder planet.

P273: “the 1143-year long war had been begun on false pretence and only continued because the two races were unable to communicate. Once they could talk, the first question was “Why did you start this thing?” and the answer was “Me?”.

Basically, humans were too quick to pull the trigger. The Taurans were natural clones and had to learn how to become warlike as a result of this war.

Finally Mandella receives a handwritten 250 year-old note from Marygay.

The rest is classic SciFi history.

This is a 10 out of 5.

Yeah. It’s that good, imo.

Advertisements