Take any science fiction writer by the elbow and ask them this question: how is it possible to write about our world by writing about alien worlds? Because if a story says nothing to us about our lives, why should we be interested in it? And if you want to simply tell stories about our lives why not simply do so? What are the advantages in dealing with the world through the estranging medium of the genre?
The point is that science fiction is at its heart a metaphorical literature, one that aims to represent the world without reproducing it. Metaphor is a feature of all art, of course; but the metaphor at the heart of Haldeman's SF war-story [The Forever War] are more eloquent and enduring than the thinner sort we find in more so-called "realist" fictions. To pick a couple of the better, and better-known, films about Vietman: the central metaphor of Michael Cimino's Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter (1978) says, in effect, that war is like a game or Russian Roulette; Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), on the other hand, and in more characteristically 1960s idiom, says that war is in effect a bad trip, a druggy allucination of Hell. In both cases we can see some point to the notion, although the first of these limits itself to reading war in terms of life-or-death hazard, and the latter rather impertinently shrinks the experience to a kind of countercultural indulgence. Haldeman knows better than this.
The central conceit that so brilliantly illuminates The Forever War is grounded in actual science, namely the time dilation that attends interstellar transport. This not only stretches the timescale of the conflict to the point where the novel's title is only partly hyperbolic; it means that individuals transported from battle to battle age much more slowly than the stay-at-home population.
Nevertheless, it is through Einsteinian time dilation that Haldeman achieves his most enduring effects, here. One of the things this novel can do, with a greater focus and intensity than a realist novel could manage, is express the way military service alienates the soldier from "ordinary" civilian society. However brilliant the battle scenes, this is really a novel about coming back to a regular life after the thrills and traumas of the conflict - and finding that you have become the alien. Haldeman knows that, if you want to tell a story about war, you need to find a way of articulating a profundity of alienation, a depht of strangeness and dislocation. SF as the medium enables you to do that better than any other.
Adam Roberts, na introdução de The Forever War, de Joe Haldeman (1974), na edição SF Masterworks da Gollancz.