My first experience with science fiction was being read A Wrinkle in Time A Wrinkle in Time by my 5th grade teacher. After that I latched onto Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and any other number of "hard science fiction" authors (ok...as well as a lot of Hardy Boys, Johnny Quest and other pulp writing.)
I am a little surprised that I never came across this book, but the timing was probably just wrong. I was a few years too young for the Viet Nam war, but not too young to understand what was happening, or too young to remember the casualty count that used to be printed on the front page of the Philadelphia Bulletin. I remember being scared to death of reaching the age to be drafted, and my older brother and his friends discussing possible plans to head to Canada if they were selected. So I avoided all the popular Viet Nam war movies, and didn't have much interest in related books, fiction or otherwise.
So this was my first experience with "...the best science fiction war book ever written..." [William Gibson] and I was anxious to give it a read.
In retrospect I find it almost humorous that this is considered a "war book" because the few battle scenes are sparse, quick and mostly uneventful as William Mandala goes from draftee, to oldest survivor of the 1143-year war. Of course travel through collapser stars compressed time, and in real-time William never even served his original years of service.
However the writing is wonderful, the science hard, and there is even a love story thrown into the mix.
A thoroughly enjoyable book, and I will be keeping my eyes open for more of Mr. Haldeman's efforts.
My only reason for a 4- rather than 5-star rating is that this is the cold, exasperating, and ultimately meaningless life-history of a soldier: but perhaps that is the point?