Why I hadn't heard of this book before I don't know. This is classic science fiction.
"The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman is the story of an interstellar war with the rules of physics I discussed yesterday in effect. The author supposed that the space program would continue to expand through the 70's and 80's and even find a way of jumping from specific points in space fairly easily. But there's all this other space travel that must be done that isn't just between those points. They have the engines to propel the ships at accelerations that would reduce any of us to a red paste with tiny bone fragments in it. They also have ways to store people so we won't die during maneuvers.
In the mid-90s some of our colony ships disappeared. Investigations into these events point to an alien species. The result is war. Instead of recruiting the poor, uneducated, and lower classes they start drafting the really smart people. Physicists and chemists and engineers and whatnot. Our central character is one of the first to be drafted. He goes off for training, fights in a battle and returns home. For him it's only been two years. Back on Earth it's 2023. 25 years gone just like that. He sees a bit of what has been happening here and decides to go back out to fight some more.
He serves for a few more years and is one of the few who have managed to survive as many battles as he's been in. Centuries have now passed and he goes to a veterans planet to recover from some injuries and blow some of the credits and interest he's built up before going back out.
When the war finally ends our hero is the only person who has served from beginning to end. It's been about 10 years for him. For Earth it's been 1143 years.
The author creates a great universe and writes it well. He not only talks about the war from the soldier's perspective like "Starship Troopers" or "Old Man's War" but he spells out the history of mankind as it changes over all those centuries. It was a good book and I'll be keeping an eye out for the sequels. This book stands alone. The sequels aren't necessary. He certainly doesn't seem to be setting up for one.
Director Ridley Scott had planned this book to be his third science fiction movie following "Alien" and "Blade Runner" but couldn't land the rights. After 25 years he did finally get the rights sorted out. Expect the movie sometime in 2010.
I had a similar idea for a TV series about a group of people who operate an interstellar shipping vessel. The show follows them as they hop from planet to planet and return to Earth every so often. But every time they get back to Earth it's only been a year for them but decades have passes. People they meet can come back in later episodes, but only for a couple of Earth based episodes since they age so much. Governments rise and fall, social movements come and go. Dialects shift and slang changes. Plus, there's everything going on on other planets and between the planets.