I read this years ago, I think in high school or college and thought it was great. I don’t think it’s nearly as great, but it’s still very good. This is a book about endless war, asymmetrical war, and the dehumanizing process of war on both soldiers and enemy combatants — as well as the cynical ways in which participation in war is seen as a legitimizing, if not the only legitimizing, active part of citizenship, despite how empty warfare is (especially post-WWII).
Johnny decides to sit out college and join the Mobile Infantry, or more so join the all volunteer military in a time of peace, that quickly becomes a time of endless war. Having general skill but nothing especially in his mastery, he becomes an “ape” a infantry soldier who uses a cybernetic exoskeleton suit to fight the endless galactic wars of humanity. He does this in part because of the influence of his ethics and morality teacher and in defiance of his father. The resulting 200 or so pages are mostly plotless involving his training, military education, combat experience, and OCS, while he begins to understand more and more about life in this endless perpetual state of warfare. There’s a few moments of combat sewn in but this is not an adventure story, and at one point Johnny even tells us that narrating warfare is an ultimately empty venture as it doesn’t make any real sense, but mostly the book is a reflection on ideas, times spent in classrooms and training, and a treatise on the nature of mechanized humanity.