I suppose, when you see some of Heinlein's later books (Stranger in a Strange Land, 1961; I Will Fear No Evil, 1970), you may get the idea that he's some kind of hippy New Age prophet, and that Starship Troopers is poking fun at the militaristic right. Stranger in a Strange Land was originally conceived as a satire; Heinlein was surprised to see that people liked it and read it straight, and, more flexible than he's often made out, he rewrote it that way and followed it up with a couple of similar books. Heinlein's metaphysics were distinctly odd: he wasn't sure that he liked the rest of the universe much, or even if it existed in the first place. As we see, Heinlein rather likes solipsism, which, when you come down to it, isn't as ridiculous a philosophical position as you might think. Heinlein has a strong sense of self, and wants to erect a barrier, as tangible as possible, between him and the rest of the world. Similarly, Space Cadet (1948), which I read at primary school, is hastily written and uninspired; but again, the only scene I can recall clearly is the one where the teenage hero throws up in his space suit after inadvisedly drinking a mint julep. The Mobile Infantry Suit simultaneously cuts off its wearer from the rest of the world, and makes him almost invincible. As already noted, Heinlein wasn't writing a satire - he appeared to believe in this stuff - but I think he found a good way to dramatize what it means to be a member of the American military-industrial complex. The Suit gives its wearer superhuman technological powers, while excluding the rest of the world to the point where it barely exists at all. In Heinlein's world, one only becomes a full citizen after serving in the military. In Avatar, I couldn't help thinking that the robotic exoskeleton worn by the evil Colonel Quaritch in the final scene was rather like the Mobile Infantry Suit; the Colonel's defeat, as many people have pointed out, can be read as predicting the impending defeat of American Imperialism at the hands of a resurgent Third World.
I first read this back in early high school, maybe 26-30 years ago, and over time my memory of the book had been diluted by memories of the film and by thoughts of a similar Hugo award winning novel, The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Like many Heinlein novels, it works well on many levels, the surface science fiction, and then the deeper, more complicated voice of the storyteller, speaking from his own experience.
For those who plan on pursuing a military career, this book exhibits the very ideals upon which our current military standards are based. The distinction between a fighting man and a soldier is made. Johnny Rico is a soldier in more than merely name, and the reader discovers this through this narrative. If you have already seen the movie, as I stated before, forget it.
While I certainly can't be said to agree with Heinlein on every aspect of life, politics, or theology...I do appreciate where he's coming from in this book. The main science fiction "hook" of the book isn't even present in the movie. ********************* Update ****************** They have been playing this thing (the movie by the same name as this book)on several TV channels lately AD NAUSEAM...it seems to be on almost every time I check the listings on the idiot box. Yes this is a YA or as it was called at the time a "teen" book...but it's a good one. But the world the novel takes place in, the actual characters, the nature of the government, the way the military works...it's all different, they even get the heart of the actual story wrong. This is one of those movies that "ticks me off" in that I liked the book and this thing takes the book's title and gives us a perversion of that story. You may agree, you may disagree but it's not a government anything like the one in the ridiculous movie.
My dad had a lot of SF books around the house, particularly Heinlein's, and I read most of them, except the especially sexy ones that he hid from me. What I got was a lot of this: Not much of this: And you can forget about this: Basically it's one long military lecture wrapped in a paper-thin science fiction plot.
Seventy, yes seventy, pages of a two hundred-odd page book are dedicated to boot camp. Honestly, you could watch the beginning of Full Metal Jacket and skip reading that whole part and save yourself some time, and be more entertained in the meantime. Next you're treated to an extended flashback where a teacher (who is quite obviously channelling the author) lectures his students (representing the reader) about the major reason for the downfall of society in the past (today!). So now that our main character, Johnny Rico, is a full-fledged soldier we can finally get to some action after half the book is already finished, right? You will not see action in this book that is advertised to be about killing gigantic outer space bugs. Instead, you will be treated to the doldrums of a soldier that isn't busy killing things. These ones got hurt." Then Rico goes to officer training school where we get more detail about learning things! Don't be fooled by the first ten pages of the book, which actually contain more action than the other hundred and ninety. What you're getting when you get this book is only one step away from a military training manual, only with some references to outer space and aliens tossed in along with a couple crazy rightwing ravings as the chocolatey syrup to go on top of the whole crappy sundae.
Starship Troopers is such a cult classic its just soooooo bad that it somehow became great. Translation the book is smart and while I was reading I was all like . Know who else is from Terra???? And it wasnt even someone awesome like Captain Kirk or Picard it was more like the life and styles of one Ensign Crusher.
These guys get dropped onto planets with their spacesuits and their big guns, and they can incinerate some little brown people like you wouldn't believe, then they can leave without a single casualty. I loved the sections where he's explaining his moral sentiments since I've never understood how someone could join an army and go kill people without questioning the motives of the war itself. It's my review, and I'll argue with a dead guy if I want to.) Heinlein's protagonist also makes an argument about the prison system and how it doesn't actually reform those who do time. Uhh, yeah, back to symbolic logic class with you, Bob. But moving on...I found it quite interesting how dualistic our protagonist's thinking is when it comes to ALL PEOPLE. Then, within the military, the guys who haven't made a jump are lesser than those who have, Protagonist's peeps look down on the Navy and get in fights with them, etc. So, reading this book got me thinking about the mindset of this protagonist, and thinking about the soldiers and marines I've known, and...well...maybe as much as I disagree with this mindset, perhaps it's a necessary mindset for someone in the military. So maybe we need some people who think in this dualistic way. These rambling monologues where Heinlein was channeled through his protagonist were just as entertaining, if not moreso, than the soldiers vs. *: (There's some contention on Goodreads about whether or not this is the case, but the way I interpreted the book is that you can only vote if you've joined the military--although you might not have seen combat depending on the job you ended up with.
But. It was also incredibly pro-war and the middle development section got a little long. Well, I felt that this book also started and ended with adrenaline rushes but that the middle was a bit flat. The Bugs were never given any treatment to make them less of an "enemy" which seemed a bit like the vilification of, say, blacks or arabs by the extreme right. "The purpose of war is to support your government's decisions by force...controlled and purposeful violence." (p. Fortunately, his pessimism has not (yet) been born out and there are still many who adhere to the 'best things are free' philosophy rather than the Ayn Randian determinism demonstrated here by Heinlein.
Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer.