Word of warning I m going to discourse both on the book and on the Verhoeven s movie.
He didn t include them as grunts probably because the training was sufficiently hard that most wouldn t have made it If you read the description of the training it wasn t just 12 weeks square bashing, it reads far like Special Forces.
It might also have been because he was paying lip service to a society kind of modelled on 50s America where the ladies were the home makers and females in the frontline weren t even on the radar.
However, having said that, we have the fabulous line about females in high rank and esteem If the Almighty ever needs a hand to run the universe hot ship pilot Yvette Deladrier after Starship commander Deladrier brakes her ship s orbit to recover a lander that has blasted off late and which otherwise would miss rendezvous and all on board would perish I ve heard from a lot of my friends saying the movie version is utter shit I m not so sure The thing is, Verhoeven was a master of taking existing texts and subtly pushing them into satire by overdoing Hollywood MTV filming tropes The viewer was encouraged to look at the films as broad entertainment and then ask what the actions of the heroes had to do with American culture He did the same with Joe Eszterhas s scripts for Basic Instinct and Showgirls Basic Instinct is a detective story where the hero is someone who s already gotten away with murder because of his badge, and who shoots another innocent victim before the film is out, while the villain is never actually shown to kill anyone She s chiefly a suspect because of her sexuality which is why GLAAD picketed the film and lack of shame about it Showgirls meanwhile depicts a vision of Las Vegas as a patriarchal dystopia where every woman is judged on her body and literally every male character is a predator of some kind If you re into SF, read on.
My first impulse is to dismiss it as an appalling piece of militaristic propaganda, whose one saving grace is that it s at least much better than the movie But that wouldn t be doing the book justice With all its faults, I simply loved it as a 14 year old, and I m in no way alone there Why is it so fascinating Let me start by dismissing a couple of possible theories One reviewer wonders if it s deadpan satire 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 I don t think that idea stands up to serious examination Many of Heinlein s early books extol militaristic right wing libertarian virtues Sixth Column 1949 is a particularly flagrant example From what I ve heard, the satire theory is in fact the reverse of the truth 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, flexible than he s often made out, he rewrote it that way and followed it up with a couple of similar books.
Many people are taking Starship Troopers at face value, and appreciate how it presents the military in a positive light Well, there s clearly something to that But why does this book, as opposed to many others, do such a fantastic job of selling this particular point of view If you re a soldier yourself, I can see that Heinlein, also a soldier, can make you proud of what you re doing But my parents were strict believers in non violence, and I ve never had any contact with that world at all I still thought it was great.
So, on mature consideration, here s another theory, which I claim relates better to Heinlein s oeuvre as a whole By the way, I m only saying oeuvre because I know it would annoy him One theme that he keeps returning to over and over again, in different forms, is the relationship between the self and the rest of the universe 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 You can occasionally see this idea presented in a straightforward way In his short story They 1941 , it turns out that the paranoid main character is completely right about what s going on He s the most important person in the world everyone else, for reasons never revealed, is involved in a gigantic conspiracy against him, whose main purpose is to prevent him from discovering who he really is In The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag 1942 , we find, again, that things truly aren t as they seem, and that all existence is illusory The world, we learn at the end, is a work of art, and can be changed at any moment Hoag is in fact an art critic, sent to judge us on aesthetic grounds And in the classic time travel story All You Zombies 1959 , the hero discovers that he s his own father and mother As he says, he knows where he came from but where did all you zombies come from The final paragraph gives us to understand that other people may not exist at all.
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 Wittgenstein the solipsist is saying something sensible, but chooses an odd way to express it 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 A powerful metaphor for this barrier, which he used many times, is the space suit Have Space Suit, Will Travel 1958 is not one of his best books, but the descriptions of what it s like to walk around in a space suit are quite good I remember them clearly, when most of the rest of the story has faded 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 I was so impressed by this that I didn t dare try a mint julep myself until I was in my mid 40s I hope you see where I m going What makes Starship Troopers so effective, I claim, is the space suit theme, which here is taken to its logical conclusion The Mobile Infantry Suit simultaneously cuts off its wearer from the rest of the world, and makes him almost invincible It s no coincidence that the stunning opening scene highlights the suit s amazing capabilities The hero is dropped directly from space onto a hostile planet, and spreads mayhem with his high tech weapons while jumping a mile at a time in his jet propelled boots all without needing to touch anything directly, or feel involved in the fates of the humanoid creatures he s killing by the hundred Fans of the book uniformly hated the movie for budget reasons, Verhoeven took out the suits, which were too complicated to render effectively After that, everything felt wrong The most important part of the imagery was missing 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 And the power the Suit confers isn t just military, but also political and moral In Heinlein s world, one only becomes a full citizen after serving in the military I don t agree that this is a desirable way to organize a society, but Heinlein was describing what he saw in 1959, Eisenhower, a former general, was nearing the end of his second term, and would be succeeded by Kennedy, a decorated war hero Both were very popular.
Now, of course, things have changed, and the military industrial complex is usually cast as the villain 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 do wonder what Heinlein would have made of that.
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 I m glad that I re visited this one, because in the 30 years since I first read it, I changed I became a husband and a father, and significant to my appreciation of this work, went to boot camp, OCS, and Iraq From this new perspective, I think I understand and value Heinlein s vision than I did before This is not at all about action, and fighting bugs, it is a study of a man s compulsion to fight and or serve his country, and a discussion about our society s, and any society s responsibility to its citizens and what is best for society Like many Heinlein novels, it works well on many levels, the surface science fiction, and then the deeper, complicated voice of the storyteller, speaking from his own experience.
This is a controversial book Criticized for espousing a militaristic, maybe fascist ideal, Heinlein was also criticized from the other side for his own lack of combat experience This book inspires strong emotions At the end of the day, it was a fine book, another excellent, genre transcending work from Heinlein.
Starship Troopers is listed amongst the recommended books by the United States Air Force for a reason For those who plan on pursuing a military career, this book exhibits the very ideals upon which our current military standards are based Camaraderie, Sacrifice, and Responsibility are than mere words to the protagonist The distinction between a fighting man and a soldier is made The distinction between a superior rank and a true officer is made Johnny Rico is a soldier in than merely name, and the reader discovers this through this narrative.
For those of you who have seen the film incarnation of this story, simply forget it It won t aid you in understanding or predicting the outcome of this book The tempo, messages, and level of seriousness are completely different Most of you know the pitfalls of watching the movie first, so I implore you to read this book before seeing the movie If you have already seen the movie, as I stated before, forget it.
There is one thing I would mention that is perhaps the fault of this book Heinlein shapes a militaristic, possibly even oppressive society, out of the remaining nations on earth He touts the virtues of citizenry only being earned through dedicated service At the same time, he manages to skirt by some of the practical and realistic attitudes of people The society could very well work if it was implemented exactly in the fashion it is described in his novel, but the transition from our current societal structure to this system of government is EXTREMELY unlikely It takes the edge off of the bold concepts, making this book only a 4 star.
To end on a positive note I ll say this When I finally finished this novel I had a brief spark inside of me For once in my entire career, I felt a sense of pride in being a soldier No military training, no officer, and certainly no civilian has ever made me feel as proud of my profession as that novel has.