Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein

My copy: 9780441783588

Well, I’m not going to bother with a description of how different the book is from the 90s film (hint: a lot!). But on its own, just reading it for what it was, I found it a bit surprising and enjoyable.

I haven’t read Mr. Heinlein’s other works yet, so I can’t lend insight into his writing style and if this is a departure or holds it up well. The story itself, the format of it, feels like the life of a man in the service, telling you what is relevant when it comes up more than chronologically. In fact, the story starts like this:

I always get the shakes before a drop. I’ve had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can’t really be afraid. The ship’s psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn’t fear, it isn’t anything important–it’s just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.

I couldn’t say about that; I’ve never been a race horse. But the fact is, I’m scared silly, every time. (Pg. 1)

I did find the book a little confusing at times because the narrator, Johnnie Rico, tends to name-drop and casually mention someone getting killed, some technology, or a moment in boot camp we aren’t aware of. The story is like a memoir of his time in the service, in pieces, up to the “big moment” he’s been preparing for (the same one this first paragraph above indicates).

56ff2b14a85ff6f021289cd8578c3205I don’t like spoilers, so I will avoid using any, but you do understand the characters pretty well and what they go through (when they’re expanded on). Johnnie is a good narrator, and it is a good trip through his mind seeing what he’s seeing (or not) at the time.

After all, when you live in a world, you take for granted what is in it and don’t describe things to yourself in incredible detail–it is what it is. We might not quite get it, but there’s enough there for Rico to say what something is or what it’s capable of doing, and our minds can fill in the rest. After all, it would be incredibly unrealistic and a distraction to have a lengthy description about what a certain suit of armor looks like or the ship or the landscape, even for the reader’s sake. A character that lives in the world won’t be thinking so much about those things unless they’re brand new to him/her also. If anything, this book is an excellent example for writers of how to use a futuristic first person POV.

Regarding the story, I found Starship Troopers to be a “good” interesting, with a startling philosophy on strength, morality and society. When you get through chapter 8, it’s not surprising why the book was (and sometimes still is) considered so controversial. In it, Rico reminisces about an old high school teacher and a class discussion on twentieth-century society. Though some people I know might consider me a bleeding-heart liberal (at least in the South), I have to admit the points brought up in that chapter should be reflected on, even if you personally wouldn’t subscribe to it. It’s worth a thought at least.

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Hell, even Popular Mechanics got into the philosophies with an interesting little article (“6 Reasons why ‘Starship Troopers’ is the New ‘The Art of War’“) that I just found while looking at concept art.

It’s worth remembering that Heinlein wrote the book in the 1960s; and we bring to a book what we have within ourselves. If you sit back and take the story for what it is, absorbing the world it shows you (a bit like the movie, I guess–hee hee), then it’s quite enjoyable. Starship Troopers is a great work and an interesting story, especially for sci-fi, futurist, and/or military buffs.

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“It’s a bug hunt, man, a bug hunt!”

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