As with any good sci-fi the story and descriptions of the latest gadget are important; however this is just the window dressing or vehicle to carry a message or concept to you with out sounding too preachy.
Basically this book is not fascist like the movie. It suggests that people should be responsible for their actions and have a stake in what they make decisions on. Never did it say that these people were smarter or better, just that when you have a vested interest your decisions tend to work or you will pay.
I was intrigued in the process that Johnny Rico was going through in the story. The movie does not phase me as it looks like cartoon hype. But the book was too close to home. I hope my memory is flawed as I remember every one of the people types that he described. Actually I think with the volunteer Army today it is closer to the book than was Vietnam where conscripts looked on it this as slightly preferable to prison. I know that this story is not about the military but it is too real to be ignored as just the story.
You could have floored me with I found out there were no naked women in the book. Dizzy Flores must have had a great Swedish doctor. This could have been a genuine attempt to update the story; however it distracted from the original purpose.
Basically after school Johnny Rico is whisked into the military by peer pressure and to finds out if he is more than just the factory owner's son. While going through boot camp he learns of different cultures and the intricacies of military life. Naturally he makes mistakes and learns from others mistakes. As he grows he learns what make the world the way it is. I will not contrast this book with the movie because I think you enjoy the story more if you find out what happens as it unfolds.
on April 11, 2004
I must admit that I did not get around to reading this book until after I'd seen the movie. I liked the movie, and so I figured "why not read the book" well... the Book, aside form being dang near a compleatly diffrent story from the movie, was, in my humble oppinion, way better. I am a big fan of the war based sience fiction type books.
I think the Bigest thing that Cought on me about this book was that its not telling the story about a guy that joins the millitary, and goes off to fight some aliens, It's telling you a story about how joining the millitary and going off to fight some aliens has changed from a once dumb civilian, into a soldier, and a citizen. It's about how Juan Rico, evolves from a boy to a man, and from a follower into a leader.
I particularly liked the use of technology, and how for as cool as it is, it's not even an issue in the book. The book didn't get all carried away with fancy weapons and armor, but instead gave you a basic outline and let your own imagination fill in the rest.
There were a lot of Socialistic idiologies, in this book, but I still liked how their govenment was set up, and I think it's too bad we couldn't make a system like that work in today's sociaty.
It's definatly a deep read, with a lot of questions that you may find you ask yourself, but that's part of the joy I found in reading it. so if your looking for some straight "balls to the walls" action like you saw in the movie, this might not be your book, but if your in for some real Sci-Fi that'll keep you woundering what'll happen next, and just who Rico will become in the end, this is your meal ticket!
on August 22, 2002
Less a slam-bang action-fest than a gutsy personal analysis of what makes for a realistic and attainable utopia, Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" fails to achieve great heights not because of the author's political agenda (the reason this book is continually labelled controversial), but simply due to poor pacing and a less than fully developed plot.
Told from the perspective of Juan Rico, one of the Terran Federation's armored Mobile Infantrymen, Heinlein's novel follows Rico's journey from listless graduate to raw recruit to battle-hardened warrior. Along the way we are treated to numerous socio-political asides on why the story's right-wing form of government works and why previous ones failed. Rico's military training is explored in convincing detail, and is in fact the backbone of the book.
Therein is some of the problem--Heinlein's never-ending seminars tend to get repetitive toward the end of the book, and Rico himself seems to run out of anything new to say. Other characters, including Rico's would-be sweetheart, Carmen, are barely developed and are only rarely shown interracting with the narrator. Moreover, despite its billing as a first-rate adventure yarn, there are only a few battle scenes and what we do get are over quickly and often only vaguely described--except for the opening scene, easily the most exciting part of the book and after which everything else is a slow letdown.
None of which makes "Starship Troopers" a bad book. The military and political evaluations are genuinely interesting FOR AWHILE and the whole is leavened with Heinlein's inimitable quirky sense of humor. If only Heinlein had developed the plot and its characters a bit more, this would have been a truly fine novel. As it is, it's still worth a look as long as you know what to expect: this is a political commentary, not sci-fi excitement. At the very least, it's better than the movie.
on January 10, 2015
After reading The Forever War (1974) and Armor (1984), both of which share certain key characteristics, I decided it was time I went back to the source: Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1959, film 1997).
In the late 20th Century, the great democracies of the world collapse under social instability and the rise of China. Out of the dust emerges the Terran Federation, a somewhat fascist world government that, while allowing relative social and economic freedom, only permits full citizenship—and thus the right to vote and hold public office—to veterans. Chasing full citizenship and spurred on by his History and Moral Philosophy teacher, Johnny Rico enlists in the Mobile Infantry, hoping to complete a two year term then return to Earth to attend Harvard Business School before taking over the family business. Midway through his rigorous training on the Canadian prairie, though, Buenos Aires is destroyed by a long-range attack from an ant-like alien species, the Terran Federation formally declares war, and Johnny's term gets extended indefinitely. Rising a few ranks in training and soon finding himself in combat operations, Johnnie grows used to the life of a soldier (despite some serious doubts along the way) and ultimately decides to become an officer.
That's a pretty short plot summary, granted, but there aren't many momentous plot points in Starship Troopers. Most of the plot is Johnnie's day-to-day life in training, his relationships with his fellow troopers and superiors, and eventually his combat experiences; furthermore I can really only think of one point that was interesting from a character development perspective. So why, then, is this book so well-known and so controversial, if it lacks plot and character? Answer: theme.
Starship Troopers is decidedly pro-military and verging on pro-fascist, with Heinlein's personal views captured by Johnny's History and Moral Philosophy teacher, Mr. Dubois: "the noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and war's desolation." The distinction between civilian and full citizen is military service, the only way one can obtain the right to vote. Liberal democracy is liberally bashed, the free market is laughed off as a joke, and suddenly it's clear why the film version of Starship Troopers was so dripping in satire. In the print domain, Joe Haldeman wrote The Forever War as a response to Starship Troopers, as he came to fundamentally disagree with Heinlein's glorification of the military after being injured in Vietnam. We can thus trace the key ideas of powered armor and insectoid enemies from Heinlein to Haldeman as an attempt to present a familiar story in a vastly different light. (As for Steakley's Armor, I don't know of any such strong link to either Heinlein or Haldeman, but the eventual influence is clear.)
While I personally found the politics and militarism espoused by Starship Troopers not to my taste (in that I don't mind a sense of civic duty, but the extent to which Heinlein demands it is too extreme) it by no means ruined the book. Starship Troopers certainly lacks plot and character, but its Grand Overarching Idea, palatable or not, makes for a thought-provoking and controversial science fiction novel—just as things should be. Four stars overall.
Juan Rico graduates from high school and goes off to war, where he learns how to fight, sees some of his friends get killed, and finds out that his high school history teacher was right about life and responsibility. Sounds like a cliché WWII movie, doesn’t it? Many of the ideas came from that war and the author’s experiences in the U.S. Navy. But he used those experiences to write science fiction instead of historical fiction.
The enemy in this book are the Bugs, ferocious aliens from outside of our solar system who open hostilities by nuking a few of Earth’s major cities. (Including Juan’s home town.) Learning to fight requires operating a highly automated and nearly autonomous spacesuit and numerous beam, projectile, and hand weapons. Juan’s reflections on the lessons of his teacher, a combat veteran, provide a forum for Heinlein to lecture the reader about self-reliance, responsibility, and citizenship.
This is a representative Heinlein juvenile science fiction novel. Everything from the action to the politics fits the bill. The technology has aged well and the politics… well, readers will have to decide that issue for themselves. It’s worth reading.
Do NOT confuse this book with the very shallow and stupid movie of the same name. Don’t see that movie, either. Read the book instead.
on May 15, 2004
I thought this book was a little superficial in its treatment of the "Hero" archetype. Contrary to the first reviewer I would say that this book is anything but rational. The archetypes and myths employed in this book have been examined much more closely by non-fiction authors such as Joseph Campbell, Jung and Freud. Heinlein has just taken an old myth and covered it with a sci-fi veneer. Nevertheless, it is entertaining.
For those of you with honorable tendencies I recommend "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius recorded the thoughts collected in this book while on campaign with the Roman legions. He was also emperor at the time. His ideas are morally courageous, well thought and grounded in practical experience.
on March 27, 1998
The movie coming out, I thought I'd read this. I was dissapointed. Heinlien seems to preach throughtout the book of this "wonderful" new nation in which military and brutality is held above all. I got a little sick of Johnnie's one-armed teacher ranting and raving about the weaknesses of the 20th century democracies "a department of defense never won a war" and the harsh treatment of military offenders. And there was little character realism. Nearly every line of dialogue dated the book, I found myself imagining characters from 50's sitcoms as the book's characters. Anyway, this is as ok book if you're looking for something different. If you like philosophical looks at people fighting insects, try Ender's Game.
on May 19, 1999
Sorry, folks, but I didn't find this thing either the work of genius some would have you think, nor the abomination others decry. It basically reads like a recruitment guide for the military. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but if you buy it looking for action you will be sorely disappointed; it begins with action, and there is some action later, but not very much. Seventy-five percent of it is the author's political and/or moral philosophy, as rendered by various teachers, military officers, and the narrator.
on January 22, 2016
The moment I finished this book, I told my boyfriend that I had wished I had read this book in an English class in high school. The philosophical ideas conveyed, the military life style in a realistic and positive light, and a different political system that criticizes our own makes it a book necessary to really get a person thinking and seeing war, democracy, and citizenship in a different light.
It's an easy read, though heavily detailed in army jargon, something which surprised and equally satisfied me. I am not immersed in army culture, but the book still does a good enough job of explaining different level structures in the army (which already changes from element to element and country to country anyway). The book also left me laughing at some points, reminding me of stories I've heard from friends in the reserves and army.
It really makes you question your life decisions and just how much you'd be willing to fight for your country. But what makes it stand apart from other war novels is the fact that it doesn't dismiss war - it discusses it with the reader and explains why it is necessary. Whether or not you agree, it nonetheless gets you thinking given its opposed view point.
The only complaint I have related to the book is the cover. Nothing related to the content, but if ever it were re-published, I would prefer something more "timeless". Even the first edition cover looks nicer. I know I shouldn't be judging a book by its cover, but seriously, that cover is awful. It doesn't do justice for such a great novel.
on January 3, 2012
Heinlein's Starship Troopers is fast paced, easy to read science fiction novel. The story follows Johnnie Rico as he enlists into the global government's mobile infantry. We follow Rico through his gruelling months at boot camp, turning from a naïve youngster into well trained soldier of an elite fighting force. Soon war between humanity and the "bugs" breaks out, resulting in Rico, and his comrades, being deployed into battles across the galaxy. We follow the course of the war, from humanity being on the verge of defeat to turning the tide, while following Rico's rise through the ranks. The battle scenes are well told and gripping and Heinlein even manages to make the mundane life of his soldiers between battles equally gripping to read.
While the story is well told, in places feeling like Rico is writing a letter to explain how life in the army is, most of the characters, with the exception of the protagonist, feel two-dimensional and I don't feel like they are developed as well as they could have been. At several points the author opts not to provide sufficient detail: the reader is basically left to make up their own mind on what the armour, the infantry use, looks like (although ironically Heinlein provides an overly complicated account of how the armour works), and the officer training school Rico goes to feels like a rehash of the high school sections as both only focus on the one class: `history and moral philosophy'.
While the type of government that rules over humanity seems to get a lot of attention, appearing to be militaristic and created out of the ashes of the collapsed twentieth century societies, I do not see why it still creates so much debate today. On its release in the aftermath of Second World War, the discussion of a utopia created by a militaristic society would of course appear shocking, however today it just seems fantasy, and dare I say it pure science fiction. The Russian Revolution is alluded to during the work and the creation story of the federation seems to be an imaginative retelling of such events, and similar ones throughout history: collapse and/or revolution against the existing order resulting in the creation of a new way of ruling people.
The author makes several points throughout the work aimed at the apparent inadequacies of the military forces of the "past" and the superiority of the mobile infantry over them. All these comments seem to be aimed at the military the author was part of, the Second World War and the Korean War and the armies that fought them. However my impression is that morality and universal suffrage are the central theme of the book. During the flashbacks to Rico's time in high school, and later during his time in the military, the `history and moral philosophy' classes that he takes are used as a vessel by the author to discuss the difference between being a civilian and a citizen, and the benefits of being the latter. A citizen is someone who has enrolled for `federal service', to serve the central government in some format (not just in a military capacity, yet this is the route our hero ends up going down) and on completion of that service is granted citizenship and the right to vote. Having undertaken this service the person has gained the responsibility, and moral superiority, needed to make a qualified decision when it comes to voting whereas the civilian is essentially unqualified to make such a decision. On completion of his service, Rico should be ethnically and morally superior to a civilian. However here lays the greatest irony of the work. By the time Rico finishes basic training he been turned into a professional killer ready to follow whatever order he is given, he is no longer the individual he started as. He goes to war were he indiscriminately kills warrior and worker bugs, before learning the difference between the two, he is remorseless, destroys private-civilian property and sets out to destroy key civilian infrastructure such as a waterworks, and has no objection to the use of biological warfare. The war between the humans and the bugs, and their short-term allies, is one of total-war and in it Rico losses any moral or ethically superiority he is supposed to gained during his service, over a civilian. In all this I think perhaps the author is mostly looking back to his wartime service and hinting that the men who fought the war hold no superiority over the rest of us. The question raised from all this but not answered by the author, is how this service, all this violence, the complete change from a naïve individual to trained killer, one among many, closer to the bug hive mind and warrior mentality, makes Rico any more responsible to make an informed decision in voting when it comes to the civilian who is untouched by these horrors, unchanged, still an individual. The central theme is contradictory: the citizens are not demonstrated to better qualified, due to having served and gaining superior morality, to vote than complete universal suffrage.
A gripping read, which is not without its flaws but at the same time is thought provoking. Recommended.