Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers Book Cover Starship Troopers
Robert A. Heinlein
Ace Books (original: G. P. Putnam's Sons)
May, 1987 (original: December, 1959)

"Starship Troopers" is a classic novel by one of science fiction's greatest writers of all time and is now a Tri-Star movie. In one of Heinlein's most controversial bestsellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe -- and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind's most frightening enemy.


Starship Troopers the book is very different from Starship Troopers the movie. Having seen the movie first, it set my expectations for the book. While the book is very good, it is good for vastly different reasons. If you have seen the movie, you know it is one of the top-rated action films of its era. The book has some action sequences but it is more of a political/philosophical story set in a futuristic military-based culture. Many ideas presented in the book are radical and even controversial. If you go into it with an open mind and not expecting something identical to the film, any sci-fi military lover will likely find Starship Troopers very enjoyable.

In a lot of modern fiction, especially films, the military is portrayed in a hostile if not outright antagonistic role.  Usually in the form of trigger-happy generals looking for an excuse to launch nukes. Starship Troopers is the complete flipside of that, showing the military in a positive light. With less action than the movie, the book focuses a lot more on the boot camp training of the troopers. This adds in a lot more character development as they transition from civilians to soldiers.

The action sequences are a secondary focus of the book. At its core, Starship Troopers is about Rico and his path in life. He joins the military basically on a whim and comes to truly appreciate it. His goals change from putting himself first to putting his country and fellow soldiers first. Extending from that, the book examines what any country owes its citizens and vice versa. Starship Troopers is honestly more about philosophy than action, with Heinlein’s opinions dressed up in a military sci-fi action story.

There has been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Starship Troopers since its publication in 1959. Heinlein wrote this story during the heart of the Cold War and while the Vietnam War was ongoing. Opinions on the military were a hot-button topic and Heinlein was able to get these still-controversial topics across by putting them in a sci-fi setting. Bottom line, this book is not for everyone, especially anti-military individuals. Personally, I did not agree with every idea Heinlein presented. Some of them made sense, sure, but other things seemed extreme to a civilian like me. From the fictional point of view in this book, it all makes sense. Let me underline that, fictional. This is fiction, this is a story, it is not real. If you do not like it, do not read it. And as good as this book is, I did think the movie was better.

September 2, 2018

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