My Review of Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one the best of Heinlein’s novels, though not without some characteristic problems. In a future world there has been a devastating war, and afterwards the military-dominated government takes hold. This government has set a requirement that in order to vote you have to have previously done some kind of Federal Service, usually military, though while you are in the service you cannot vote. This society finds itself in a war with an alien race of Arachnids (usually called the “bugs”), and it looks like this is going to be a war of extermination. The book is a bildungsroman, or “coming-of-age story” of Juan Rico, is presented in the book as being of Filipino heritage. Rico tells his story beginning with his Basic Training, but also with frequent flashbacks to his History and Moral Philosophy class in high school. This required course must always be taught by a veteran, and gives Heinlein and outlet for a number of pronouncements on all that is wrong with the world, and it tends to be pretty right-wing: Democracy collapsed because society could not control crime and juvenile delinquency, but with the veterans in charge everything got straightened out.

This book was originally written as part of his juvenile series for Scribners, but they rejected it and Heinlein never again wrote for that publisher. The book has positive aspects, such as the role of women in the military. Women were not infantry soldiers (even Heinlein was not ready for that), but all of the pilots of the starships are women, which Heinlein explains is because they have better reflexes. Still, this is more a macho novel than a feminist novel. It was controversial when it was released for any number of reasons, but won the Hugo for bet novel, which surprised Heinlein. This is not novel to read for plot, which is no more than necessary. It is really an extended presentation of philosophical ideas. Considered the beginning of the military science fiction genre, all subsequent military SF is in dialogue with this novel, from Haldeman’s The Forever War to Scalzi’s The Old Man’s War.

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