Just read Starship Troopers for the first time.

Finally got around to reading this thing after years of putting it off. Don’t really like Sci-fi, or fiction for that matter but really enjoyed this book. Great book.

Random observations below:

Hard to believe it is over 50 years old. It would easily pass for a book written today.

I can see why this book is considered a classic. So many sci-fi tropes started with this thing. I can’t even name them all. It seemed so familiar but I had to remind myself that it was familiar because everyone copied this book, not the other way around.

Did he invent space marines? Reading this book I couldn’t picture anything other than the marines from Starcraft and the Zerg. I’m sure those characters were inspired by this book. Hell, that whole game seems to have been inspired by this book. That’s not a bad thing.

The last act was a LITTLE bit much, with his Rico’s dad joining up and ending up under his command. But again, this may seem cliche to me because it’s been done so many times since.

A little bit of the classroom stuff started to drag on, but that may be because I was kind of rushed to finish the last 50 pages or so.

Anyone know why this book isn’t available on Kindle or iBooks? Seems like one of only a few literary classics that aren’t.

I need to go back and watch the movie now. I know it’s not anything like it but I don’t remember much of it. Did the marines even wear power armor in the movie? I don’t remember it.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Are there other sci-fi books that are considered “classics” in a general literary sense like this book is? Are any of his other books as good as this one?

Well, try “Mars is a harsh mistress”. probably my favourite Heinlein.

The thing I find interesting about ST is the way it presents a sort of, well, realistic Sci-fi. Instead of an actioner, it’s just a diary of military life, only in the future. Lots of training, lots of waiting, lots of, even, studying.

It’s also strongly militaristic, which rubs lots of people off the wrong way. And it could be argued that the deeper Rico gets into the life, the more it dehumanizes him, to the point he loses most of his identity at the end of the book.

It’s a great book. I’ll have to reread it myself.

Don’t watch the movie. It’s basically Starship Troopers: Strawman Edition, with everything that was good about the book stripped out in order to make a bullshit arguement.

I’ve read it many times. It’s a favorite.

If you liked it, you should definitely read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It’s very different, but it’s great.

And there was no movie.

That would be, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”. And I agree that it’s perhaps Heinlein’s best book.

Starship Troopers deserves its classic status, and did not deserve to be parodied/trashed by Paul Verhoeven. The movie would be more enjoyable if you never read the book, but as an interpretation of Heinlein it’s a disgrace.

Anyway, you’re right that the book started many themes that have since become almost cliched. If you want to see the closest approximation to Heinlein’s Mobile Infantry though, don’t look to the movie ‘adaptation’ - watch the drop scene in Aliens. The Space Marines that land on the alien planet even lift some dialog straight from Starship Troopers. And Ripley even uses a form of powered armor to fight the Alien. The Starship Troopers influences are visible all through that movie. If you think of the aliens as ‘bugs’, it all starts to look pretty familiar - even to the point of there being a ‘queen’ alien.

I think the claim of ‘fascism’ some have laid against the book stems from the fact that it glorifies the soldier. Heinlein said so in many interviews - he wasn’t glorifying militarism of society or warfare - he was glorifying the poor bloody infantry - the people who put themselves between their homes and loved ones and war’s desolation.

In the Vietnam era, the counterculture and the anti-war movement couldn’t make that distinction, and so they saw any attempt at glorifying military life as fascism. Today, people know better, and to their credit, the modern anti-war movement has no problem distinguishing between the the policies of a government they oppose and the heroism of the people who fight the wars. I think Starship Troopers might get a much more favorable reading from people on the left today than it did in the 1960’s.

The actual society in the book is more libertarian than anything. It’s clear that, at least until an existential war fell on them, the government was actually rather small and had little influence over people’s lives, and the military was held somewhat in contempt by the masses. You had to do ‘service’ to be a citizen (which wasn’t necessarily military service), but if you weren’t a citizen you could still live your life just fine with no restrictions other than that you couldn’t vote. And obviously it was also a democracy. So I never understood the claim that the book was fascist.

In many ways, Heinlein was culturally ahead of his time. His treatment of women in that book was very different than his peers - he treated them as equals in every way, or even as superiors. Starship captains were women because women had faster reflexes, could take more G’s, and were more level-headed than the men. So the marines actually served under women while in space. Johnny Rico’s love interest, who he took for granted, turned out to be way smarter than him - and just as courageous.

That’s one thing Verhoeven got reasonably correct in the movie - the women were tough, smart, and just as courageous as the men. No shrinking violets hiding behind the big men there.

The marines, Zerg, (and Protoss) of Starcraft, though, were lifted more-or-less directly from the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000 (which, in turn, was inspired by Starship Troopers).

and I think it is titled "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’.

Wow, interesting co-incidence… I’ve ‘read’ Starship troopers via Audible.com audio books, but I just got my first print copy ever yesterday, as a birthday present from my brother.


I know that people have criticized the book’s politics, but I still love the essence of the big revelation in the classroom scene - that the system works because the federal service tends to weed out people who can only make decisions for their own sake, the ones who don’t develop social responsibility, and that’s why only those who’ve done their service can vote or hold public office.

It’s always served as the best answer I ever heard to the paradoxical conundrum in another great science fiction book, Douglas Adams’ “Restaurant at the end of the universe”…

Who do you get to run the government when the people who are motivated to run for president and skilled at winning elections are the ones who are least qualified to actually govern?

I found all of Heinlein’s Past Through Tomorrow set of stories to be worth reading.

Starship Troopers is a great book. You have to read Old Man’s War by John Scalziwhich is a recently-written space-marine-type book which feels like it was written by Heinlein jr.

**Dune **is nothing like Starship Troopers in terms of feel or philosophy, but creates a fascinating world with politics and religion and many other big ideas woven in…

In general, Heinlein started most themes that have since become science fiction cliches. I disagree with some of Heinlein’s themes and ideas, but when he was fully functional mentally, he was a dandy storyteller. And I think that’s how he’d want to be remembered.

Now go forth and read some John Varley and John Scalzi.

I’ll second that - although I kind of felt the rest of that series went on for too long.

I’ve always enjoyed Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones, which has nothing whatever to do with rock & roll.

Anybody notice how closely the Troopers’ training parallels that of the US Navy SEALS?
Heinlein was an Annapolis graduate. And his book was published right around the time the SEALS were being formed, or just a year or two earlier.

I wonder who he roomed with, at the Academy, so to speak.

[quote=“Cubsfan, post:1, topic:561075”]

Did he invent space marines? Reading this book I couldn’t picture anything other than the marines from Starcraft and the Zerg. I’m sure those characters were inspired by this book. Hell, that whole game seems to have been inspired by this book. That’s not a bad thing.

I need to go back and watch the movie now. I know it’s not anything like it but I don’t remember much of it. Did the marines even wear power armor in the movie? I don’t remember it.


-I’m not certain Heinlein can be credited with inventing Space Marines (I assume you mean the Warhammer kind of Marines, Space Marines have been present in SF for a long time), but he’s probably the first to describe power armors.

-Verhoeven has said that he only had budget for either the Bugs or the power armors. He chose the Bugs.
And contrary to what seems to be the majority here, it’s one hell of a movie.
Most die hard fans of Heinlein, or at least those that really dislike the movie, tend to share a lot of his views. For a good counterpiece from someone who actually saw combat action, most people praise “The Forever War” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War ) . I say most people cause I still havent read it.

It’s on my bookshelf, and I periodically reread it. The main themes of the book are CHOICES, and AUTHORITY vs RESPONSIBILITY.

The movie was a good sci-fi action film, but Heinlein it wasn’t. And its main theme was WIN AT ALL COSTS.


Quoth Sam Stone:

Despite Heinlein’s later attempts at retconning, it was quite clear from the book itself that the service was necessarily military. Rico didn’t even bother listing any service preferences past “mobile infantry”, because anything past that would be things like testing space-suits on Titan, or other forms of creative suicide. Don’t you think that he would have had, say, “mailman” on his list, if it’d been available?

If the alternate service was not specifically military, it had an equivalent chance of killing or maiming your ass. Citizenship was not awarded for trivial time-serving.

One of the possible options in the book was “labor battalions terraforming Venus”. I see no reason for that to be set up as a military organization, especially if you can quit at any time. Sounds more like working on an offshore oil rig.


Quote from Major Reid, the OCS H&MP instructor:

“And you have forgotten that in peacetime most veterans come from non-combatant auxiliary services and have not been subject to the full rigors of military discipline; they have merely been harried, overworked, and endangered - yet their votes count.”

He was also noteworthy for, right from the beginning of his career (when he was still quite poor) refusing to tolerate racism or bigotry in his books. There’s a famous exchange with one of his editors in which he makes it quite clear that, yes, one his his characters is Jewish (or possibly black, I can’t recall), and he will not be changing that, and if the editor doesn’t like that, then he is welcome to work with another author. And of course, Johnny Rico is (most likely) Hispanic. Heinlein spoke openly of his belief that young adult fiction, in particular, should work to combat prejudice.

Of course, Jo Walton (I believe it was her) made an interesting point on her blog - that Heinlein’s way of fighting prejudice was to demonstrate that anyone, regardless of nationality or ethnicity or creed, could think and speak exactly like a middle-class WASP American male. Diversity, in this sense, wasn’t Heinlein’s thing. But that’s a quibble, and it would do Heinlein a disservice to deny that, even though there are some things about his approach that seem dated now, he wasn’t a genuinely progressive and tolerant man for his day. Or today, for that matter.

Hell, even when he wasn’t all there, he still had serious chops. :slight_smile: