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Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers

Updated on January 9, 2012

When people say the name "Starship Troopers," the first thing that often comes to mind is the 1997 B movie directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Casper Van Dein as the intrepid hero Johnny Rico. It's one of those films, you either love it or you hate it-- I can't speak for everyone, but I think you have to be in a certain mood (or mindset) to enjoy a movie filled with angry, yelling soldiers and drill instructors.

The book, however, was alot more interesting and appeals to a much larger audience (in my opinion). It's philosophical, it's gritty, it's real. When Johnny Rico goes through boot camp, it isn't the glorious ride through co-ed showers and laser ranges that we see in the movie-- it's closer to the reality, it's harder, much harder, and every minute keeps you right there through it all. When Rico talks about stealing crackers from the kitchen to stay alive, Heinlein's writing makes you feel his hunger, the cool calm with which he overrides any sense of desperation. Sticking with Rico through bootcamp in this novel changes you, gives you a new appreciation for life, and does it in such a way that you might find yourself making different choices in day to day life. You might find yourself waking up an hour earlier to get a few more things done in a day, or you might let it roll right off your back as unimportant next time the barista at Starbucks gets your order wrong. It's that kind of book-- sure, most of us never go through the kind of mind-altering survival training Johnny Rico does in the pages of "Starship Troopers", but this book will definitely get you thinking about how you live your life.

Needless to say, Heinlein's Starship Troopers does not disappoint. It's another excellent example of how amazing a writer he is, and a wonderfully timeless piece of literature. Written in 1959, it's use of technology is left vague enough to keep it fresh and applicable even with today's scientific knowledge, but he also explains it just enough to amaze. Heinlein's Mobile Infantry suits are undoubtedly the grandfather of all "Powersuits" and "Power Armor" to appear in science fiction, and they work in a fashion that's still very believable. And all this in 1959! Heinlein is another genius of the written word.

Perhaps the best part of "Starship Troopers" is still the philosophy Heinlein pushes through in it. It isn't really 100% politically correct, but the way he slashes apart our modern system of citizenship and correctional institutions and replaces them with a simple "serve and earn the right to vote" and the idea of instituting public lashings as punishment for crimes does have it's simplistic appeal. Of course, it's this aspect which makes the book so controversial, and I can only imagine how controversial it was coming out in 1959.

All in all, I give it a good four and a half stars. Maybe four and three quarters. It's not the perfect book, but it's darn good, and definitely a recommended read regardless of how you feel about the film "Starship Troopers" or it's atrocious sequel "Hero of the Federation."


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