The Literary Horizon: Starship Troopers


Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein


The historians can’t seem to settle whether to call this one “The Third Space War” (or the fourth), or whether “The First Interstellar War” fits it better. We just call it “The Bug War.” Everything up to then and still later were “incidents,” “patrols,” or “police actions.” However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an “incident” as you are if you buy it in a declared war…

In one of Robert A. 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 alarming enemy.

via Amazon

Well, if I’m going to be examining pre-Tolkien fantasy this year, I guess I ought to examine Golden Age sci-fi just to be cricket, yes? A few years back, I was alerted to the existence of Robert A. Heinlein when held a symposium on his work to celebrate their publication of Heinlein’s official biography. But my desire to examine Starship Troopers in particular versus galloping through Heinlein’s bibliography, as is my usual wont, is due to my desire to watch Paul Verhoeven’s film adaptation, which satirizes the novel. I’ve never really encountered adaptations that so willfully and so explicitly deviate from the tone of the original work, so it’s almost required reading in order to suck all the marrow from the film.

Jessica at Sci-Fi Fan Letter enjoyed the adventure but found the protagonist too flat. The non-Bryce proprietor of Only The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy considers it a classic. Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings enjoyed how Heinlein managed to make the daily grind of a military man page-turning. Chris at the Labyrinth Library found it to be an utterly unveiled love letter to the military, which also assumes the author is correct and the reader is wrong.

Starship Troopers was published in the December of 1959.

6 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: Starship Troopers

  1. I would recommend seeking out Gordon R. Dickson’s DORSAI! (Yes, the exclamation point is part of the title.) It isn’t as popular now, but it came out close to STARSHIP TROOPERS and did just as much to define military scifi.

  2. I read the first three pages of Starship Troopers, which involves an explanation of how women make better space pilots than men, but that they lurch coming out of hyperdrive. I’ve read enough Heinlen to expect to find the images of women to be very old-fashioned-forward–they own their sexuality! That’s why they don’t wear any clothes in the future!–but I found I just couldn’t do it.

    I found the movie funny and disturbing, but the reason I picked up the book was because of how much I loved John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, which is said to owe a debt to this book. I’d love to read your review of this one.

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