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Starship Troopers April 18, 2011

Posted by Jeff in Uncategorized.
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If you’ve seen the movie, be advised that it totally misses the tone of the book.

Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers won the Hugo award for best novel of 1960. Over half a century after its publication, Starship Troopers is on the reading lists of the USMC and the US Navy. It is the first science fiction novel on the reading lists at three of the five US military branches. Mostly a political statement, this book was extremely controversial and caused a furor when it was released. In it, he not only slammed communism/socialism, but he also took a few shots at democracy, or the silly shape it had fallen into at the time. This book is a must-read, and you might possibly learn something while being entertained. Certainly it will cause you to think.

One of its central themes was that citizenship and the right to vote had to be earned by two years of Federal service, whether in the military or otherwise, instead of just being handed to anybody who was warm and breathing. This would demonstrate that the individual was willing to make personal sacrifices for the greater good.

What a firestorm this concept created!  Especially when it became widespread and the anti-war hippies of the mid-60’s found out about it. Critics labeled the book as fascist, racist, utopianistic, and pro-military. Nevertheless, it won the year’s best novel, and remains not only a classic novel, but very near to being a “household name.”

To the last charge of the book being pro-military Heinlein cheerfully agrees, saying that Starship Troopers “glorifies the military … Specifically the P.B.I., the Poor Bloody Infantry, the mudfoot who places his frail body between his loved home and the war’s desolation — but is rarely appreciated… he has the toughest job of all and should be honored.” It seems nowadays that far too many people have forgotten this principle.

Heinlein was a man of strong moral conviction, and he wasn’t afraid to let that be known, a refreshing change from today’s climate of political correctness, where one must be careful not to say or do anything that might offend another. He scoffed at the notion that another man’s opinion must be respected, saying “Why should I? If your opinions are silly, I will say so.”

Robert A. Heinlein, a troublemaker to the end. Some of his other major works take aim at other social conventions, such as marriage and religion, something he called “kicking the sacred cows.” But disagree with him or not, he always had the courage of his convictions and the strength of his morality behind him. A morality, I might add, I found to be logical and with which in a large part I agreed.

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1. Justsayin - July 6, 2011

You are a kindred soul! I too have found much that is thought provoking and admirable in Heinlein. I have always had a fondness for Heinleins works in general, and Starship Troopers in particular (the only other Heinlein book in serious contention for my personal favorite if Farnham’s Freehold); a book which I have described to friends as one of the best military fiction AND science fiction books of all time. My appreciation for Heinlein’s respect for the infantryman was enhanced even further when the topic was personalized for me. My son has served two tours of duty in the current war; one in Iraq (he arrived in theater just in time to take part in the second battle of Fallujah) and one in Afghanistan. In both deployments he served as an infantry rifleman – on the sharp end of the spear.

Jeff - July 6, 2011

Greetings, fellow traveler

May I first express my appreciation for your son’s service, and extend my blessings upon him, and all his mates over there, and to you, his proud family.

Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you like Heinlein’s work; I often refer to him as my favorite philosopher. As Spider Robinson once noted, the widespread dissemination of the thoughts and ideas Heinlein has been producing as entertainment since the thirties, just might stop this country’s current stampede into the Stone Age. Sure, his observations were sometimes pointed, but always they were grounded in practicality. I too enjoyed Farnham’s Freehold, he was my kind of guy. How widely have you read of the Grand Master’s work? I’ve read almost every word he has ever written, including the non-fiction and posthumous works.
The book that started it all for me: Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. The book that shaped me the most: Time Enough For Love. The book that fascinated me the most: To Sail Beyond the Sunset. The book that entertained me the most: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The book that intrigued me the most: Expanded Universe.
When you mentioned “the sharp end,” that reminded of the title of a novel by another of my favorite authors, David Drake. Have you had the pleasure? It’s a very narrow field, military science fiction, written by someone who’s been there. He writes stories that are very tough and gritty, and I highly recommend him. Try any of the Hammer’s Slammers series, Rolling Hot in particular.
Best wishes to you and to your son. I hope to converse with you further.


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