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on 17 September 2005
Robert Heinlein has crammed a gripping story, some fascinating philosophy, ideology and politics into this relatively short book. And incredibly, for a book about soldiers at war, there's hardly a word that could be categorised as 'swearing'. The soldiers are pleasant and wholesome, if occasionally a bit gruff. The reason they are so well behaved is that good manners and a sense of responsibility are "paddled" (a euphemism for beating) into them, resulting in "lumps" (swelling injuries) from an early age. In this future society anyone may vote if they earn the right by volunteering a couple of years of their life (which they may well lose before ever getting the franchise) in the service of the state. Juan (Johnnie) Rico's route to citizenship is via the MI: the Mobile Infantry. He can anticipate a period of tough training after which, if all goes well, he completes his service and then gets back to civvy street and the world's his oyster. However, a war breaks out between humans and a sort of planetary empire of intelligent arthropods before his two years are up. The story of Starship Troopers is Johnnie Rico's account of what happened to him after he volunteered: his training and transformation into a proper soldier; use of military technology (the MI use powered suits of armour that give the wearers great strength, a range of formidable weapons, communications devices and the ability to bounce high and fast over great distances); the friends and officers who influenced him; the victories and setbacks he experienced personally and as part of a military body at war and his thoughts about what it all meant.
Descriptions of the political system, how it came about and Johnnie's thoughts and feelings about it, is a thread that runs right through the book. It's an attractive ideology on the face of it, that works because it's logical and based on a solid foundation: the understanding of human nature. People behave reasonably well, crime levels are low, everybody tows the line, there are no revolutions. This is human nature as we've never seen it, in fact: idealized. The system seems to be a sort of right-wing socialism. In this future though, there are better enemies to fight than other human nations. There are aliens to play the role of our hated "other": hostile alien bugs that are occupying territory human populations could be expanding into. And just as you would expect from a human enemy, these intelligent bugs are bound to have a different point of view.
The combination of exciting adventure and stimulating philosophy makes this an effortless read. Recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2007
In Starship Troopers Robert Heinlein does what he did best: challenge human convention; conviction and ideologies with scathing ease. Set in a future where social inclusion or 'citizenship' is earned through right of passage (ie: undertaking national service in a fruitless war against arachnids in a distant star system) Heinlein's vision is daunting and bleak, yet satire adds a degree of science friction evident in many of his works. Those who are looking for the 'in your face' gorefest approach of Verhoven's movie take on this book will be sorely disappointed; but if you enjoyed the film's darker satirical edge then you may still take something away from this great book.

Highly recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 February 2015
Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers has finally made it in ebook form to the kindle, i've been waiting for this for a while and having never read it before I can happily say it was worth the wait and I can see why to many it is a classic. Those of you who have seen the films (I love the first and detest the others) may have a vague idea of the plot but the films are a pale imitation missing so much the book has to offer.

The story follows the career of Johnnie Rico as a Trooper for the federation in a far off fascist future. Despite being a military sci-fi novel it has a surprising amount of political commentary running throughout adding an interesting layer of depth that a lot of modern military sci-fi novels really lack. In the future the only people that can vote have to have worked for the federation to earn citizenship, they have to have earned the right and put the good of the whole above the individual but it's not that simple as Johnnie finds out.

Though Rico's reason for joining started as a political choice it soon turns into the look at the life of a mobile infantry trooper, over half the book is about his training alone, about what really makes a soldier in the future. Most of the cadets don't make it through training, nevermind to serve their term to be citizens.

The way Starship Troopers is written from Johnnies point of view makes everything remarkably clear as the poor lad is as confused about events as the reader so nothing is left unexplained yet it never gets bogged down or feels slow, it's all pretty engrossing.

I think that's what was so good about it, yes the bug war is mentioned towards the end but there's no resolution. It's not a book about saving worlds, about good vs evil, there's no distinct point. Just a career view of a trooper in a politically different future. It's a fascinating read I recommend to any sci-fi fan.

+ Interesting political sub theme.
+ Rico's training is detailed.
+ Well written universe, clear and concise.
+ Interesting plot focus, a little different.
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on 20 March 2009
I read this book first many years ago and enjoyed it, in amongst many other books I was reading at the time but did not, looking back really understand it fully. Later I saw the film and was a bit disappointed, although it was worth watching.

This one, like many Heinlein books is a simple story, beautifully told; essentially of a relatively ordinary person, decent, mostly honest and good hearted and shows how he grows as a person on overcoming the challenges to his existence. Its worth reading just to enjoy a good story and the adventures that 'Johnny' goes through as he joins up hoping to do a couple of years to earn his citizenship and ends up committing his future to the cause.

One of the many political points raised is that in most societies today we have people voting bread and circusses. Basically, anyone has a vote and most have only self-interest in mind. Thus, in the UK political parties tend to pander to people to get elected and when in power have to do the same, perhaps rather than taking the decisions that should really be taken. As soon as the popularity ratings drop, a panic is triggered.

In other countries, military service is enforced on everyone, eg Israel, some others too. At least in Heinlein's world people have a choice. Its somewhat ideal and primary coloured; but if we were able to build a system based on natural law what would it be like? It would be simple, probably unfair but workable. Fairness is often screamed for, but who does one really want to be fair to, the guy who just claims benefit and contributes nothing; or someone who is willing to help improve things?

Now, I wouldn't run off and join the army after reading this again. But I do understand from this what the training is supposed to achieve and that a growing appreciation of real hard work, discipline and decency, working with other people and depending on them is actually what makes a person fit to be a citizen -- not just where one happened to be born.

The subjects this book takes up are big subjects and important concepts that a person should be exposed to and it provokes thought without being too complex for a young person to understand. Even if one doesn't agree, or perhaps especially if one doesn't the exposure to a different point of view is very valuable.

There are things worth fighting for and books well worth reading. This is one of them.
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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2015
I think it's inevitable when writing a book that was adapted into a very successful film to draw comparisons between the two. A common criticism of films adapted from books are how much of the original novel the miss out of the final movie, but this is mostly because a book that may take many hours to read, is difficult to condense into a 90-120 minute movie. This book isn't different to the movie because there's a hell of a lot missing, it's different to the movie because the book is more a political treatise than a sci-fi action novel. I have only recently read the book, but having seen the film many times over the years, I went into it with certain expectations.

Set in a utopian future in an unspecified time period, America has collapsed, humanity has spread out into the galaxy and is colonising planets, yet this society is militaristic, a society in which you can only gain 'citizenship' and the right to vote by signing up to military service. This world and the future in which it is set may be vibrant and intriguing, but the majority of the book was more about politics and philosophy than it was about Juan "Johnnie" Rico, the book's protagonist and the person whose first person perspective lends us the narrative framework for the story.

The story tells of how Rico signed up to the military with his best friend Zim and of his experience training, going to war, and rising through the ranks. This story, however, plays second fiddle to Heinlein's political and philosophical ideas. Told from the perspective of what Rico learned from his teacher, the respected, Mr. DuBois, there are lengthy chapters which seem to drift off into a philosophical arguments about human rights, political ideologies and the human condition. These are really interesting and to genuinely have you thinking, but I found myself also frustrated at reading these lengthy segments that I didn't really feel added anything to the story.

The relationships between Rico and his friends, family and fellow soldiers were all alluded to and nothing more. I never got the sense I really understood Johnnie as a character or what drove him to do the things he did or what really made him what he was. Arguably the best chapter of the book was when Heinlein actually stepped away from the philosophy and got to the action and drama in the final chapter of the book, but even then everything came across as quite shallow. Any threat Rico and his crew may have faced didn't seem important because Rico himself wasn't really that well developed as a character. I simply didn't care, and that's the book's major downfall.

In the midst of this great war between humans and alien 'bugs' I found myself thinking "So this Heinlein guy is pretty cool with the idea of fascism". It was a good read, even if it wasn't what I was expecting, but I would advise you look elsewhere if you want a legitimate sci-fi novel rather than a political thesis masquerading as such.
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on 31 July 2015
Robert Heinlein is a man of paradox and not nearly as philosophically consistent as many of his fans believe. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress he endorsed libertarian free enterprise and supported those who were fighting against not Socialism (as some readers wrongly imagine) but corporate capitalism in which instead of government running business - business runs government. In Friday on the other hand, he appears to passively endorse corporatism - or at least accept it as a fait accompli.

In this book, Heinlein does not yet appear to have found his libertarianism inner self. The pursuit of self-interest - even of the Randite "rational" kind - is frowned upon in a social structure that Heinlein appears to approve of. The right to vote and hold public office is linked to service - not necessarily military, although military is the prime focus of the book. The argument is that service persons alone have taken "responsibility" for society's welfare. Now of course one could argue that fighting is actually only a small part of human activity and not necessarily the most beneficial part. Heinlein's defenders would no doubt say that it is implied that crime fighters and fire fighters would also be included as "ex-service personnel."

But what about doctors? Nurses? Scientists? Factory workers? The people who load delivery vehicles? Indeed anyone who works? One can't help the feeling that Heinlein is actually more of a fascist than a libertarian in this book. In contrast, consider the humanity and level-headedness in works like the Foundation and Robot Series or the humanity and sense of justice in D-PAK's Even Peons are People or Philip K Dick's Minority report.
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on 29 December 2011
Heinlein has at times been a controversial figure, a fact which I think some modern readers may blow out of proportion. Science fiction is a broad genre, sometimes even overlapping and encroaching onto the fringes of fantasy, and occasionally horror. Heinlein's later efforts were intentionally more philosophical, but plenty of that conjecture about the future of human society may have been road mapped in his earlier juvenile works.

Who knows what the great man himself might have thought about the flagrant militarism he seems to champion in perhaps the best of these early works. It is most certainly true that he considered his military service as a great shaping force in his life and this nostalgic fervor is plain for all to see. However, Starship Troopers was initially conceived as a book to be read by youngsters, while Sci-Fi was still thought of in the mainstream as almost infantile, at best simple escapism. And this is where the book comes into its own, as simple escapism; with some interesting questions thrown into the mix of rhetoric. Ideas any 1950s American teenaged boy would revel in and dream of some day being a part of.

This is the place where many of the accepted and now largely cliched tropes of Military Sci-Fi first saw the light of day, galvanized into a tale of a nightmare society squaring up against an even more nightmarish alien threat. A lesser of two evils, or the sacrifice of individual freedoms for the greater good of the human race. Heinlein expertly uses his fascistic world government as a backdrop and gives the story the tools it needs to be riveting, innovative and experimental. The powered suits are superbly realized, a sublime prop of 1950s world building, functional and devastating.

When we read Starship Troopers we are captured by the future, but also thrown back to a boom time which appeared to be much simpler than the modern world we inhabit now.

The Arachnid occupy in this tale a position similar to that of the Japanese in World War 2, at least from an American perspective! The Japanese launched a pre-emptive attack and where also a racially different enemy, something which made it easier to morally justify waging total war against them. And this is where most of the controversy surrounding Heinlein's book manifests itself; he recasts the whole of planet earth as an evolution of American ideals, refashioned into world government and then pitted against a remorseless aggressor. This is a paradox, as we know the author harbored great respect for Japanese society, in a time when racial division was rife across America.

Heinlein wrote a book about a world where all such racial divisions are irrelevant and forgotten. He wrote a far future adventure about a humanity possessing advanced technology which could transform mere boys into armored killing machines and propel them across light years of space to hurl fire, and death upon an alien enemy. This is a story which can't be measured against modern standards of morality, it is the shameless escapism of its time.
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As with any good sci-fi the story and descriptions of the latest gadget are important; however this is just the window dressing or vehicle to carry a message or concept to you with out sounding too preachy.

Basically this book is not fascist like the movie. It suggests that people should be responsible for their actions and have a stake in what they make decisions on. Never did it say that these people were smarter or better, just that when you have a vested interest your decisions tend to work or you will pay.

I was intrigued in the process that Johnny Rico was going through in the story. The movie does not phase me as it looks like cartoon hype. But the book was too close to home. I hope my memory is flawed as I remember every one of the people types that he described. Actually I think with the volunteer Army today it is closer to the book than was Vietnam where conscripts looked on it this as slightly preferable to prison. I know that this story is not about the military but it is too real to be ignored as just the story.

You could have floored me with I found out there were no naked women in the book. Dizzy Flores must have had a great Swedish doctor. This could have been a genuine attempt to update the story; however it distracted from the original purpose.

Basically after school Johnny Rico is whisked into the military by peer pressure and to finds out if he is more than just the factory owner's son. While going through boot camp he learns of different cultures and the intricacies of military life. Naturally he makes mistakes and learns from others mistakes. As he grows he learns what make the world the way it is. I will not contrast this book with the movie because I think you enjoy the story more if you find out what happens as it unfolds.
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on 4 August 1999
Given the appallingly low turnout in recent British elections, Starship Troopers is an excellent reminder that we should participate.
As people say, if you don't take enough of an interest to vote you can't complain about what happens in politics. In Heinlein's world, the vote is not a right: you have to earn it by standing up and doing something to help the body politic. If you don't care enough, fine; you can get on with you life and make a success of youself, you can pay taxes and receive benefits - you just leave the decision making to those who do care. Even a passive turning out once every few years to put your cross on a ballot paper isn't enough - Heinlein says that freedom is so precious, and so dearly won, that only those who truly appreciate that price are worthy to be full citizens. In his society, there is no discrimination against non-citizens and citizenship is open to absolutely anyone who is willing to face up to the responsibility of potentially paying for freedom with their life.
Don't fall into the common trap of assuming that Heinlein glorifies the military; he makes it quite clear that there are other ways to earn the vote - for example by testing new survival equipment, or being a guineau pig for medical experiments. Of course, for dramatic purposes, a war makes a better novel, and it's easier to highlight the fact that citizenship is earned through contribution when that contribution is the defence of the body politic against an enemy with whom we can feel no empathy, and who is seeking to destroy not just the body politic but the entire species. It might be harder to get the message across in a novel where Johnny Rico's slipped into a fatal coma because the drug he's been given didn't work.
It's a great novel, which I've read and re-read dozens of times. It doesn't necessarily make me want to go and join the army - no chance! - and nor do I condone Heinlein's society of the future, but it woke me up to the fact that politics (in the widest sense of the word), and government, are everybody's responsibility, and if we abdicate the duty of participation, then we've got precious little right to complain when things don't suit us.
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on 6 November 2009
What a brilliant book! It reminded me a lot of The Forever War and Ender's Game, both of which I also absolutely loved. It's a snapshot of a universe and a war seen exclusively through a young soldier's eyes and it's done perfectly. The things you find out are intriguing and the things you never find out don't really matter. It's nothing like the film (although I enjoyed that too) and one of those books that it's tempting to start over as soon as you finish it.
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