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Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein
Published by Berkley Publishing
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
This is not the movie of the same title that came out in 1997. That was an action-adventure satire that had very little in common with the book upon which it is based.
While the movie sneered at the concept of service, and in particular of military service, Heinlein's book was an intense contemplation of the role and place of service in a society. Robert A. Heinlein was a Navy man, a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and this experience remained a major part of his character throughout his life.
Part of the problem of the film may be the simple fact that this is actually a deeply philosophical book, and the sort of soul-searching Johnnie Rico undergoes in it simply doesn't translate well into the visual medium. Much easier to concentrate on the battles between the Mobile Infantry and the arthropoid Bugs. Never mind that it really doesn't give the Grandmaster his due.
When the novel begins, Johnnie Rico is preparing himself for a drop and thinking about the strange twists of fate that brought him to this position. He had been a callow youth, just about ready to finish school and go off on a trip to Mars before taking his place in the family business. Neither of his parents had ever bothered to do the necessary years of service to earn full citizenship, and it didn't seem to hurt them. In fact, his father ridicules his thoughts of enlisting.
However, Rico goes ahead in spite of his father's opposition, and is assigned to the Mobile Infantry. After a brutal basic training that washes out over two thirds of the recruits, he learns to use the battle suit that gives the MI their extraordinary power. At about that same time the alien Bugs make their strike on Buenos Aires that turns the hostilities with humanity into outright war.
In the subsequent battles and the additional training of Officer Candidate School, Rico must re-examine his ideas many times. This is a thought-provoking book, and even if you don't agree with Heinlein's premises or conclusions, you will end up giving your own some thorough consideration.
Click to buy Starship Troopers in paperback.
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This review posted June 2, 1999
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