Unfortunately, my only exposure to Starship Troopers had been the movie. Not a good first impression. But, as usually happens, you hear that the movie is nothing like the book. I’d been hearing this for years but never bothered to find out for myself. Then the Science Fiction Experience came along. I knew my first non-group read book would have to be Starship Troopers for the Sci-Fi Experience.
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein is the story of Johnnie Rico. We watch him grow from wide eyed student who defies his parents to join the Mobile Infantry, to become a seasoned officer during the Bug War.
I have a thing with stories about military men, watching them rise through the ranks (Aubrey/Maturin books, the Sharpe series, Horatio Hornblower). I love reading the development of a scared young man turning into - not a killing machine - but a confident, capable officer, who is respected by his peers. When done right it’s fascinating to read.
This book reminded me a lot of Full Metal Jacket. It’s got all the interesting boot camp adventures (minus the homicide/suicide) with the war time experience. I don’t know if it’s much of a spoiler but I’ll put the alert here just in case [SPOILER ALERT] but since the story is in the first person POV, Johnnie Rico does survive to the end of the book. It reminded me of the end of another military movie, The Big Red One (watch this movie, it's good!), how it was dedicated to the survivors. In a way, it felt like that's what this book was doing as well.
The only thing I had an issue with was a snippet of a review on the book cover saying the book had these "elegantly drawn battle scenes". Was I reading the same book as them? There were a couple but they were not that long. The one at the end, while exciting, I found a bit confusing trying to wrap my head around who was where and where did some of these platoon sergeants come from. Plus, it didn't last very long. I love my battles (don't even get me started on A Clash of Kings) but I was fine that there were not these long drawn out battles. There was enough going on following Johnnie on his journey to make this a good read.
And why was this book so controversial? Was it the idea it presented that a citizen could not vote until they served in the military? Was it because some felt it glorified war and the military?
I can see taking issue with the voting thing. I think I contribute enough to society that I have earned the right to vote. But I didn't think it glorified war or the military. I think what it did do was shine a spotlight on the sacrifices and hard work the men and women of the military go through. It showed a spoiled rich kid who was determined to make his own way, who didn't quit despite the rough boot camp experience and making some mistakes. He stuck with his decision and had pride in what he was doing; nothing wrong with that and one of the reasons why I like Johnnie Rico.
In the end, this book made me hate the movie even more so than I did before I read it. So, no, Hollywood, you do not have permission to reboot this to try and make it up to me. But if you must, promise to use the model set before you by movies such as Batman Begins, X-Men: First Class and Star Trek. This book deserves so much more.