Friday, January 30, 2009

Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein

Starship Troopers
Robert A. Heinlein
Berkley Publishing Corporation
Copyright: 1959
42502605095 ?

According to the back of the book:

Cosmic Combat
The Mobile Infantry of the startling twenty-second century attracts young and eager-to-serve Johnnie Rico. He enters basic training as a naive youth who must learn quickly how to cope with every soldier's problems of courage, discipline, and loyalty.

But he barely learns the value of freedom before he finds he must fight for it bravely - in fantastic interplanetary battles against he most incredible adversaries of the future.

Some older science fiction wears well, and some seems incredibly dated. Robert Heinlein has both sorts, but this book is definitely one of the former. Despite the fifty years since it was originally published, I found this story to be as gripping as that of many of the modern authors who write military science fiction such as David Weber.

It rather shows as well in the book itself. The copy I read, well it's been taped together, the cover's battered, and some of the pages are ripped. Obviously a well loved book.

Heinlein has created a very interesting world with some thought-provoking points for the reader in the many lectures on various political systems the characters give. And, what's more, the lectures don't seem out of place in the books, not like something that's been inserted to give the reader information. The fact that they make you think doesn't get in the way of the entertainment value either.

I was reading the book on the bus yesterday and got stopped several times by people wanting to comment on what a great book Starship Troopers was. It definitely fits the mold of 'classic science fiction'.

The plot is a bit typical: Boy reaches the age of adult-hood and enlists in the military against the will of his family... I've read other books following a similar line, but there are some interesting twists in this one.

On the other hand, because of the age of the book (I'm guessing), there are points where it seems very familiar. Perhaps Starship Troopers was part of the inspiration for other authors such as Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game and Anne McCaffrey (the Telepaths series)?

Not a long book, but a good one none-the-less. If you haven't read it and you like classic science-fiction, it's worth giving this one a try. This is a book I still see on bookstore shelves, and I think I can see why. Unlike some of Heinlein's books such as Time Enough For Love (which I will admit that I like a lot), this one is suitable for readers from their early teens on up. The younger readers will probably enjoy the adventure, while the political discussions are fodder for the older ones.

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