In honor of Father’s Day—you’ll see why in a second—I’ve decided to commence our brevity book reviews with a science fiction classic.
Starship Troopers, or Starship Solider as it was originally called (and still should be to avoid confusion with the nothing-like-it movie) follows the young, bored, brash, yet often terrified (“I always get the shakes before a drop”) Johnny Rico as he attempts to carve out a name and notoriety for himself by enlisting in the Mobile Infantry—on a whim.
What makes Johnny’s military adventure compelling is not that ten thousand other authors haven’t done the exact same thing—they have. What makes this story different is that Robert Heinlein was one of the first writer’s to do it. Do what you ask? Well, unlike the movie, the novel only has two real battle scenes: one at the very beginning and one at the very end. The rest of the book is about Johnny Rico’s training and preparation. And also something else.
If you haven’t read Starship Troopers yet, I’ll try not to spoil anything. I don’t want to be the guy on Facebook that everyone hates for blabbing about the latest casualty in Game of Thrones. But I will say this: When Johnny’s dad repudiates his desire to join the military (and Johnny does anyway) their relationship is severed. Throughout the novel, Johnny continually encounters strong male figures as a way to replace his father. So the uncommon trait—for me, anyway—is that when you boil out all the bugs—at its heart, this is story about fathers and sons.
Do I think this was the greatest science fiction novel ever written? No. Is it even in my top ten? Nope. But there’s something to be said about forerunners. They establish foundations for the rest of us to build upon. Science fiction would not be where it is without Heinlein’s contributions to the writing community. For this reason, Starship Troopers is laudable. 3/5 stars.
P.S. If you’ve ever played the video game Starcraft, you’ll see that the game designers got much of their inspiration for the ‘Zerg’ from Heinlein’s bugs.