- Oct 24, 2007
In the annals of military science fiction, one book has always stood apart in my mind as the epitome of excellence. That book is Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. A controversial book to say the least, its also one of the best coming-of-age novels that SF has to offer. It may also be one of the most storied novels in the history of our genre as well; the controversy surrounding its submission by Heinlein to Scribner's is legendary. So legendary in fact that it would be a horrible waste of time for me to go over it yet again here. But the debate over the purpose of this book has raged quietly since it was first published in 1959. Most readers take this book as an exercise in jingoistic excellence, as full of the polemic of military virtue as a book of three hundred odd pages can possibly be. One thing though that it is actually surprisingly light on, at least by today's standards, is blood and gore, which is odd for a military-themed work. The reality of war is presented well: Dead civilians, crippled infrastructure, nuclear blast craters and dead comrades are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, and topics such as terrorism and the targeting of noncombatants are presented without the amorality being questioned at all. But by far the bulk of the text is dedicated to deep discussions of what it means to be an adult, and the ways that real men and women care for society, and make decisions about the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy. Without ever sounding preachy or descending to pandering or nagging, Heinlein did an excellent job of describing exactly what that meant within the framework of a military dominated government. If you ask me this book is clearly focused on the military and sociological themes, but what the book becomes is nothing short of a utopia tale. It is definitely another one of those ambiguous utopias, but Heinlein presented a society here that chose to focus on a military way of life to avoid certain problems that crop up in a society like our own where freedom is a birthright and rights are granted before people have a chance to consider the burdens of citizenship. As it happened, after that particular course was chosen for the ship of state an interstellar war broke out, so throughout the story the military government was just doing what it was designed originally to do; make war on an enemy...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review.