Robert Heinlein: Starship Troopers

iansales

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Well, of course it's larger than the general population. The armed forces are made up of all kinds of people, including probably some 70 year old grandmothers but they are disproportionately made of young men vs. the elderly and female. And gangs are generally made up of young men vs. the elderly and female. The 50-100 times makes it sound like it would be disproportionate even using comparable demographic metrics but nowhere near that disproportionate.

But the US Military was very careful to screen out such people when recruiting. Gang bangers, people who didn't finish high school, neo-nazis, etc, were rejected as ineligible. But they relaxed those rules a while ago.
 

Fried Egg

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But the US Military was very careful to screen out such people when recruiting. Gang bangers, people who didn't finish high school, neo-nazis, etc, were rejected as ineligible. But they relaxed those rules a while ago.
If that's true (and I've no reason to doubt it) then that only shows the folly of relaxing the rules, something which which was an integral point in the story. The number of applications to the military was whittled down to a mere fraction of those who initially applied. Certainly the military might well attract all sorts of idiots. As long as they are effectively screened out, you not going to have an army full of gang bangers and neo nazis.
Toby Frost said:
Consider the things that happen and are tacitly approved of in the course of the book: public floggings, executions (IIRC), giving some long-haired kids (goddam pot-smoking hippy types!) a good thrashing in the name of the Corps, the disregard for all that pansy due process bull in the trial of the loutish soldier (sorry, I've forgotten his name), the casual way the Federation is said to have started with a bunch of lynchings in Aberdeen - it all adds up to a pervading atmosphere of getting pleasure out of brutality. The system gives the green light to every sort of bullying.
I think you are misrepresenting the scene with the long-haired kids. They start on the soldiers when they are on shore leave, follow them out of the restaurant, chase them down the street and attack them. The off duty soldiers do nothing to provoke the attack and only respond in self defence as a last resort. They fight back but in a proportionate way. Certainly couldn't be described as bullying.

As for the different due process inside the military, this exists to some extent now and is hardly far fetched. The military machine needs to function in a tightly regimented, authoritarian manner in order to maintain effectiveness. That can hardly be disputed. The corporal and capital punishments were meted out without vitriol nor glee. They were considered unfortunate but necessary, often reflecting a failure of those in charge rather than the individuals in question.

I just can't see how you can get a sense of "pleasure out of brutality" from the novel. I don't get that at all.
 

ghost8772

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If that's true (and I've no reason to doubt it) then that only shows the folly of relaxing the rules, something which which was an integral point in the story. The number of applications to the military was whittled down to a mere fraction of those who initially applied. Certainly the military might well attract all sorts of idiots. As long as they are effectively screened out, you not going to have an army full of gang bangers and neo nazis.

I think you are misrepresenting the scene with the long-haired kids. They start on the soldiers when they are on shore leave, follow them out of the restaurant, chase them down the street and attack them. The off duty soldiers do nothing to provoke the attack and only respond in self defence as a last resort. They fight back but in a proportionate way. Certainly couldn't be described as bullying.

As for the different due process inside the military, this exists to some extent now and is hardly far fetched. The military machine needs to function in a tightly regimented, authoritarian manner in order to maintain effectiveness. That can hardly be disputed. The corporal and capital punishments were meted out without vitriol nor glee. They were considered unfortunate but necessary, often reflecting a failure of those in charge rather than the individuals in question.

I just can't see how you can get a sense of "pleasure out of brutality" from the novel. I don't get that at all.

I'm with you there Egg. I never got a "pleasure out of brutality" sense from the story. an acceptance of physical pain is the best deterrant idea was touted several times. flogging being the grown-up level of spanking. and some of Heinlein's characteristic sneering at a way he feels is ineffective and goes against what he feels is an acceptable method to achieve desired results.

I'm not saying his view of this world is perfect, but he delved into many forms of government in his stories. what a world might look like if under a different form that what is currently around.
 

Gramm838

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I think this novel was especially a topical reaction to Heinlein's dismay with the popular resistance towards the US role in the Vietnam war,

No-one seems to have pointed out that this is completely wrong, because Starship Troopers was first published in 1959...
 

Nerds_feather

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No-one seems to have pointed out that this is completely wrong, because Starship Troopers was first published in 1959...

Wrong, but not too far off:

According to Heinlein, his desire to write Starship Troopers was sparked by the publication of a newspaper advertisement placed by the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy on April 5, 1958 calling for a unilateral suspension of nuclear weapon testing by the United States. In response, Robert and Virginia Heinlein created the small "Patrick Henry League" in an attempt to create support for the U.S. nuclear testing program. Heinlein found himself under attack both from within and outside the science fiction community for his views. Heinlein used the novel to clarify and defend his military and political views at the time
 

BetaWolf

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I was listening to the audiobook today, and though I'm about 3/4 through, I don't see much glorification of violence for its own sake. For crimes of moderate danger, corporal punishment might not be such a bad idea, preferable to imprisonment--it is moderately painful in a physical sense but its usefulness is that it is embarrassing.

The recruit punished for assaulting his drill sergeant was a very important sequence of scenes. As a teacher (with no military experience, I admit), I will say that a student who fails does not do so on his own, or even, usually, mostly on his own. It is a conspiracy of failure. Johnny Rico sees the sergeant (or rather hears him) through an entirely different lens. Correctly, the captain and sergeant take responsibility for the failure, which is a failure in managing the recruits as well as a breach in authority that must be healed. Like any large, complex institution, the blame for failure rests mostly at the top, but it is people on the bottom who get their heads stomped on, for the sake of the whole organization.
 

BAYLOR

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I Liked book and disliked the Paul Verhoeven film
 

Mirannan

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Hmmm... I'd like to point out what I think are some errors in various people's reading of Heinlein's social structure in ST.

Federal service is explicitly described as involving one's willingness to risk one's life in the service of society. Military service is an obvious way of doing that, but it isn't the only one; "field-testing survival equipment on Titan" is one of the alternatives mentioned. It isn't said in the book, but I suspect that various forms of hazardous first-responder work might count as well; perhaps firefighting and cliff rescue as examples?

It's also notable that in ST, anyone in the Federal military can resign at any time except in the middle of an active operation. However, doing so means that you are never going to be a citizen - because resigning is a permanent decision and they won't take you back later. So the entire Federal military is made up of volunteers, which makes a difference.

Another interesting point is that commanders, no matter how high ranking, are expected to take the responsibility when an operation is a sufficiently bad clusterfrack; this happens in both the book and the movie. The buck really does stop here.
 

BAYLOR

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There has been talk about a New live action film. Nothing so far.
 

Toby Frost

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To be honest, my ultimate feeling about Starship Troopers, even beyond my distaste for its attitude, is just that it isn't very good as a novel. It has a dreary, hectoring quality, the arguments are made against strawmen, the characters are weak and not very much actually happens in the story. I would be much happier if Heinlein had taken out all the bits where he/Dubois preaches at the reader and replaced them with shoot-outs. It would at least have been entertaining then, even if it was completely dumb. How it got its reputation is beyond me.
 

Fried Egg

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How it got its reputation is beyond me.
I'd imagine that no one was more surprised than Heinlein was about that. I don't think he ever conceived of it as any kind of magnum opus. However he does attempt to find answers to difficult questions we still haven't answered to this day. It provokes the reader into thinking about these questions even if they profoundly disagree with the answers he offers. It's strength lies not in its effectiveness at making his case (which as you say is weak and only superficially explored) but in provoking the reader to think about these problems. He created here a bold vision of the future that is extremely divisive because it flies right in the face of the modern social consensus. He crafts a kind of utopian future using many facets that come right out of many other people's dystopian nightmares.

And I can't help admire him for that.
 

BAYLOR

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I'd imagine that no one was more surprised than Heinlein was about that. I don't think he ever conceived of it as any kind of magnum opus. However he does attempt to find answers to difficult questions we still haven't answered to this day. It provokes the reader into thinking about these questions even if they profoundly disagree with the answers he offers. It's strength lies not in its effectiveness at making his case (which as you say is weak and only superficially explored) but in provoking the reader to think about these problems. He created here a bold vision of the future that is extremely divisive because it flies right in the face of the modern social consensus. He crafts a kind of utopian future using many facets that come right out of many other people's dystopian nightmares.

And I can't help admire him for that.


It's an almost Spartan type of world.
 

j d worthington

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I'd imagine that no one was more surprised than Heinlein was about that. I don't think he ever conceived of it as any kind of magnum opus. However he does attempt to find answers to difficult questions we still haven't answered to this day. It provokes the reader into thinking about these questions even if they profoundly disagree with the answers he offers. It's strength lies not in its effectiveness at making his case (which as you say is weak and only superficially explored) but in provoking the reader to think about these problems. He created here a bold vision of the future that is extremely divisive because it flies right in the face of the modern social consensus. He crafts a kind of utopian future using many facets that come right out of many other people's dystopian nightmares.

And I can't help admire him for that.

Bravo. As I've said many times before, the first time I read this (or Double Star), I all but threw the thing across the room, it was so opposed to my own views. But I've learned that, whenever I have such a violent reaction to something, it's usually because it's coming up against some of my "core concepts", and I should really look at it again. After doing so (albeit having a bit of a cooling-off period), I found I had a much more favorable response to each, to the point where they've become among my favorites among his works. Not because I necessarily agree with the position he argues -- though one should really be cautious about assumptions on his own positions* rather than something he assumes for the work in question -- but because it did get me to reexamine my own views and strengthen my reasons for them... and because I think, for all their flaws, they present a very effective artistic vision quite well. As Heinlein noted, his first goal was to entertain, but a close second was to prod people into thinking about these things; whether they agreed with him or not was much less important to him than their actually thinking them through.

*Which, remember, did change over time -- see Patterson's biography, let alone taking a look at the way his writings about such things altered over the course of his life.
 

kythe

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I just finished "Starship Troopers" with very strong yet mixed feelings on it. I couldn't disagree more with the philosophies and government presented in the story, but I am not offended by reading alternate perspectives because it is an excellent way to self-explore your own views.

But I found myself taking this book personally because I have actually known people who would probably love the government described in Starship Troopers and believe the military should be much stronger. So I can't really take the views as satire, just extremist.

But I think what I had the hardest time with is the writing style. At first I enjoyed the exposition about the military because I learned more about its structure, ideals, and rationales for action. But there is so little plot and so much philosophizing that is becomes dry and boring. Parts read more like non-fiction, so it didn't retain my interest and it took me a month of reading just a few pages at a time to work through it.

So I guess this sounds more like a rant than a review. Starship Troopers is the first Heinlein book I've read, and I'm not sure I'm up for more at this time.
 

Brian G Turner

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So I can't really take the views as satire, just extremist.

That's why I personally enjoyed the film - because it made the potential extremism very plain through so many visual cues, especially relating to government figures (dressing them like Nazi-party figures, for example).
 

BAYLOR

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That's why I personally enjoyed the film - because it made the potential extremism very plain through so many visual cues, especially relating to government figures (dressing them like Nazi-party figures, for example).

I liked the book, didn't like Verhoeven's excessive satire. Honestly m, I wouldn't have wanted to live in Johnny Rico's world , It didn't sound like a fun place at all. They did CGI series Starship Troopers Chronicles of the Roughtnecks, which keep some of the satire , the look of the film, and it put the series a bit more in line with the book. It ran about 40 episodes.
 

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