The book title says Starship Troopers, but there is remarkably little Starship Troopering (that's a word, right?) in this book. A few battles here andThe book title says Starship Troopers, but there is remarkably little Starship Troopering (that's a word, right?) in this book. A few battles here and there but it does not come close to occupying the majority of the book. Instead Heinlein uses this space to build up and explore a new type of government and society as well as the nature of responsibility. I am pretty sure the military backdrop is there to draw in teenage boys (such as myself upon the first read) and because Heinlein had a thing for Military Sci-Fi. But the meat of this book isn't in lasers, it is in political philosophy.
Instead of taking the prevalent existing government structures of his day (Western capitalism and Soviet communism) as the basis for his future government, Heinlein instead envisioned a government where only people who had served the government for a certain amount of time (either in the military or some civilian capacity) could vote in elections and hold office. These people were known as citizens while the people who did not serve were known as civilians. Civilians still had full civil rights save for enfranchisement.
Heinlein couched this form of government in a world where most of the world governments and societies broke down and it was veterans who stepped in to restore order and instituted the service laws. The thinking being that if a person served the government for several years they would understand the value of service and responsibility to their country and be better citizens resulting in better political decisions being made.
In the idealized world Heinlein creates this form of government might work. Everyone who wants to take on federal service could and were used to the best of their ability; no one was turned away. People who do not want to serve are still afforded the suite of rights existing Western Democracies offer. Everyone wins: people who care about the government can serve and take part in it, those that don't can avoid military service but still hove lots of freedom. Sounds great, right?
Well, most things do in the vacuum of theory. Obviously this system could be susceptible to corruption, infringement of rights, and overthrow by (in this world a very powerful and far reaching) military. I personally do not think such a system would be sustainable in its pure form in the long run as Heinlein believes, but I also don't think Heinlein seriously thought that as well. He offered up his view in order to get the idea out there and stimulate discussions. I think Starship Troopers does an excellent giving this political idea a context where it could be effectively conveyed without sounding like a 50 page political rant (cough::JohnGalt::cough).
And did I mention is also has cool power armor and giant spider aliens? Because it does and it is pretty darn awesome....more
I really liked this story. I headed into it only knowing it took place in a dystopian future where women are subjugated by a theocratic patriarchal soI really liked this story. I headed into it only knowing it took place in a dystopian future where women are subjugated by a theocratic patriarchal society.
I found the disjointed narrative very interesting. It gave the impression that the protagonist's life was equally disjointed, that her life had shattered and she lived just as much in the past as in the present. It had her much more sympathetic while illustrating how things had gone so wrong in America. It isn't just the women who are harmed by this system. Most of the men do not have the opportunity to form relations with women (be it romantic or otherwise) and also live a highly regimented life. Their only opportunity to marry is if they are war heroes, in which case they are assigned very young girls (with the hope that they will be fertile). Obviously not as bad as the women's plight, but the system is also harmful to most of the men in that society.
Atwood's writing is rather stark, much like the world she has created. There are no metaphorical smooth surfaces in Atwood's world. Women have a very specific place and set of duties they must perform depending on their assigned station: house work, wife, child bearer. They are no better than chattel and Atwood does an excellent job showing how, at least in the protagonist, that leads to a sense of alienation from her own humanity, contemplating suicide on more than one occasion to escape the crush her life had become.
This certainly isn't a light read. It deals with very heavy subjects, has few, if any, light moments, and is generally rather depressing. It is, however, still a very good book and worthwhile for those who enjoy dystopias or feminist writings. ...more
I consider We to be the Citizen Kane of totalitarian dystopias. Reading it I can see many of the themes and subjects of later dystopias present in it:I consider We to be the Citizen Kane of totalitarian dystopias. Reading it I can see many of the themes and subjects of later dystopias present in it: 1984's pervasive state surveillance and protagonist "led astray" by a love interest, A Brave New World's obsession the state ordering society to the minutest detail, the sublimation of the individual into the greater state seen in Anthem, and so on. Just as Citizen Kane set the tone for future film making in terms of cinematography, story telling, and special effects, We set many standards and themes for totalitarian dystopian stories.
We is told from the perspective of D-503, a citizen of the One State and inhabitant of a glass city that is shielded from the outside, natural world. D-503 initially begins recounting his days to show off-world humans the wisdom, rationality, and serenity of the One State. It is through this window Zamyatin fleshes out the chilling world D-503 resides in. In this city of glass nearly every minute of the citizens' lives are dictated by a schedule, and love is reserved solely for the One State and its patriarch, the Benefactor. D-503 is a very important mathematician working on an interstellar spaceship and sees the world is terms of mathematical values and principles. He even recounts a horrid experience he had when taught about imaginary numbers (the square of negative values) to the point where he felt pain because it clashed with his worldview of a rational world. All goes well until he encounters a very out of the ordinary woman and, sufficed to say, shenanigans ensue.
I was struck by several things about this book. The first is how effective Zamyatin creates the voice of D-503. It is very clear that at the beginning of the book D-503 wholeheartedly buys into the One State and very rationally explains the philosophical basis of its existence. One prevalent theme being that free or acting as an individual leads to suffering but turning oneself over to the order and rationality of the state one can become part of a great whole and find happiness, a foreshadowing of Orwell's "Freedom is Slavery". As D-503 goes through an existential crisis Zamyatin does an effective job communicating his anguish and confusion to the reader.
Second, Zamyatin does an effective job building up the One State and its ideology. Through D-503's journal writing I got a very vivid picture of how society was structured, how it operated, and what beliefs underpinned it. Many of the qualities of the One State recur in many later dystopias but Zamyatin does a great job conveying these qualities without overloading a particular bit of writing as a data dump. The One State has its own particular type of creepiness beneath the shiny glass exterior.
Finally, like Citizen Kane, I was not overly impressed with the story. Elements of it can be seen (some rather blatantly) in many of the later 20th century totalitarian dystopias making my experience with We much different than if I had no previous exposure with the genre. Though, even in that case, I think the sheer influence the major themes of We has permeated popular culture (through its intellectual descendants) would still have diminished my appreciation of this work. Just as I wasn't blow away by Citizen Kane because of its innovations were so completely absorbed by subsequent films, We was similarly absorbed by the greater corpus of totalitarian dystopias. As such We can only truly be appreciated in that context, otherwise it is a rather standard totalitarian dystopian novel that does little to distinguish itself from other dystopian works.
We is essential reading for someone looking to explore the roots of dystopian literature. However, if I was reading We without any context, I would find it a perfectly serviceable addition to the existing stable of dystopias, but nothing outstanding or gripping on its own merits. So threeish stars of content, five stars of the Citizen Kane-like influence rounds this read out to a nice even four stars....more
Generally regarded as one of the greatest pieces of English literature it is, when you think about it, 17th century fan fiction. It is the retelling oGenerally regarded as one of the greatest pieces of English literature it is, when you think about it, 17th century fan fiction. It is the retelling of the fall of Satan and Man, events described in the bible but greatly fleshed out in this work.
Overall I found it interesting. There are parts where it drags (description of Eden, Archangel Michael's future visions to name a few) but found the conflict between Satan and God interesting. It raises a lot of questions about justice, free will, and morality in general. Honestly, I don't think God or Satan comes out looking particularly noble.
It is written in the format of an epic poem so it isn't the most accessible work. The lines are relatively short but sentences can span half a page. If you don't pay close attention you are liable to get lost in the flow....more